Pro dancer Sharna Burgess is blogging exclusively with Us Weekly about her partnership with champion bull rider Bonner Bolton and their quest to take home the Dancing With the Stars season 23 mirrorball trophy! Check back each week for her latest update on the competition.
Oh my goodness. The first night was quite the night! To be honest, the morning after the show, with all the … controversy … I tried to stay away from looking at too much social media. I looked at some of it on Monday night and I got a little frustrated with people getting a little crazy. But then there was so much love for Bonner in there, too, and people seeing that he’s never done this before, he’s coming back from being paralyzed, he’s a real life cowboy … and look, he’s obviously gorgeous, I think everyone can agree on that. But he actually did a really good job!
I’ve obviously never danced with a bull rider before, so that is new. But in some ways, Bonner fits into a category that has become my specialty: guys who have come back from near-death experiences. So in that sense, I’m very familiar with working with people who have had traumatic injuries in their life and something that they have to work through. I’ve danced with Noah Galloway, missing his left arm and left leg, James Hinchcliffe, who only 18 months ago definitely shouldn’t have lived or walked, let alone be on Dancing With the Stars, so funnily enough, Bonner really fits into that category. I love telling stories. I consider myself a storyteller through dance, so I think that’s how I wind up with these guys with incredible, tragically beautiful stories that I get to help tell.
Bonner did so well on Monday, but this is actually very difficult for him. We don’t realize what being paralyzed does to your body, even though it was only for 24 hours, he had to learn how to walk again, how to hold a spoon again — all of his muscles were totally debilitated so we really are at square one. Even though he is young and looks fit and very able, this is not as easy for him as you would think it would be. But he is so incredibly hungry to be out there and competing. He is a natural born competitor and since his last ride where he broke his neck, he hasn’t had the opportunity to compete. So being on DWTS actually means the world to him.
Look, I know everyone has been talking about #Handgate but oh, my gosh, he’s mortified. He’s such a Southern gentleman, and at the time he didn’t realize where his hand was! When I moved it, he didn’t even react. There was no understanding of what had happened until I looked at my Twitter feed and was like, Oh, my gosh! We’re on Pacific time and you know, the fans miss NOTHING! If it wasn’t on the live cameras, it would have been on the backstage red room cameras. The fans would have caught it. So that, paired with the actual innuendos in the Skybox really flustered him, because he really is mortified about the entire thing. He would never inappropriately touch or even speak to anyone! He’s such a sweetheart. He had his family in the audience! He was so embarrassed. He just wanted to come out and do a good job.
I said to him, "Well, let’s look at the silver lining. Before this, not many DWTS fans knew who you were, but now, everyone knows your name!" But it was obviously incidental! Next week, we’re going to be covered from neck to toe and probably not touch for the entire dance! Just kidding! But we actually have a traditional Viennese waltz for week two, which is exciting because we get to show the more romantic side of our chemistry.
It’s no secret, we do have great chemistry, but I’m excited to see him to a ballroom dance and see where his strengths lie. I have a feeling that he might be better at the more traditional ballroom dances than he is at the wild, sexy Latin styles. He’s used to doing the Texas two-step around the floor and leading a girl around, and he’s actually very good at that! So I’m very excited heading into week two. Hope you all enjoy what #TeamDenimandDiamonds has in store for you!
Watch Dancing With the Stars Monday, March 27, on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.