Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

The first-ever all-star edition of Dancing with the Stars will feature some of the best celebrity hoofers ever to grace the ballroom — but it’s unlikely that Apolo Ohno or Shawn Johnson will generate the lion’s share of headlines when the competition show returns Sept. 24.

That’s because Bristol Palin will be back in the house!

We asked two-time winner Mark Ballas to talk about reuniting with Palin, his partner (and the eldest daughter of the former Vice Presidential candidate) from season 11, and what he hopes to do to secure a third mirror ball trophy.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY How did you feel about the idea of an all-star edition?

Mark Ballas It’s a really cool concept, especially since everybody who is participating has gone pretty far on the show in the past. The shortest anyone has been on the show is Pam [Anderson], and she was off by the sixth or seventh week. I think it’s going to be really interesting.

Did the pros have any say about who should return for all-stars?

Absolutely not. We don’t get a say in much. The week before it was announced, we are called to say we are on the show. Maybe two weeks later, we learned who are partners were.

What if you got someone you didn’t want?

You really shouldn’t sign a contract if you aren’t up for it. That’s part of the job. We are here to help people have a good time. You are not always going to get someone who can really move, who is really coordinated.

Fortunately, some pros were reunited with their former partners.

Three of my former partners are on the show this year — Shawn [Johnson, from season 8], Sabrina [Bryan, from season 5] and Bristol. It’s virtually impossible to pair everyone with their old partners. I knew I’d get Sabrina or Bristol. I am awesome with Bristol. She is an awesome friend. I went on a great journey with her last time. We were the dark horse, but we kept making it through. People said the Tea Party helped us, but we still worked 10 to 12 hours a day like everybody else. There was something about that journey that I found endearing. I’m not in politics and they were voting for me as well. Together we had a good rapport. I understand her. I know how to make her laugh on cue, make her comfortable.


I’m a ham.

Do you tell dirty jokes?

I don’t tell dirty jokes. She’s a conservative.

What’s it like having a partner that generates so much press?

It’s a big responsibility. When the tabloids go nuts, it can be tough. I’m not here to talk about politics or about what her mother says. I’m here to dance. This show is called Dancing with the Stars. I’m here to train a person, make them feel comfortable, beautiful. But it can get frustrating. This is not what the show is about.

Any negative press about Bristol must get in the way of rehearsals, too.

Of course, it’s in the back of her mind in the studio. I have to get her to forget it. I have to distract her.

What was always job one with her?

I was always trying to bring her out of a shell. Maybe we weren’t the best dance team, but we were the most improved.

How are you feeling about your chances this season?

She looks amazing. She’s lost weight and she is getting in shape. She might be more confident, ready to get out and shake it. We’ve been through this process before. I told her to do some homework, re-watch all of our dances. She has to bring it out even more this time. Last time, it came out moderately. She’s a sexy girl. She looks great dressed up. She has to own it, to not be shy. This show is about taking you out of your comfort zone and owning it.

And her costumes this season?

This time around I’ll see if she’s willing to try a sexier outfit.

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