Even though he’s one of the favorites to win this season of “Dancing with the Stars,” Juan Pablo Di Pace says he feels very vulnerable before he goes out on the dance floor.
“I never know if it’s going to go right,” he says. “I’m a little bit dyslexic and I can’t tell my right from my left.” Before the live performance, “I’m practically…. (you fill in the rest).”
Because he works with two former contestants on “Fuller House,” Di Pace was well aware of the commitment. Jodie Sweetin and Candace Cameron Bure “talked wonders about it. And it became a running joke that I should do it. Finally, I figured, ‘Why not?’ I can sort of move and I thought I’d have a lot of fun doing it.”
Instead, “Dancing” has become a 24-hours-a-day commitment. When he and pro Cheryl Burke aren’t in the studio rehearsing, they’re texting, watching videos and planning their next moves. “It’s constant. We breathe this.”
Add in Di Pace’s competitive nature. “That screws with your mind a little bit. When you starting caring too much about the scores and who you have to beat, it’s not as much fun. But, as Cheryl says, ‘You can’t think too far ahead.’ It’s not just about the dance. It’s also about the connection with the audience.”
On that count, Di Pace believes Joe Amabile, the “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant, is in the lead.
“He has a really good personality and a great attitude toward the show,” Di Pace says. “No matter how many times he gets knocked down by the judges, he comes back and, the next week, he gives it his all. That’s part of the reason people are loving Joe.”
A front runner from the very beginning, Di Pace had some dancing experience before joining this show (he appeared on stage in “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever”), but never expected the competition to be this intense.
“I’m dying,” he says with a laugh. “Competing at this level with this incredible pro on a ballroom floor is hard. If it looks like I’m suave, that’s just my shield. I’m worried – I’m just a good actor.”
Burke calls all the shots, even though Di Pace has had an opportunity to make “suggestions.”
“She's tough and no b-------,” the 39-year-old Argentinian says. “She’s very, very precise and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. I’ll say, ‘I don’t think I can give you that,’ and she’ll say, ‘It is possible. Try harder.’”
During the season, he and Burke have gotten two perfect scores. Milo Manheim and his partner Witney Carson have one.
The workout is so grueling Di Pace says he has gone down a pants size and continues to lose weight.
Because the contestants are busy with their own routines, it’s likely they only see each other on Mondays (when the show airs) or during team dance rehearsals.
“We’re like brothers in suffering,” Di Pace says. “DeMarcus (Ware) and I have become really close. It’s hard, though, to see many of the others. What you see on television is really the bulk of our friendship.”
While others have used “Dancing with the Stars” as a springboard, Di Pace’s not sure where it could take him.
“The job right after I played Jesus in ‘A.D.’ was ‘Fuller House,’ which couldn’t be further away from biblical times. If anything, I’ve been able to jump from one genre to the next, one character to the next.
“I do have a huge love for musicals,” he says. “I’m like a child at Christmas on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ I’ve got a big band behind me, lighting designs, choreography and the most expensive clothes on the planet. It’s very fulfilling.”
While the front runners in other seasons haven’t always won (“it depends on your story, too,” Di Pace says), he knows the experience is something that will leave a lasting impression.
“I want to keep on dancing,” he says, just minutes before heading into the studio to rehearse. “Now that I’ve been on ‘Dancing,’ I figure I can put it on my resume, too."
Juan Pablo Di Pace, dancer.