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Davis, White off to smashing starts for 'DWTS'

Chmerkovskiy, Burgess thrilled to partner with Olympic gold medalists
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Meryl Davis and Charlie White enter 'Dancing with the Stars' in top form. -Getty Images

Rehearsals for season 18 of Dancing with the Stars have just begun, but Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White have already had distinct impacts on their new dance partners. 

Davis, 27, is paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, 34, who returns to the show after a two-season hiatus. Often known for his intense demeanor, after one rehearsal with Davis, he's totally mellow.

"The goal wasn't to prove anything to anybody or try and outdo myself," Chmerkovskiy said. I'm just doing my thing. I'm coming in, I'm dancing, I'm teaching. I wanted my mom and my grandma to enjoy me being back on TV one more time.

"It really is fascinating to work with Meryl," he added. "I'm not stressing out about anything. I'm not worrying about anything. I'm just enjoying her company; she's a cool chick."

White, 26, will be dancing with Sharna Burgess, 28, who is bubbling with enthusiasm about the possibilities this season presents. Their first dance will be contemporary.

After working together for just a few hours, White has already taught her a new lift that they'll use at the end of their routine.

"Charlie is absolutely wonderful; he has such beautiful lines," Burgess said. "For me, it's so amazing to be this creative, to have so much freedom in the steps and the choreography that I want to do. He's wonderful to talk to about my concepts and the characters because I dived straight into that, and he seems to love it."

She asked him to listen to the song to which they'll perform and asked his thoughts on the story line. White's response mirrored Burgess' ideas. At the start of each season, teams are allowed to submit wish lists for music. White and Burgess prepared their lists separately, but when they compared notes, found a lot of similarity.

After the cast announcement Tuesday, both teams headed to Michigan to train. Davis and White are also preparing for the upcoming Stars on Ice tour. Their partners will accompany them on the road and train between shows.

Chmerkovskiy -- who, together with his family, owns five Dance with Me ballroom dance studios, has been teaching dance since he was 14. About 10 years ago, he actually worked with ice dancers at one of their New Jersey studios.

Given his commitments to television and live performance, he's done less teaching in recent years and feels Davis is reigniting his passion for teaching. He admitted he took a break from Dancing with the Stars because he felt a bit burned out. Davis' desire to learn more about dance and fully embrace it is exciting.

"With Meryl, I get that hungry-to-learn student," he said. "It's so refreshing she really wants to experience it on a different level.

"I'm starting from zero," he continued. "We worked on literally walking -- rumba walks, cha cha steps -- things that are utmost basic. On this, I build. The product that she's going to have at the end will be the result of meticulous education. This is the first time I'm taking this approach on Dancing with the Stars. ... I want her to dance."

Davis and Chmerkovskiy's first dance will be the cha cha.

"I'm excited about the prospects and possibilities," Chmerkovskiy said. "I've never had a partner like this.

"I'm truly enjoying teaching Meryl," he added. "Where we rehearse in Los Angeles, there are six studios. A lot of times six couples are there. Some people are smiling and laughing. ... I want to be that couple that laughs because we're good. Let's have a great time and let somebody else stress out."

While clearly White has had dance training, Burgess said she has to shake loose some of his muscle memory to teach him new skills.

"There are some awkward moments when it comes to hip action, and we do have a lot of work to do, but for the most part he's an incredible student with a wonderful ability to learn and train his body to do things," she said. "I couldn't be happier right now."

Dancing with the Stars premieres March 17.

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