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Peta Murgatroyd Hopes to Defend Her Title on Season 15 of DWTS

Peta Murgatroyd returns for her third season as a professional parner with Gilles Marini for another chance at winning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. (Photo courtesy of ABC/Craig Sjodin)

One of the most anticipated television shows of the year, Dancing With The Stars, will be hitting the dance floor again next week for yet another exciting competition but with a new twist—an all-star cast. That’s right! This season will welcome 13 fan favorites and previous winners back to the stage to take the quick footwork and drool-worthy ensembles we love to the next level.

Among the cast is reigning champion, Peta Murgatroyd, who took home the Mirror Ball trophy as Donald Driver’s professional partner. We talked strategy with the Aussie-native, who hopes to continue her winning streak with Season eight’s runner-up, Gilles Marini. Here’s what she had to say about injury prevention, her secrets to looking fab and her favorite indulgence, cheese!

After being the first duo to be sent home Season 13 with Metta World Peace, how did you change your tactics for the win with Donald Driver?

I think that it’s always easier when you have somebody that is willing to learn and willing to put in the effort and the hours. I was devastated when I got out first because it was my first season. I wanted to come out and make a big bang as the new pro on the block but that didn’t really quite happen and I was crushed. I really think that Donald was so inspiring to have as a partner and he really wanted to win it. It’s just all about how you guys work together and the communication.

What have you been doing in preparation for another victory, this time with Gilles Marini?

One of the biggest things is respect for one another and I think [Gilles] has that. He’s an amazing person. He can definitely move well. I looked back on some of his old YouTube videos and he was really good. One of his major pros is that he can act so he’s great with getting into character and really sort of honing in on what the dance is about.

Gilles suffered from a separated shoulder during his season. How do you prevent injury?

Warm-up is key and cool-down is key. I can’t even start dancing until stretching first. I think that’s from the ballet background that I’ve had for 12 years. We didn’t take a step without making sure our feet were flexed and pointed and, you know, every muscle was warm. Also, because I’m so flexible with my body, I need to keep it strong and make sure that I do a lot of Pilates, for instance. I do a lot of that and strength training with weights.

What advice could you lend to fans with two left feet who are interested in becoming a better dancer?

I think anyone can dance. It’s not impossible and no matter how many times you have to go through it, just keep going at it and you will get it in the end. If you have to make stupid little things to say to yourself in your head about how you will remember that step, eventually it will come muscle memory. Keep going at it! In the Latin section, definitely the rumba, the salsa and the cha-cha are the best ones to start off with…start with the basics of walking and foot placement.

How do you fuel up for a big night out on the dance floor?

I definitely start off with a really good breakfast, like eggs and orange juice and toast. I think that would probably be my biggest meal of the day. And then for lunch I have something really light like a salad. Usually it’s on set, like a chicken Caesar salad sort of thing, but I limit it to a little bit because then we go into dress rehearsal and then we go in live to the show. Before the show I fuel up on coffee and really get the caffeine in there.

Dancing aside, are there any other activities you enjoy to do to keep fit?

I love to go surfing at the beach and body boarding. I love running, just either on the treadmill or outside. Also, believe it or not, Muay Thai. I love doing martial arts stuff with boxing gloves. It works up a great sweat and I find it tones your whole body. I mean, dance I think is the best exercise anyone can do but apart from that, I would say the kickboxing stuff is incredible for tone and physique.

What’s your current favorite song on your workout playlist?

“Where Have You Been” by Rihanna.

According to your Twitter bio, you are a “Lover of life, romance, family, friends & cheese!” What is your favorite cheese and how do you enjoy it in a healthy way?

I don’t know what is with my addiction with cheese. I can wake up in the middle of the night and go to the fridge and get cheese. My favorite would probably be brie cheese. I love it to death. I love all kinds though. Cheddar, swiss, truffle cheese, as well! It was perfect with Donald’s season because, you know, they’re Cheeseheads. They’re crazy about that stuff! I think the healthy way of obviously eating everything is just in moderation.

Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars premieres Monday, September 24 (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET), followed by the results show on Tuesday (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on ABC.

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