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The professional dancer appeared in all three original High School Musical films and danced for the likes of Janet Jackson and Katy Perry before joining Dancing With the Stars as a member of the troupe for five seasons. When she was upgraded to a full-time pro dancer on the dance competition series for Season 29, she became the first Black woman to hold the title. In the current 31st season, Stewart’s partner is CODA actor Daniel Durant, and the duo has made it to the Top 8 not only by impressing the judges with their dances, but also by capturing the hearts of viewers across the country in the process.
For the latest episode of In The Know’s pop culture interview series We Should Talk, Stewart opened up about this season of DWTS, what it’s been like working with Durant as a dance partner and friend, breaking down barriers on the show, bringing more diversity to ballroom dance with her organization Share the Movement, and much more.
Listen to Britt Stewart’s full episode of We Should Talk below, and keep reading for highlights from the interview:
On becoming the first Black female pro in the history of Dancing With the Stars: It is such an honor. I am really grateful that I was on troupe for as long as I was. I was on troupe for five seasons, and I loved to have that time to cultivate who I am as a dancer, performer and choreographer and really sink my teeth into the show before having the responsibility of being a pro. Even on troupe, I was the first ever Black female to have a full-time contract with the show.
I don’t think it’s the show [that’s the problem]; I think it’s the culture of ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing as an art and as a sport is just not very diverse. It has come a long way, but it isn’t diverse, so there are not very many female ballroom dancers that look like me. […] There’s just a lack of diversity, and I think it’s because there’s just not access to [ballroom dancing]. It’s also representation. Maybe up until this point, a little Black girl hadn’t seen someone who looks like themselves on Dancing With the Stars, so maybe all they thought they could do was hip-hop or something that’s more of a diverse dance style. When I got promoted to be a pro, I was honored and so happy to take that responsibility on.
On communicating effectively with her current DWTS partner, Daniel Durant: When I first found out that he was my partner, I’m the type of person who dives in. I commit all the way, so I knew that I would want to learn ASL. It was something that — and it still is something that — is really important to me. At the beginning of the season, I ordered on Amazon the ASL alphabet and the numbers 1-10, which I now have down. More so, it’s just for me to wake up every single day and have the intention of ASL being a new language to me. It’s something I’m really passionate about. That is something that as a teacher and a coach I immediately knew I didn’t want to rely on Daniel’s interpreter. I wanted to make sure that I put in the effort to communicate with him. He’s learning my language, my art form, my expression, so to me learning ASL is just a simple way of connecting with him and getting more in tune with how he is and what his culture is.
On her work for Share the Movement: Our mission is to increase diversity in the professional dance industry by financially, educationally and inspirationally inspiring young BIPOC dancers. Basically, we started with summer dance program scholarships, where kids of diversity could apply for a scholarship to their preferred dance programs. Now, we’re shifting to do full-year scholarships so that any kid who is in need of support for their advanced training or they’re looking to get started into dance training, we can support them in any way possible. That’s the financial side of it.
Educationally, we’ve partnered with different organizations to be part of our community — consisting of dancers, choreographers, dance educators that are a reflection of how we feel like the dance industry should be a little more colorful. They’ll teach master classes [for us]. Inspirationally, we also offer a mentorship program, so anyone that feels like they also need a mentor and has someone that can be a reflection of themselves, they can have monthly conversations with people who are active in the dance industry, as well, to help their path moving forward.
Watch In The Know’s full interview with Britt Stewart below and tune in to Dancing With the Stars every Monday live at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+:
If you enjoyed this interview, check out In The Know’s recent interview with the D’Amelio family here!
The post Britt Stewart reflects on making history on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ — and paving the way for others appeared first on In The Know.