As Dancing with the Stars season 31 heads into the semifinals, it’s clear how memorable the cast and pros have been, particularly Daniel Durant and his partner, Britt Stewart. Daniel, an actor from the Oscar-winning film CODA, has inspired the DWTS audience each week. He’s the show’s third deaf contestant to compete, following Marlee Matlin and Nyle DiMarco. During DWTS ’90s Night, Daniel and Britt performed a memorable Jazz routine to “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, and they shut off the music in the middle, to showcase Daniel’s experience of dancing without being able to hear the music. The performance earned the couple’s first 10s of the competition, and a trip to the DWTS semifinals.
Britt became DWTS‘ first Black female pro in season 29, making it to the semifinals with Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir during her first season. During season 30, she was paired with Karate Kid actor Martin Kove, and they were the first couple eliminated. Britt had previously been in the DWTS troupe, joining the show during season 23. Before DWTS, Britt danced in all three High School Musical movies, and performed with artists such as Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Florence + the Machine, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez.
Daniel & Britt Have Been Inspiring Throughout DWTS Season 31
Daniel and Britt have been one of the most inspiring couples on DWTS season 31, consistently providing memorable and emotional routines every week. Britt has embraced the challenge of teaching Daniel, who can’t hear the music and has no prior dance experience, and they have a good chance of advancing to the DWTS finale. Britt talked to Screen Rant about her connection with Daniel, her commitment to learning ASL, and how she’s proud of becoming the first Black female pro on Dancing with the Stars.
Screen Rant: Firstly, congratulations on advancing to the DWTS semifinals with Daniel Durant! Are you surprised that you have made it this far in the competition?
I’m surprised, but I’m not surprised at the same time that we’ve made it this far, because we offer something very different than any other couple this season, and Daniel reminds me that the deaf community is small but mighty, and whenever they see someone in their community thriving, they just want to support as much as they can. So, I know that we are really thankful to the deaf community and the hearing world, too, because it really seems like a lot of people have rallied behind us. But then, I’m also surprised because this season, the competition is really stiff, and even in the final six, there are dancers left that have been getting perfect scores, and we have yet to get a perfect score. It does surprise me, but I’m so grateful to be in the semifinals, and of course, we want to keep going and make it all the way.
Screen Rant: Daniel has grown so much, how do you think he has improved throughout the season?
Daniel has really improved! I actually went back because Daniel said he wants to see a video from his first week, and I reminded him when we first met, “when we get further into this competition, I am going to find a time to show you how much you’ve progressed.” So, I went back and watched the video, and I am blown away by his progress, and what he’s been able to achieve so far this season is just incredible.
Screen Rant: What was the inspiration behind your Jazz routine this past week? How powerful do you think it was to turn off the music in the middle, and whose idea was it?
It was both of our decisions. I knew that I wanted to do it during the season. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to because I also didn’t want it to be compared at all to what Nyle [DiMarco] and Peta [Murgatroyd] did during their season. I just wanted to make sure it was so different that you couldn’t compare it at all. I also knew I didn’t want to do it too soon, I wanted to pick the right time, right week, the right story, and the right style of dance we were doing. To be honest, each week I was looking for the moment, and it wasn’t until ‘90s week that it dawned on me, “this is what we’re talking about in his package, he’s really going to be vulnerable, he’s really going to open up,” and it just felt like everything was aligned to have that moment. I also want to say, this was Daniel’s first time opening up about his biological mother. I joke with him, I say, “you’re an onion, you remove the layers,” and he doesn’t do it easily, he only really does it with people that he trusts. And I am so grateful that he’s trusted me so quickly, and feels safe enough to share his story with me. I made it clear to him, at any point if he was uncomfortable telling his story, or didn’t feel like he was ready, that it would be ok for him not to share it, but I’m so glad he did, because it was healing for him.
Screen Rant: It does seem like Daniel opens himself up more every week, and it’s clear how passionate and dedicated he is to the competition. How much does it inspire you to have a partner that is completely all in like he is?
It inspires me so much! It is a game-changer to have a partner that is so invested in their season and their journey. I like to remind my partners, I do this every year, hopefully (laughs), and this is my job. For you, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so dive in and really soak it all in because even now, we only have two shows left. It has flown by so quickly! It is really sweet because he wants this really bad for himself, but he reminds me all the time that he’s also doing this for me, and that is so sweet. I have to remind him, “this is about you,” and he says, “no, this is also about you.” He’s doing it for the both of us, which is a testament to how big his heart is.
Screen Rant: You have made a commitment to learning ASL throughout the season, to more effectively teach Daniel. How important is learning the language, not only for your ability to teach him, but also for the growth of your chemistry and bond?
It’s so important. I knew right away when I found out I had Daniel as a partner that I was going to learn ASL, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It’s also part of my personality, I’m always looking for something new to learn, and it came at the right time. It’s a blessing that he’s come into my life because I now have this new language. But it has increased our bond, and he really had no expectations of coming onto the show and having his partner completely dive into his language. I know that it’s been really special for him for me to be able to communicate with him. It’s made our bond that much stronger, and we really feel like we’ve known each other way longer than we have. And when we first met, we had good chemistry right away, we just knew that we were a lot alike. So, we had good chemistry without even any language from the beginning. So, now that I’ve been able to communicate with him in his language, it’s grown even stronger.
Screen Rant: What are the ways you go about teaching Daniel the routines every week? At this point in the competition, it seems that you two have an extremely strong connection, but how were you able to navigate teaching someone who is deaf how to dance?
Honestly, we were doing it together. I’d never taught someone who was deaf before, so I was learning, and I’m still learning as I go. But it was really about going slow and fast at the time, because as he’s learning the choreography, he’s also learning the timing and the musicality. So, with someone that is hearing, I would teach them ultra-slow, and then go and show them the music afterward, so that they learn the timing and musicality, because they can physically hear it. For Daniel, I have to do it all at the same time. In the beginning, I learned that he, not surprisingly, relies on his other senses. So, he’s very visual, and I’ll teach it to him by himself without me, and then I’ll also teach it to him with me, so he’s looking at me in the mirror, and maybe he has in my hands on my hips or shoulders, and we’re doing it together, so he can actually feel what my body is doing while seeing it at the same time.
Screen Rant: Was it difficult to adjust to the dynamic of having a third person, Gabe, Daniel’s interpreter, in rehearsals with you?
Yes, and no. Gabe really is part of the team, and he and Daniel are best friends, so I knew it was just as important to connect with him as it was with Daniel. And Gabe is amazing because he steps in when he needs to, but he’s really a fly on the wall, and there to voice for Daniel for production. My learning curve was speaking with Daniel through an interpreter in the beginning, before I knew ASL. It was just simple things I didn’t know, like talking directly to Daniel, and my natural instinct was to look at what I was hearing. But once they told me, I got it, but that was the biggest thing I had to learn.
Screen Rant: You are DWTS’ first Black female pro. How much pride does that give you, and do you feel extra pressure to deliver each week, knowing that you’re representing your community?
Yes, and yes! There’s so much pride, it’s really an honor and a blessing. I still pinch myself; I know I’ve been a pro for three years now, but still, it’s the first time that this happened on a major television show. So, I don’t take it lightly, so as proud and grateful as I am, I also do put that extra pressure on myself. I think I did it the most in my first season, I was very conscious about who I was on television, and who I was representing. Now, I still put that pressure on myself, to make sure that I deliver, and that I am that role model and that representation. But at the same time, I’ve also learned that the best way to do that is to be myself, and to just continue as I am, and be true to who I am.
Screen Rant: You are also the President of Share the Movement, a non-profit aiming to increase diversity in the dance world. How has that organization, and the desire for more inclusivity in the dance world, fueled the fire of your career?
Oh, it really fuels my fire. I was actually creating that organization prior to finding out that I was going to be a pro on Dancing with the Stars, so it was very aligned with the timing of how it all happened, that I was doing the work and simultaneously, it was happening for me to be that representation of inclusivity. It’s really important for me to continue doing that work, to be able to show anybody that’s a minority that your dreams can be possible no matter what. We know that diversity, inclusion, and equity doesn’t happen overnight, so we’re starting with the foundation, we are supporting young, aspiring BIPOC dancers, in hopes that when we’re all old and gray, that the dance industry will look a lot more colorful, and it will come from a very natural and organic place. And it fuels my fire to keep dancing, and go above and beyond in bigger places in the industry, and keep the dream going. Also, bringing it back to Daniel, it’s really special and beautiful what we’re able to represent together this season. We have some ideas, too, of how to now include the deaf community in alignment with my organization. So, hopefully, there will be some exciting things coming from this and after the season.
Screen Rant: Where did your passion for dance come from?
I started dancing when I was three, so I have been dancing my whole life. My parents always told me that music was something that calmed me down. I had gone to this nursery school, and one of the teachers came up to my mom and said that she naturally dances, and she put me in some dance classes, and I fell in love with it at a young age. It came from when I was a really young child, and I’m naturally an introvert, so dance was my first form of expression. It was the first place where I could really express myself. And then, in my young twenties, I got burnt out, and definitely fell out with it for a little bit. Then, I just started growing as a human and as a woman, and I fell back in love with dance. So, dance and I have had a great journey.
Screen Rant: Being a pro on DWTS, you have to work under insane amounts of pressure. Does having a partner like Daniel, who is very supportive, make it easier to deal with the pressure, or does it make it harder because you want to deliver the best for him?
It’s a little bit of both. Because he’s so wonderful, I think I’m putting so much pressure on it, but then you also have to be confident, because if you put too much pressure, you’re going to block it and make it worse for yourself. So, it’s this balance of wanting to do well, and we’re letting that motivate us, and that’s enough pressure in itself, to know that we want to make it far, and that we’re representing our communities. We want to do so well week after week, so, I just try to do my best to keep balanced, and let that pressure be positive, and allow that to open up my creativity as much as I can.
Screen Rant: Even though this is only your third season as a pro, are there any specific routines or memories that you’ve created that will always stand out in your mind?
My first season on troupe was really special. We did some amazing group numbers, and I think that was the height of when the troupe was doing everything, and so my first season will always be unforgettable, because I was so new to the world, and it felt so good to be there. I will definitely say that my season with Johnny [Weir] was something to remember. I love so many of our dances, but I have to say our very first dance, our Cha-Cha, it was so surreal, it was my first time on the ballroom floor as a pro, and that was so memorable. And then, I think my Jazz with Daniel is going to go down, in my books at least, and just this whole season has felt so special and aligned. Daniel and I joke with each other that we’re stuck with each other now because there is a reason that we met.
Dancing with the Stars season 31 streams Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on Disney+.
Next: DWTS: Why Gabby Windey Had The Best 90s Night Dance