When “Dancing With The Stars” first asked Audrina Patridge to compete on the show, the reality TV star from Orange County had to say no: the MTV series “The Hills,” which made her famous enough for “Dancing” to want her, needed her around for the its sixth and final season earlier this year.
When asked a few months later, though, Patridge jumped at the chance to join the ABC series that premieres at 8 p.m. Monday, even though the ballroom and Latin dances she’d have to master seemed a daunting task indeed.
“When I was a little girl my mom put my sister and I in dance at the Dance Spot, I think it was called, in Fullerton,” says Patridge, 25, who grew up in Yorba Linda and graduated from El Dorado High School in Placentia.
“We did jazz, tap and ballet, but I didn’t do it for very long, so getting into ballroom dancing and Latin dancing, I really had no idea what to expect.
“I’ve never performed in front of a live audience, I’ve never danced how I’ve been dancing the last two weeks,” Patridge says. “It’s pretty hard core.”
Her professional partner on the show, Tony Dovolani, helps her greatly, she says, partly through his patience through the hours of dance instruction he’s been providing, and partly through the quirk of fate that she’d already meet him years earlier.
“I him the first time when I first moved to L.A.,” Patridge says. “I was a receptionist at Smashbox Studios and they were shooting the second season of ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ His partner then was Stacy Keibler, and they’d all come in (for a photo shoot).
“And when I found out that he was my partner …I was already comfortable with him,” she says.
To get ready for the show, Patridge says she didn’t rush out to study dance – she figured Dovolani would best teach her what she needed to know – but did start taking Pilates classes to stretch and strengthen her muscles.
“The first week and a half, Tony was really seeing what I was capable of and pushing me to see what I could or couldn’t do,” Patridge says. “The first week my feet suffered, from those heels you have to learn to dance in. The second week I just started feeling muscles I’d never felt before.”
Her first dance on the show will be a cha-cha-cha choreographed to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” and as much as she’s practiced, there’s really no way not to be nervous, she says.
“As the day comes closer, the more nervous I get,” Patridge says. “We’re performing in front of a live audience and there’s 27 million viewers who watch ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ It’s a lot of pressure, and I want to do the best I can do.
“We’ve just really been going to rehearsals every day and practicing and practicing,” she says. “So when I go out there it’s all about having fun and owning the dance floor, instead of thinking about the steps and looking like a robot.”
Off the dance floor Patridge has a variety of post-“Hills” projects in the works, most prominently a Mark Burnett-produced reality series that will star her if it gets the final green light from the networks currently considering it.
“So far they say it’s looking really good,” she says. “It will be about my life outside of ‘The Hills’ bubble, in Orange County and in L.A., dealing with my sane life and then my insane life.”
But for now, it’s all about “Dancing” and making it through that nervous first week when anything can happen. Her family, who all still live in Orange County, will be there to support her – mom Lynn, dad Mark and her siblings Casey, Mark and Samantha. But on the dance floor it will be just her and Dovolani.
“I already have all these different emotions running through me and I’m trying to block them out,” Patridge says. “I’m going to be nervous, excited, scared. I’m going to have all this adrenalin.”
And once it’s done?
“Then I’ll just be happy that I did it and I faced my fears in front of a live audience,” she says.