You may know Peta Murgatroyd more than you realize. Currently her skills and talents are watched by tens of millions of viewers around the world as one of the professional dance partners appearing regularly on Dancing with the Stars – DWTS for the program’s devoted audience.
From the long list of professional dancers skilled enough to feature on DWTS it’s a pinnacle of professionalism to be a part of this show.
As you might imagine, there is a life of passion and hard work behind Peta’s current casting. She was born and educated in Australia and has since moved around the globe at a pace as fast as any Latin dance performance, as her career has evolved. You’ll have to read the interview to understand exactly how much energy needs to be contained and controlled by a premier professional dancer these days.
And if you enjoyed Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan, our interview with Peta Murgatroyd will give you further insight into the accuracy of Natalie’s portrayal. A unique opportunity to hear from a skilled, articulate and enormously attractive personality – a truly professional dancer - and a bright star in her own right.
You’ve moved around the globe so extensively and so successfully. Is it correct that you were born in New Zealand and raised in Australia?
Yes I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. I moved to Australia when I was 18 months, as my parents wanted to give my brother and I more opportunities in life. I was way too young to remember the time I spent there, however I have gone back since (a couple of times) to see relatives and the country is breathtaking, I am proud to be born there. I grew up in Western Australia where I had an amazing childhood and I really consider myself as an Australian.
Can you tell us something of your family, life and education in Australia? Are you from a ‘showbiz’ family? How were you encouraged to find a career in stage and screen?
I am definitely not from a showbiz family. My mother and grandmother used to dance a little, but not to the extent that I have done. My family are wholesome, loving and nurturing people, who have always supported my choices in life. I think my mother knew that I was the 'Artsie' one of the family from a young age. I started dance when I was 4 and always fell into the theatre projects in school and always loved my art classes. I did well in school, but she knew where my heart was from the beginning.
Australia has produced so many great artists. What examples have meant something to you?
I love Australian films and Australians actors and actresses. Heath Ledger (from my home town in Perth) Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe and Gemma Ward (from my home town Perth)....it shows that no matter where you're from in the world, talent is talent, and you can't buy that. If you work hard in life, and dream, you can be anyone and anywhere in life. Gemma Ward transitioned from modelling into acting and that is something that I aspire to do, from dancing.
I’ve read that you trained in ballet before starting your professional career and moving to England. What took you to the UK?
At that time the UK had all the best teachers over there, and I wanted to experience the best of the best. They hold the most prestigious competition in the world for Ballroom Dancing in Blackpool and I wanted to live and breathe the life of a dancer over there.
In England you were a frequent competition winner and became a member of the cast for the hugely successful show, Burn The Floor. That show transferred to Broadway and you were chosen as the principal female dancer. Tell us about that time in your life.
This was an amazing time in my life! I had just broken up with my competitive partner at the time Burn The Floor called, so I quickly transitioned onto the stage, and didn't really have time to think about not having another partner. It was perfect timing, and I never looked back. I worked hard on Burn The Floor and worked my way up. Broadway has always been a dream of mine and to be dancing the lead roles was such an honor. We were the first pure Ballroom dancing show to be on Broadway, we had 2 vocalists, 2 percussionists, and the rest dancers. No scripts, hardly any props, our dancing was the show and we communicated through our bodies.
Did you suffer any culture shock – Australia, England, USA – all in just a few years?
No not really, it certainly made me grow up though!
Now you live in Los Angeles and have a permanent place in the cast of Dancing with the Stars. Do you find your face is increasingly recognized on the street or are you managing to keep your professional and private lives separate?
I am loving being a regular part of DWTS. I am not getting recognized yet. I guess the more you become famous though, the more privacy you lose, so I wouldn't mind being more recognizable eventually, but for now I love being able to walk to the shops in my sweats with no makeup.
It’s clear that you have incredible talent and energy. How do you keep in shape and successfully keep so many balls in the air?
I go to the gym regularly, about 5 times a week , when I'm not performing on the show. Whilst being on the show, there is no time, and I get enough cardio training whilst I'm there. I also love pilates and other dance styles, I try to take a couple of classes a week in Ballet and Jazz.
In addition to your performing career you have also worked as a choreographer for, and performed with many artists – Rod Stewart, Enrique Iglesias, Heart, and recently New Kids on the Block and Back Street Boys. How is it, working with such important acts?
This is the highlight of working on the show! Being able to dance alongside these incredible artists, and create choreography to compliment their songs is an honor.
Your career is diversifying – dance performance, choreography, modeling, movies – where do you think you will concentrate your professional talent in the foreseeable future?
I really can’t say. Obviously dancing is always going to be there, but there are so many other opportunities presenting themselves now in those other areas that I would love to focus on too. DWTS is opening a lot of doors for me, and being on the number one TV show has its benefits.
Did you see Black Swan? Would you care to give us your impressions as a trained ballet dancer yourself?
This was an incredible movie! Natalie Portman did an outstanding job as a ballerina. The movie portrays a very accurate account of a prima ballerinas life and the problems that surround it. She was very deserving of the Oscar not only as an actress, but for her dancing ability as well.
As dance competition has become such a TV favorite do you think of yourself as more of a dance artist or athlete?
Coming from a competitive background in ballroom dancing, it is now known as DanceSport. There has been studies proven that we're as fit as athletes, and I believe we are! At the end of the day though we're artists and dancing is an art. What we produce with our bodies and how we communicate it to our audience is an art, and a language in itself.
The life of a professional dancer can be very punishing but you have maintained your good humor and sanity! What advice might you offer to up and coming dancers following in your footsteps?
Follow your dreams, dream big, always have goals for yourself, find out what sets you apart from all the other dancers because there are thousands of people that want exactly what you want, and have exactly what you have.
Lets talk about music. Perhaps you would give us an idea of your own musical preferences?Do you have the time to get to many concerts?
Unfortunately I have seen few live concerts from having a schedule that travels all over the world. I love most types of music, anything but Country. My favorite is Top 40 stuff, pop, modern types of stuff. I’m very girly, so I love Rihanna, Madonna, Beyonce, Britney, Christina Aguilera, but I love searching through my parents old vinyls and play ABBA and Michael Jackson.
How are you enjoying LA? Do you find much downtime to enjoy the club scene?
I am loving LA, I have always wanted to be here and see what life was like here. I haven’t had a lot of downtime, but since Season 12 ended I have been to a few places, W Hotel, Trus, Colony, Trusdale, XIV Michael Mina, I generally prefer going to bars though, as you can hear what the person next to you in saying.
As you’ve travelled around the world, which cities have particularly made an impression on you? If you can imagine settling in a particular place, where might that be?
Honestly I can imagine myself settling here in LA or New York. Being on Broadway and living in the heart of NYC, created this love for the hustle and bustle of the city.