I have to admit one of my current guilty pleasures is tuning in for snippets of Dancing With the Stars every Sunday and Monday night, mainly to check in on the progress of the standout star of the show: Teuila Blakely.
Teuila has been called one of New Zealand’s premiere acting talents and is best known for her roles in the Shortland Street soap and legendary local film, Sione’s Wedding. She was an absolute hit in both and has also recently turned her hand to writing; penning the script for her first feature film, Island Girls. She is also absolutely gorgeous and a whizz on the dance floor, making the lady an absolute triple - nay, multiple - threat. Add to that the fact that she’s singlehandedly raised her son since a young age and you have one hell of a role model for young Kiwi women.
Teuila’s dance partner on Dancing With the Stars is international dancer Scott Cole, brother of dance star and Strictly Come Dancing judge Brendon Cole. Scott has recently returned to New Zealand to partner Teuila after a stint performing in the United Kingdom smash-hit stage show ‘Licence to Thrill’, and Teuila believes that they are the “perfect match”!
When we spoke before a midweek rehearsal session for the show, the contestants were still recovering from throwing themselves into the challenge of Latin night. This meant rumbas, sambas and cha-chas all over the dance floor as the celebrities battled to keep themselves safe for another round. It was also the week when there was a new leader on the scoreboard as Teuila breezed past Simon Barnett and Siobhan Marshall to take the top spot. She and partner Scott impressed with their slow, sexy rumba to Ed Sheeran’s hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ that was so steamy it almost fogged up the cameras!
It was clear from the get-go that she had a talent for movement, but she admits she had no professional training as such and the whole ballroom aspect was a whole new scene for her. Fortuitously though, she had been a diehard regular at Xtend Barre classes for over 18 months, starting with their Newmarket classes at Studio 3 and then moving on to the Surrey Crescent destination.
She says that she first started adding dance to her health and wellbeing mix after a friend told her about her mum’s Callanetics videos from the early 1980s that she swore by for shaping up and generally feeling stronger. The Callanetics exercise programme was created by Callan Pinckney in the early 1980s and is a system of exercise involving frequent repetition of small muscular movements and squeezes, designed to improve muscle tone. The programme was developed by Pinckney from classical ballet exercises, to help ease a back problem that she was born with. The theory of Callanetics is that the surface muscles of the body are supported by deeper muscles, but popular exercise programmes often exercise only the surface muscles. According to Callanetics, deeper muscles are best exercised using small but precise movements. “I ordered the DVD of the original videos - and they were videos - from the 1980s,” explains Blakely, “and started doing them at home. I thought at the time that I wished classes for that kind of exercise were happening in New Zealand, then about 18 months ago I thought I’d Google barre-style classes locally and Studio 3 had literally just started offering them.”
From the first class she was hooked and has been a devotee ever since. “I am always recommending it to people as I love the chiselling effect it has on women’s bodies,” she says. “I’m no stranger to exercise and have done a lot of boot camp-style exercise, personal training sessions and stuff at Ludus Magnus, but I find that kind of exercise really masculine and jarring to my body whereas Xtend Barre is so feminine but still challenging.”
She says that while crossfit and the like may work for some women, “It’s not my choice of exercise. I find barre is feminine but strengthening, and still as challenging as any other workout that I’ve ever done. I like the challenge that barre gives me, and I much prefer it to 100 burpees!” She adds that she loves “the look of dancers’ bodies and that barre can give you that same kind of sculpted shape.”
Her own sculpted look has most definitely been evident when she has been sashaying across the dance floor in the flimsiest of costumes, and she and partner Scott have been consistently great since day one. Does that constant improvement and praise mean even more pressure week after week? “It is a high pressure show either way,” she says, “and I am determined to work as hard as a I can and as hard as I possibly need to. If the bar keeps getting set higher and higher then I am just going to have to increase my work rate so I hit that every week.”
Last up, we talk about Teuila’s chosen charity to support on DWTS, Women’s Refuge. “I chose them for personal reasons and because they are charity that needs a lot of support. I am passionate about the empowerment of women, so it was a no brainer for me to get behind them in any way I can.” (HELENE RAVLICH)