Let me be the first to admit that I knew next to nothing about ABC’s Dancing with the Stars until just a few weeks ago. I could have told you that it was a television show that involved A) dancing and B) stars but I was pretty clueless beyond that. Still, when the opportunity arose to speak to dancer Alan Bersten ahead of the show’s visit to Greenville, it was definitely something that I simply could not pass up.
For starters, I had to study up on the show itself. I had no idea that Dancing with the Stars has been on the air for 28 seasons, featuring over 300 different celebrities over the show’s 15 years. The show has spawned spinoff series, live tours, and consistently strong ratings the whole time it has been on air. It is also decidedly cooler than So You Think You Can Dance which (coincidentally?) debuted on a competing network one month after Dancing with the Stars.
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I also had to study up on Alan Bersten who, previously unbeknownst to me, is a total rock star in the dance community. For all that I did not know about Dancing with the Stars, I do know a good story when I hear one and Bersten’s is just that. He began dancing when he was just seven years old, started watching Dancing with the Stars when he was ten, and made his debut on the show at only 21 years old in 2015. He was eventually promoted to professional partner level and first teamed with 1980’s pop phenomenon Debbie Gibson in 2017 and in 2019, only four seasons in as a partner, took home the show’s top prize as a team with The Bachelorette’s Hannah Brown. As if being the reigning champion of prime time’s premier dancing show was not enough, he also holds the trophy as the winning coach of 2018’s spinoff series Dancing with the Stars: Juniors, making his resume even more impressive at the mere age of 25.
“It’s been a dream come true,” he tells me more than once in our conversation, calling it “unfathomable” that he has been able to come so far so fast. It is no easy feat to be paired with a total stranger who is not a trained dancer, be assigned a song at random, and then develop a whole routine for that song that works within both the dancer and celebrity’s skill sets. It strikes me as a harrowing process for all parties involved yet Bersten not only embraces it but excels at it seamlessly.
Armed with an understanding of how the show works on screen, I asked what to expect from the touring performance that is coming to Greenville. “It is just like the show in terms of the glitz and glamour but totally carefree without the competitive stress,” he explains. Beyond that, he tells me that his favorite part of being on tour is being able to perform in front of so many of the show’s fans and even admits that it is actually “humbling to connect with fans on that level”. He was also genuinely upbeat when I asked about the grind of performing the same show every night during a tour, telling me that there is “a new energy in every city” making each night of the tour something totally unique and special. “We grow every city,” he says, almost making me want to follow the Dancing with the Stars tour around the country to witness that phenomena myself.
It is not every day that you get to speak to someone whose achievements have surpassed even their own wildest dreams so it was fascinating for me to speak to someone who has done (and continues to do) just that. Through it all, Alan Bersten remains as humble and down to earth as anyone you could possible meet, a refreshing character trait for someone so far at the top of their game. I ask where he goes from here and what goals he intends to crush next, to which he modestly replies “I’m just taking it day by day… living my dream.” As a surprising new fan of Dancing with the Stars and Bersten himself, I cannot wait to tune in and watch him do just that.