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
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