Taking the Stage: Dancing with the Stars Debut

The big day is finally here! Today I make my Dancing with the Stars debut live in front of America. The energy level is high backstage and everyone is hustling and bustling to get ready for tonight's show. It's been a complete whirlwind - the past few weeks have just flown by. My dance partner, Derek Hough, and I are based in NYC, and have both been balancing our own individual projects in addition to traveling back and forth from NYC to LA. While doing DWTS, I am a full-time student in my junior year at New York University and Derek is starring in a brand new show, "New York Spring Spectacular," at Radio City Music Hall. Our rehearsals have been a lot of fun, and while our individual commitments have made juggling our schedules quite a challenge, we have tried to use what little time we have had together to keep things focused... we share a lot of laughs including moments where I step on Derek's toes or bump into him!

The art of dancing is completely new to me! Even though I am a gymnast who has performed on the world's largest stage (The Olympics!), it is still nerve wracking to prepare to step in front of America doing something I have never done before - and doing it with a partner. I am sure a lot of people think that being an athlete might be advantageous in this competition, but truth be told there is a huge learning curve for me. For so many years I have competed alone out on the floor so to have a partner is a complete game changer. After all these years of only having to concentrate on my own movements, trying to synchronize choreography is tough. I am starting to realize that I basically need to start from scratch because dancing is so different!

With that said, it has been such an enjoyable few weeks of testing myself and really doing something that is completely out of my comfort zone. Derek and I are so excited for our first dance. He is a great teacher and is very open and receptive to my ideas. We were actually even able to incorporate certain aspects of my gymnastics style into the routine, which was pretty cool. The journey so far has given me an enormous appreciation for the professional dancers who are tasked with teaching us all such intricate dances. It takes so much patience on their part.

On top of perfecting each dance, every week we are also responsible for our costume design. From my years of performing, I know just how important music and costumes are...they truly make or break the performance. Setting the tone is so important! You have to find a way to connect with the audience and make them feel as if they are a part of your performance. As for the costume designs, this is a process that I am involved in every step of the way. I know that a lot of young girls look up to me, which is truly such an honor, and a role that I take very seriously. I want to represent myself through my costumes, making sure the way I look on the dance floor each week best portrays me. I hope that when viewers see my costumes this season my love of fashion and my personality shines through. I know that if I feel confident in my outfit and comfortable with the music selection, it will allow me to give the best performance possible and be proud of myself.

I am so grateful to have this opportunity and am looking forward to sharing my journey with you each and every week through my Huffington Post blog. I hope to have your support and votes! Please send good thoughts my way and vote for me by calling: 1-855-234-5604

Wish me luck, America... I hope to make you proud!