By LINCEE RAY
Updated: Oct 30, 2018 @ 4:48 pm
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When I spoke to Juan Pablo Di Pace on the phone about his stint on Dancing With the Stars season 27, he admitted that he is in the presence of greatness — especially when it comes to his partner, Cheryl Burke, with whom he earned a perfect score this week. Before he was cast, the only DWTS season Di Pace watched was when his fellow Fuller House co-star Jodie Sweetin agreed to perform two years ago. Unfortunately, that was one of the few seasons in which Burke did not compete. Di Pace quickly learned through extensive research that Burke is not only one of the more successful pros, but she’s a crowd favorite.

“She’s a true visionary,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she runs Dancing With the Stars in five years, because she’s so talented with the vision and the choreography and the lighting and the design and the story and the production. She is amazing at what she does.”

As a self-proclaimed renaissance man, Di Pace is used to being in control on film set, in a recording studio, or in a director’s chair. However, the ballroom is unchartered territory and he’s learning to wrangle in his controlling tendencies, trusting that this is Burke’s field of expertise.

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Any fan of the show can see that Burke loves performing with Di Pace. The guy can handle whatever she throws his way, including channeling everyone’s favorite villain Gaston during Disney Week.

“It was so fun,” said Di Pace. “I was in my element. I don’t know if I did the waltz right. Who cares? I was so happy playing that character.”

Always at the top of the leader board, Burke and Di Pace have something going for them that few remaining couples don’t necessarily grasp: It’s more than a competition.

“Cheryl said early on to me that she wants us to dance for each other and for people to tap into whatever we are doing on the dance floor,” he said. “I don’t want to think about the judges or cameras. When you have a connection on stage, people see that and they want to be part of it and know what’s going on. If you’re all about your own nerves, it’s not as entertaining to watch.”

Di Pace is definitely on to something. When viewers experience a connection, they naturally lean in. They root for it. Because it’s more fun to watch a couple who is having a ball, verses a couple who is clearly nervous, knowing he or she probably shouldn’t still be in the completion. (I’m looking at you, Grocery Store Joe).

Even though Di Pace has never been in the red light of doom, he understands that nothing is certain. Di Pace realizes that it’s a clean slate week after week and his job is to entertain the audience. If the judges give high marks, that’s just icing on the cake.

And the judges do give high marks. After receiving his second perfect score of the season, Di Pace can now add bona fide dancer to his impressive repertoire. Not only has he acted next to icons like Meryl Streep, but he’s headlined several theater productions in his career. Along with his current gig playing Fernando on the Netflix series Fuller House, Di Pace is also a singer and a director.

It’s true the guy has endless talent, but as it turns out, a rather famous celebrity encouraged him to harness all of his abilities when the industry insisted he focus on just one.

“I was an usher for The Lion King musical and I was studying acting,” he explained. “I finagled my way into the opening night party afterwards. I started with one drink, two drinks, and by the third, I was a mess. I saw Judi Dench there and because I was so drunk, I had the courage to go up to Judi Dench and say, ‘Hello!’ She was so nice. We had a really lovely conversation. I told her I was a huge fan and a student and I knew that she had gone from stage to the cinema, from comedy to drama. I asked her what she liked most, and she said, ‘I love everything. I can’t choose.’”

Di Pace never looked back. He expresses himself in many different arenas, but he admits that few compare to the buzz he gets every Monday night when taping the show live.

“You are supported by the best artists in the business,” he said. “The lighting, the costumes, the choreography — everything just makes sense in that moment. And that’s why I do what I do. To get those moments. It’s like a drug.”

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