Earlier this year, Ervinas Merfeldas joined the professional dancers on Series 5 of Dancing With the Stars in Ireland, partnering Missy Keating, with whom he reached week 7, where they performed the Charleston. During the series, Ervinas danced with contestants Erica-Cody and Ellen Keane when their partners tested positive for COVID, and it has been announced that Ervinas will partner Stephanie Roche for the upcoming Series 6, which is due to start on RTÉ One on 8th January. Speaking with Ervinas, we found out about joining the professional dancers on Dancing With the Stars in Ireland, partnering Missy Keating in Series 5 and where his love of dance comes from.
You joined the line-up of professional dancers on Dancing With the Stars in Ireland earlier this year, how did it feel finding out you’d be part of the show?
I was absolutely ecstatic at first, as I was a fan of the show from when I was still competing. I even went to a live show back in Season 2.
What was it like meeting the rest of the professionals for the first time?
It was nice to meet everyone for the first time, however some people I already knew from before the show. The dancing scene in Ireland is not the biggest of communities, therefore I knew all the Irish professionals before the show even began!
How did you find the experience working on the show during Series 5 and was there anything you enjoyed most about being on the series?
It was definitely a fun yet challenging experience to be working on the show. I loved the process of teaching and creating choreography and then performing and seeing it all go well on the live shows. Playing around with choreography and really opening your mind to connect the movements and steps to the music, makes you think in different ways from your day-to-day life and I really did quite enjoy that.
Can you tell us about your time dancing with Missy Keating and did you have a favourite routine to perform?
Myself and Missy definitely had a lot of fun during the show as we got along well from the start. I would have to say our favourite routine was definitely our contemporary ballroom piece as it was so different from all the other dances. The makeup and costumes were crazy. The story and acting required for that piece was a challenge, however, it was so enjoyable to play a certain character. Therefore I would have to say that routine was the highlight one.
How was it training with Missy and what do you miss most about dancing together?
It was most definitely a fun and interesting experience training with Missy. We went through so many emotions together in rehearsals and on the live shows that brought us closer as friends during the show. We were both doing something like this for the first time so we were helping each other get through it. I would have to say that I miss the energy that she had the most, because no matter how she was feeling or how tired she was, she would always light up the studio and make the days enjoyable.
Throughout the series, you also danced with Erica-Cody and Ellen Keane when their partners were off due to COVID, what was this like?
It was most definitely a challenge, yet a great experience for me. Being thrown into new partnerships and dances with such little notice forced us all to very quickly adapt to the new situation. You straight away had to get used to a new person, new character, new body shape and even a new teaching style, all whilst trying to stay calm, knowing you had to perform very soon. I have to say that they definitely acted very professional about it and took on this new challenge head on and smashed it. I was more than happy to step in, however felt a huge amount of pressure as I did not want to be going home on the week that they did not have their own actual partner. The whole experience actually helped me loads, as I got to also learn how to teach three different types of people all in one season, as even after I had danced with Erica and Ellen, I then had to teach them the following week as their professional partners still had to isolate. So most definitely being recalled to dance again helped me tremendously.
Was there anything that drew you to be a professional dancer on Dancing With the Stars?
I think the creativity aspect of it all definitely drew me towards the role. Having to think about so many more details than usual and then making sure it all looks good on camera was an added layer of thought that interested me. As well as that, the aspect of lifts, drops and tricks also intrigued me as it’s something I definitely enjoyed coming up with and performing.
Where does your love of dance come from and how did you start?
Initially I didn’t have a love for it at the start as I was six years old when I started. I was dragged in by my mother and ended up starting to love it as time went on. Once I entered the competitive aspect of it and started doing well and winning, I most definitely started to enjoy it more and more. On top of that, travelling around the world with it made me fall in love with dancing and quickly became a part of my life.
Can you say about your training and do you remember which style of dance you found most challenging to learn?
I can now say that it is a very intense process, when you are first training for competitions. You could easily spend more than eight hours a day practicing and training as dancing is a very repetitive sport. I used to spend at least five days a week dancing, more-time six, which included group classes, your own time practicing on your own and as a couple, and private lessons with just you and a teacher. You can work on the same dance and figure for hours just to perfect every single movement in every step/figure. Dancing is a very demanding sport, both mentally and physically as you have to have the dedication and discipline to do the same thing over and over again just to tweak a single finger or hip or shoulder position.
The style I would say that I found more difficult would be one of the slower ones as you had to fill out every single millisecond of rhythm which is actually harder to do than with a faster song, as there is not as much going on.
Can you tell us about some of the dance competitions you’ve been part of since starting?
From a very young age I was competing around Ireland. I would start at the smaller competitions which ultimately lead to me competing in the All-Irelands every year. Once I became the Irish champion from a young age, I started competing all over the world and represented Ireland in multiple international events and competitions.
What would you say are some of your stand-out highlights over your career so far?
Before Dancing With the Stars, I would have definitely said representing Ireland internationally was always a stand-out moment for me. Making Semi-Finals and Finals internationally was always a highlight to me and something I will remember and cherish forever. That, and becoming an All-Ireland champion from early and holding that title for years afterwards are my two most memorable highlights.
Did you have any favourite dancers to watch when growing up?
I wouldn’t be able to say that I had one single absolute favourite as I would look at certain dancers and love and be inspired by them for different reasons. Since every dancer was different, I always loved seeing the different ways dancers would do certain steps and how they would incorporate their own style and feeling into their movements. I loved watching all the international competitions just to see how different everyone from every country was and that’s what really stood out to me the most.
How do you like to spend your time away from dance?
Typically I would always try to keep myself busy and active even on my days off. I would be an avid gym-goer and to keep some sort of exercise in my daily life. I would then also try to plan out my days so that I’m constantly looking forward to something new and to stay on top of things. Making sure I sleep well, eat well and stay active whilst also keeping in touch with friends and family is how I would spend my days.
Have you been given any advice over the years as a dancer that has stuck with you?
The advice that has stuck with me the longest and that I still tell others to this day is to completely disregard other people’s opinions and thoughts, especially when on the dance floor. Growing up in the dance world, I’ve always been conscious of other people’s opinions and thoughts about me and my dancing which, at times, would affect the way I would perform and express myself. One of the older people in my dance school would always tell me to just shut it out and pretend I’m in my own world, on my own every time I would go out onto the floor. Him telling me that repeatedly, drove that fact into my head and helped me feel more confident about myself and my dancing. The ability to no longer care about what other people thought is something that helped me grow, even as a person and that simple piece of advice is something that will forever stick with me.
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