He’s been at or near the top of the leaderboard each week thus far on “Dancing with the Stars,” so it should come as no surprise that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe has been named a captain for one of the teams in the group dance portion of tonight’s competition (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
In addition to performing their individual dances on “Eras Night” in Week 7, the eight remaining celebrities will be split into two teams for a group dance. Hinchcliffe is captain of Team Past that also includes former NFL player Calvin Johnson Jr., actress Maureen McCormick and Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. Team Future consists of captain Laurie Hernandez, the Olympic gymnast, along with actress Marilu Henner, reality show star Terra Jole and actress/singer Jana Kramer.
One celebrity and professional partner couple will be eliminated tonight based on their judges’ scores and fan vote from last week’s competition. The judges’ scores from the individual and team dances tonight will be combined with this week’s fan vote to determine who is eliminated next week.
“The big challenge is just learning two dances for the first time, which has been a bit of a struggle,” Hinchcliffe admitted Sunday night to IndyCar.com. “But it’s part of growing in this whole competition and we look forward to the challenge and hoping we can pull it off.
“Our team dance, I think, turned out really well. The pros did a great job choreographing something that was very classic, very beautiful. When we say we’re Team Past, our song’s from way back – like 1700s back. It was definitely a challenge to choreograph something that’s time appropriate for that.”
In the first six weeks of Season 23 competition, Hinchcliffe has been rated first or second with the judges four times and never had lower than the fourth-best score. He and partner Sharna Burgess have been assigned the 1940s as their era for tonight’s individual dance and will perform the jitterbug.
“It’s actually a style of dance that’s not often used on the show,” the veteran of six Verizon IndyCar Series seasons said. “It’s exciting for us to get to do it, it’s a very fast-paced dance, a lot of footwork. It’s a little bit different style, kind of rough, dirty, broken lines. Complete opposite of ballroom, where you’re in frame and it’s all about posture. So that’s kind of fun to have a new challenge.
“It also allows us to do tricks and lifts, so there’s a lot of cool, almost borderline acrobatics in this one. That also means your body takes a bit more of a beating because, let’s be honest, when you practice sometimes things go wrong and you fall pretty hard.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how both pieces turn out Monday night.”
Fan voting this week for “Dancing with the Stars” opens when the live ABC broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET. Phone voting – call toll-free to (800) 868-3405 to vote for Hinchcliffe and Burgess – runs until 60 minutes after the completion of the show in each time zone. Online voting at abc.com and the “Dancing with the Stars” Facebook page runs through 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Hinchcliffe and Burgess took a break from rehearsal on Thursday to appear on the popular syndicated “Ellen” show and perform a dance. The episode is scheduled to air today. Check out their performance below.