Dr Eva’s pick-me-up

Just be­cause I love danc­ing doesn’t mean I’m any good at it... Dr Orsmond on her Danc­ing With The Stars ad­ven­ture

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

Aclan­des­tine meet­ing in Novem­ber in­volved 11 celebri­ties be­ing whisked covertly to a lo­ca­tion in Dublin city-cen­tre by RTÉ. It was the first time the fa­mous faces met their dance part­ners for the fledg­ling se­ries of Danc­ing With The Stars. The stars were led into Marco Pierre White’s din­ing room sep­a­rately as a group ar­riv­ing to­gether might have piqued the in­ter­est of on­look­ers or pho­tog­ra­phers. The event was fairly low-key un­til a whirl­wind of Nordic en­ergy and per­son­al­ity landed. En­ter Dr Eva.

‘When I met the cast we had a cock­tail evening or­gan­ised between the dancers and the celebri­ties be­cause it was such a se­cret who was in­volved in the show,’ Dr Eva Orsmond ex­plains. ‘My part­ner Seán [Smullen] said: “Ev­ery­thing was calm and col­lected un­til you ar­rived, and I went around check­ing all the male dancers and their mus­cles to see could they lift you.”’

That was the Fin­nish fit­ness and well­be­ing fa­natic’s in­tro­duc­tion to Danc­ing With The Stars. Since then her life has been a whirl­wind of in­tense re­hearsals, road trips to her Gal­way clinic with brief mid­way stop-offs in Mullingar for a visit to her long-time hair dresser An­nie. De­spite the gru­elling sched­ule Eva says she never hes­i­tated when it came to sign­ing up.

‘Danc­ing has al­ways been my pas­sion,’ she says. ‘It has al­ways been one of those things that I wanted to learn well. When I was a young girl I did bal­let classes and wanted to be­come a bal­le­rina… I did a belly-danc­ing course with my mum when I was 18 or 19. She was sore like a dog af­ter it for a week and I learned it re­ally well. Then I did tango lessons last year, but I only man­aged two or three be­cause work and life got in the way.

‘I al­ways said I would put my­self and my hob­bies first but it just never hap­pened. When this came around… there wasn’t even a mo­ment of hes­i­ta­tion. Lit­tle did I know how stress­ful it would be. I thought it would be easy-peasy to me. I am still en­joy­ing it, I am just not learn­ing it as fast as I thought I would. The fact that you love some­thing doesn’t mean you are go­ing to be tal­ented.’

Let’s be hon­est, Dr Eva has quite the rep­u­ta­tion for her tough-talk­ing, no-non­sense ap­proach to healthy liv­ing. The in­ter­net is lit­tered with videos of her chastis­ing over­weight con­tes­tants on Op­er­a­tion Trans­for­ma­tion. And there are some who be­lieve she would be bet­ter housed on the set of Mean Girls. But there is a softer side to this for­mi­da­ble woman who ad­mits she is strug­gling with the nerves that come with such a show. ‘Do you know what? I thought that I was go­ing back­wards be­cause I was so ner­vous. I re­mem­ber when I was first asked to do The Late Late Show in 2006… I didn’t eat for the whole run up to it. I sort of felt the same be­fore DWTS. In the full cos­tume re­hearsals… I felt so sick that I thought I was go­ing to get a panic at­tack and my en­ergy was drained and I con­vinced my­self I was go­ing to mess it up. ‘The worst part is the wait when the oth­ers are danc­ing and you know your turn is com­ing, that is like a tor­ture… Be­cause we are novice dancers a lot can go wrong and with a live au­di­ence that is a lot of pres­sure… But I am much bet­ter placed this week. Last week I had a re­ally bad week be­cause I kept think­ing about my strug­gle with the dance and go­ing over the steps in my head and then for­get­ting the steps. Then Seán told me to stop think­ing and look­ing for trou­ble and just go with it and I am in a bet­ter place this week. Worse case Seán will drag me along the floor and get it done.’ Seán Smullen, 19, started danc­ing at the age of four, and five years later moved on to ball­room and Latin. His ti­tles in­clude Lux­em­bourg Open Cham­pi­ons Ris­ing Star 2014 and Ir­ish Na­tional Show Dance Cham­pion 2015, and he was a semi-fi­nal­ist at the Grand Prix Moscow. Eva says train­ing with him has made the gru­elling train­ing bear­able and the pair have struck up quite a friend­ship since meet­ing.

‘The train­ing with Seán has been in­cred­i­ble’, she says. ‘He is ex­tremely pa­tient. He jokes all the time and he starts ev­ery sen­tence with: “I have told you a mil­lion times al­ready.” I think the fact that I ask so many ques­tions would get on most peo­ple’s nerves but he has been vir­tu­ally un­flap­pable. I am try­ing to ap­ply a log­i­cal ap­proach to danc­ing. If I un­der­stand it I can then learn it… I sug­gested one day that he buy a Taser ma­chine and ev­ery time I make a mis­take he zaps me. Maybe that would work but I think he was a lit­tle bit shocked… I am of the opin­ion that what­ever he needs to do to teach me is okay be­cause I want to learn to dance be­cause I love it.’

The pair­ing could have blown up in the face of DWTS pro­duc­ers. The chem­istry between dancers can of­ten make or break the celebrity’s chance of vic­tory or, at least, save them from mak­ing a fool of them­selves on na­tional tele­vi­sion.

‘In fair­ness I couldn’t have got a dancer with a bet­ter per­son­al­ity to be matched with,’ she says. ‘He is re­ally in­no­cent and just re­ally good with me and a lit­tle bit of a flirt which is great for a woman of my age to have a lit­tle bit of that young en­ergy but he is ex­tremely man­nerly and nice to be with.’

Dr Eva, 50, moved here from Fin­land in 2000. She has two teenage sons, Christo­pher and Evan, with Wy­att – her South African hus­band of 21 years from whom she re­cently split. Eva has moved out of the fam­ily home and is work­ing on her own life.

‘The show has been fan­tas­tic to help with the break-up,’ she says. ‘It keeps me re­ally busy. Of course you then ask your­self what is go­ing to hap­pen when the show is over and then sud­denly there is that empty space that comes into the life sud­denly. At the same time there is so many things that I have

‘When I was young I wanted to be­come a bal­le­rina’

Youth­ful en­ergy: Dr Eva and her dance part­ner Seán Smullen

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