By Christopher Rocchio, 09/20/2007
"I feel like a 5-year-old that's discovered dance class," the Dancing with the Stars' fifth-season celebrity participant told reporters during a Thursday conference call. "Dance is incredibly important in my life. I hadn't even considered thinking about it for the last 40 years. It gives me so much joy and so much pleasure that I'm just excited to be doing this."
The British actress -- best known in the States for starring in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman -- said that she's "seen a little bit" of the U.K.'s Strictly Come Dancing, but is "mostly" familiar with its close American kin Dancing with the Stars.
"It's the guilty pleasure of my family," explained Seymour. "My kids are not allowed to watch television or play video games or do computer stuff during school weeks. The only exception is if they manage to finish all their homework and their music practice and everything, they get to watch Dancing with the Stars. We all watch it together. It's their favorite show -- believe it or not -- a couple of 11-year-old boys."
Needless to say, Seymour described herself as a "big fan of the show" and was even on-hand in the studio audience for a fourth-season episode last spring. "I've been offered [to participate as a celebrity contestant] a couple of times and I've always turned it down for various reasons," said Seymour. "Physically I didn't think I'd be capable of doing it because I have a fused spine and some back issues. I'm by far the oldest female contestant they've ever had."
Four years ago, Seymour said she had a 10-milimeter herniated disc removed via a discectomy and her spine has since fused itself. "I have actually managed to activate muscles that have not moved since the surgery," she said. "I've learned that I'm not afraid of hard work and that my body is capable of doing things I didn't think it was capable of doing. I've discovered that in doing exactly the right technique, that I've cured all kinds of ailments in my body that were really hampering my mobility in life normally."
While she's still been "very careful" with her back and even consulted her doctor and physiotherapist prior to joining the Dancing with the Stars 5 cast -- in the "just over three weeks" she's been training with professional partner Tony Dovolani -- Seymour said she's lost 14 pounds "without trying."
"I'm in better shape then I was when I was 16, and I'm happier than I could possibly ever tell you," said Seymour, who credits the majority of her success to Dovolani. "I am really lucky -- because I don't know if people realize this -- but he's been [the United States Open champion] the last two years," she explained. "He's an incredible teacher and a great choreographer. The other thing that's so wonderful about him is he's probably the toughest of all the coaches... A real stickler for hard work and technique. But it's paying off. He's enabling me to do things with my body that I never imagined possible and strengthened me and my core so much so that I have no longer had any back issues at all since I've been dancing."
Seymour said she's also been mesmerized by what she called Dovolani's "magic hips." "I had never imagined that a human being's body could do some of the things that Tony's hips do," she said. "He's been trying to move my hips -- which are very British, and have never been persuaded to move in any direction other than straight ahead... The biggest challenge for me is anything that moves my hips. I'm very excited because my hips are moving now and I never thought I'd see them move."
She also admitted to having "a lot of problems" shaking the upper part of her body. "I don't know what it is. [Dovolani] refers to them as the 'chi-chis,'" explained Seymour with a laugh. "If I shake mine the rest of my body just shakes everywhere and they stay absolutely still. We've been having some really hysterical laughs about that. I'm hoping by the end of the season, something will move."
With the jury still out on her hips and "chi-chis," a person that should be moved by Seymour's Dancing with the Stars journey is her mother. Seymour said that her mother is "seriously ill" in England, another reason why she had never taken up ABC on its offer to appear on the show. "It turned out to be my mother's favorite show ever and that she would not miss it ever," said Seymour.
While her mother suffered a stroke and is unable to talk or move, Seymour said when she told her about participating in Dancing with the Stars, she attempted to talk "very animatedly." "She got very, very excited when I said I was going to do this in her honor," said Seymour of her mother. "I asked if she'd be proud of me, and she actually spoke. It was the only word she's spoken since the stroke. She said, 'Yes.' So I decided I'm going to do the best I can and hopefully I'll do my mother and anybody with back injuries or advanced age proud." Dancing with the Stars 5 will debut with two 90-minute performance episodes on Monday, September 24 and Tuesday, September 25 that will both air at 8PM ET/PT. The six female celebrity participants -- including Seymour -- will compete on Monday night, with their six male counterparts doing the same on Tuesday. The following night, ABC will cap off the show's fifth-season premiere week with a special Wednesday at 8PM ET/PT broadcast of Dancing with the Stars 5's first one-hour results show, which will send one celebrity contestant and his or her professional partner home.
"I think it's going to be a very tight race this year," said Seymour, handicapping her competition. "I think there's a lot of incredibly talented people who are doing this... I'm not really going to consider worrying about competition. I'm going to go out there and do the best I can with what I have and I'm going to enjoy every minute."