There are more than a few profound moments that can mark a person's life: Falling in love, landing a dream job, traveling to a remote location, or having a baby. And while many of those experiences are undoubtedly on Nev Schulman's list of Big Life Moments™, being a contestant on season 29 of Dancing With the Stars is slowly creeping to the top. "It just keeps getting better and better," Schulman tells Woman's Day.
The Catfish host has loved and appreciated dance since well before his foray on the show. After all, Schulman has been around the arts for most of his adult life, and has photographed and filmed ballet dancers extensively over the past 15 years. "Being so passionate about the art form has created this desire and real dream to get to dance and move and utilize all that visual information I've been absorbing all these years and see if I could do it with my body," Schulman says. "To get to do that now in a way that's so personalized, to spend three hours a day with a professional dancer in a studio focused only on me and learning how to dance, it's just been such a dream come true. It's amazing."
The experience hasn't just been exciting for Schulman — it's been entertaining for fans of the show, and the judges, as well. Schulman's performances with partner Jenna Johnson have been consistently energetic, captivating, and surprisingly well executed. And the judges seem to agree, giving him high scores that have put him near the top of the pack week after week.
"I knew as a kid that I had natural dance ability," Schulman says, reflecting on the time he spent with the National Dance Institute, a nonprofit organization that introduces children to dance and music. Though he never took formal dance classes, he felt confident in his innate dance skills. "I knew that if I went to a party or a club, I had moves," he says. "But everybody says that." Despite his perception of his dance skills, he wasn't sure how it would translate to the competition, especially since he never had official dance training. "How many times have we all heard our uncle at a wedding talk about, 'Oh, I used to be a great dancer, you should've seen me back in the '70s.' Everyone thinks that they are a good dancer. So I really didn't know how I was going to do."
Luckily, his standout performances and positive feedback from the judges have confirmed that he's not just some crazy-uncle-channeling-Elaine-Benes at a wedding. Schulman has even started to become more involved in the choreography of the dances these days. "As our relationship grows, Jenna gets better at knowing what will look good for me and what type of movement and steps will look good for us," Schulman says. "But there are always moments in the process during the week where we get to a point or a step where I'm like, you know this doesn't feel feel good, I don't think I can do this well, or I keep making the same mistake. So we say OK, what can we put here?"
During rehearsals he'll also take note of the little moments in-between the steps to see if there's anything he can do to add something to the dance. "Having this understanding of how to fill every little space and moment with intention and to find little ways to add connections between Jenna and I or tell a little bit more of a story, just filling in the holes is something that I think I'm good at," he says. Judge Derek Hough seems to agree, as he commented on just that after Schulman and Johnson's Rumba routine during week four. "The in-between movements that you had, the texture and lines, it's the in-between movements that are beautiful when you dance," Hough said. Schulman was ecstatic that Hough noticed. "It was amazing that he said that because that's one of the things that I've been really working on," he says.
Of course, an integral part to his experience on the show is his partner, Johnson, with whom he's become great friends. Though he says in the limited time he's spent with the other dancers on the show he's found them all to be talented, fun, charming people, he felt "an immediate connection as friends" with Jenna. "We have a similar sense of humor, we're both self deprecating and we like to tease each other, so it's just been great," he says. "Obviously she's a phenomenal athlete, performer, and dancer, but I just enjoy hanging out with her. Getting to be goofy and have fun while working, what more can you ask for? I'm having the best time."
If Schulman and Johnson keep earning the high judges scores they've been receiving lately as well as fan votes, there's a good chance that he'll get to continue living his best life as a contestant on the show. "I get on the stage, and I get so excited," he says, but of course anyone who's watched the show already knows that.
Dancing With the Stars airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
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