Jane | Dancing With the Stars

Gotta Dance

By Cathy Higgins

LOS ANGELES — As Golden Globe winning actress Jane Seymour competes in the fifth installment of “Dancing With the Stars,” she’ll be thinking of family.

After all, it’s her family that convinced Seymour to take part in the weekly ABC reality show. “I’ve been offered it a couple of times,” the 56-year-old said during a recent telephone interview from ABC studios in Los Angeles.

“But I had always turned it down, for several reasons.” One reason Seymour hesitated was that she didn’t want to take too much time away from her mother, who is bedridden as a result of a stroke. “She can’t move very much or talk,” Seymour said.

But it turned out that Seymour’s mother watches “Dancing With the Stars” on a regular basis.

“It’s my mother’s most favorite show ever,” she said. So when Seymour told her mother she wanted to compete in her honor, the Emmy winner was met with “animated” enthusiasm. “She attempted to say, ‘Yes,’ ” Seymour said. “It’s the only word she’s spoken since she had the stroke.”

Seymour also received staunch support from her husband, James Keach, and grown children, Katherine and Sean, as well as her twin 11-year-old sons, Johnny and Kris — all of whom are “Dancing With the Stars” fans.

“It’s the guilty pleasure of my family,” she said. It’s a treat Seymour grants her youngest children for completing their school work. “We don’t let them watch much TV,” she said. “But we let them watch that.”

Even though Seymour had the full support of her family behind her, she still had concerns about the rigorous training and dancing that participation required. “I had back surgery four years ago for a herniated disc,” she said, explaining that she was afraid the activity would ruin her back. But three weeks after Seymour and partner Tony Dovolani started practicing, she realized the activity was beneficial.

“I’m in better shape than I was at 16,” she said. The exercise has increased mobility in Seymour’s spine. “And I’ve lost 14 pounds,” she said.

Of course, Dovolani consulted with Seymour’s doctor before developing a practice regimen.

“Between them, they came up with what I could and couldn’t do,” she explained. So far, Seymour has enjoyed working under the tutelage of Dovolani, who has several American Rhythm and World Rhythm championships in ballroom dancing under his belt. “He’s an incredible teacher,” Seymour said. “He’s probably the toughest of all the coaches. But I think he’s tough in the right way.”

Southwest Georgia fans will see the result of that tough coaching in the show’s opener Monday as Seymour and Dovolani perform the fox trot.

“I love the fox trot because it’s very Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire,” she said. To complete the mood, Seymour’s costume will be a creation that was made with her input. “It’s a lovely, beautiful, classy, special gown,” she said.

That’s not to say Seymour, who’s also an accomplished designer, artist and author, isn’t nervous to dance on live television.

“I’m terrified about the whole thing,” she said. “I’ve not been in a dance studio in 40 years.”

The fact that several of Seymour’s competitors are much younger than she is also gives the children’s activist pause. “By far, I’m the oldest competitor,” Seymour said. She pointed out that learning at least one dance a week for 12 weeks isn’t an easy task.

“You reach an age when you can’t remember whether or not you brushed your teeth,” she said, “and then you have to remember these dances.”

But the star of film and television feels she up for the challenge.

“I’m not afraid of hard work,” she said. “I’m going to go out there and do the best I can.” “Dancing With the Stars” kicks off with a three-day event that begins at 8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday on ABC.

©Albany Herald