You wouldn’t expect “Duck Dynasty’s” Sadie Robertson and Cheech & Chong’s Tommy Chong to have anything in common. You’d be wrong.
They’re both spending hours a day at dance practice, fielding feedback from “Dancing with the Stars” fans, and getting high — Robertson, ascending via balloons to close a performance two weeks ago, and Chong, well, you know.
With four weeks behind them competing on “Dancing’s” 19th season on ABC, the two are scoring big with the judges and the fans.
What Sadie’s saying
Robertson, 17, and her professional dancer partner Mark Ballas topped off their dance to a song from the animated film “Up” on Sept. 29 with the reality star floating away holding onto a bunch of balloons.
“It took some practice and a couple of bruises,” Robertson said by phone before a recent rehearsal.
And the rehearsals are many for the show, in which celebrity dancers and their professional dance counterparts learn and perform a new dance each week before being critiqued by the judges and voted on by fans.
“There are no days off in this show. We have six-hour-a-day practices,” Robertson said.
Monday, competitors were to dance to a song from the most memorable year of their lives. Robertson chose 2012, the year her family’s reality show began and the Robertson clan of Monroe quickly became household names.
It was a smooth samba to Pharrell’s “Hunter” that got the young dancer’s family in on the act, with dad Willie and uncles Jase, Jep and Si Robertson blowing duck calls off a makeshift porch on the “Dancing” set. Ballas donned a bushy beard and camouflage to complete the picture.
“I picked the year we started ‘Duck Dynasty,’ just the transition of how it used to be, how it is now, so I figured people would be interested in that,” Robertson said.
Having nailed the samba, more dances remain to be tackled if Robertson wants to continue on toward that mirror ball trophy given to the season’s winners.
“I am scared to do the Argentine tango. I don’t know why, but that just seems like an intimidating dance,” she said.
Robertson, who says she only danced in her bedroom before this and has no formal dance training, “just totally came into this looking for something new to do.”
In addition to the dances, the costumes, often skimpy and sexy, factor into each week’s show.
It’s been much publicized that conservative Christian Willie Robertson has the final say on his daughter’s dresses.
“The thing is that it’s out of respect for my dad,” the younger Robertson said, on getting her father’s seal of approval. “But when it comes down to it, I know what’s right and what’s wrong, what I should do and what I can’t do, and beyond going to my dad for advice and going to God for advice ... yes, my dad has input, but it’s not like I’m a rebel child.”
Through all this, Robertson keeps the fans, whose weekly votes help decide who’s staying and who’s going, in mind.
“The fans are great. The thing is, it is a fan-based show. You can’t do it without the fans. Seriously, if I didn’t have my fans backing me, I would have probably been out the first week,” she said.
Not all the feedback is from fans, Robertson conceded.
“Of course, you’re going to get some negative feedback, I mean, when you’re holding the football you’re going to get tackled, that’s just the way life is. But for the most part, everybody’s been super happy and supportive of it.”
Robertson indicated that she’s not interested in taking judge Julianne Hough’s recent suggestion that she get “more down and dirty” with her dances if she hopes to win it all.
“Whenever they say ‘down and dirty,’ they don’t mean it in a bad way, you know, it’s just how you dance. It’s just a whole new world for us. We are going to be true to who we are, and do dances that are just fun,” Robertson said.
Chatting with Chong
As the elder on this season’s “Dancing,” comedian, actor, author and producer Tommy Chong, 76, has been the fitting wild card so far.
Known for his years of marijuana-laced humor in concerts, albums and films as half of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong, on this show he’s salsaed, tangoed and torn his shirt open and garnered mostly high (pardon the pun) scores from the judges.
“Oh, I loved it,” Chong said of his chest-baring finale. “It’s a card I can’t play every week, but it was sure nice being able to. Each week you’ve got to have some little something up your sleeve.
“I keep getting younger, physically, it’s weird,” Chong said. “I trained for two years really hard. I was in the gym three times a week.”
Chong auditioned for “Dancing” two years ago.
“I had a feeling that they liked me, they liked the whole concept of this old stoner dancing. And I love dancing anyway, so I took some lessons and I really worked on my stamina, my wind and everything, so I got in pretty good shape. I’m really good to go.”
Contrasting with Robertson, Chong, grew up dancing, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“When a lot of my other hoodlum friends were out getting drunk and into trouble, I was going to dances. It was a good way to get close to a girl, you know, without having problems,” he said with a chuckle.
Although it may seem like longer, each week the couples’ dances are limited to 60 seconds each, Chong pointed out.
“It’s only a minute,” Chong said. “Last night, they kind of penalized Alfonso (Ribeiro, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’) because he went 20 seconds over. And I love that rule because I’m good at doing a lot of things in one minute, at my age, especially.”
Helping Chong strut his stuff is pro partner Peta Murgatroyd, who Chong calls “such a dream.”
“The hardest thing about working with Peta, she’s so beautiful it’s so hard to concentrate,” he said.
Chong says his wife of 39 years, Shelby, also a comedian, is his biggest fan.
“She says, ‘I don’t mind you dancing with her (Peta), but don’t keep coming home telling me how beautiful she is.’”
The Chongs still take their comedy on the road with Tommy Chong’s longtime partner, Cheech Marin.
“Well, last week I had to learn that tango while I was on the road,” Chong said. “We never had that much time to rehearse, that’s why it was a little touch and go if I was going to be able to make it, because when we did that dance at the dress rehearsal, we never went through the whole dance once until we did it that night.”
When he’s in town, Chong and Murgatroyd practice three to five hours a day.
“There’s blocking on Sunday, and filming on Monday. it’s non-stop, seven days a week.”
For last week’s “most memorable year” number, Chong chose 2003, the year began a nine-month prison stint for distributing marijuana bongs and water pipes through his family’s online company, Nice Dreams.
“I’m doing ‘Jailhouse Rock,’” Chong said, laughing, prior to last week’s show. “I’m doing the jive. In the ’50s, we did something called the Lindy Hop. It’s easy to pick up, but hard to do, very physical.”
Chong hopes for a lot more dances in the coming weeks.
“I think I’ve got a good shot on winning. It’s a show based as much on popularity as it is on dancing,” he said. “I’ve shown the judges and the people that I can dance. I have rhythm, I can stay in the pocket, as Carrie Ann (Inaba, another of the judges) said, and my fans, which are increasing daily, they will vote. In the end, it really becomes who wants it most I think.”