It was his love of bicycles and motorcycles that got former Carson Valley resident Wil Orrock interested in ballet and eventually landed him on a "Dancing with the Stars" show in Santiago, Chile.
"I started dance classes to get balance on motorcycles," said Orrock, 24. "I was racing motorcycles at the time but I ended up loving dance."
Orrock started taking classical dancing with instructor Joan Hansen through the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Department when he was 17.
"I went to every dance class I could possibly go to," he said. "Joan really got me going. She showed me a world where anything could be possible. With the right technique and passion, you can go anywhere."
And where Orrock wanted to go was South America.
"I was an exchange student in Chile in 2001 and I loved it so much I wanted to go back," he said.
Orrock graduated from Douglas High School in 2001, received a 2-year degree from Western Nevada College and moved to Santiago. He trained in a ballroom dancing program for 2 1/2 years and has danced with celebrity partners on Chile's version of "Dancing with the Stars" for two seasons.
Orrock said there are "Dancing with the Stars" shows in 20-30 countries. The show is called "El Baile" in Chile.
On his first year on the show, Orrock danced with Macarena Ramis, a famous South American model and TV host and took third place. Last season he danced with a well-known South American actress, Amaya Forch, in all but the last two shows. Now he is recognized all around Santiago.
"They want my autograph, photos, my shirt. They want to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek," he said.
Orrock does 10 styles of ballroom dancing for the show but prefers the Latin style dances - cha cha, paso doble, rumba, tango and salsa.
He said the "Dancing with the Stars" show is opening doors for him in modeling for a clothing company and being a spokesman in television commercials.
"Down there, it's what you know - not who you know," he said. "I love it because there are so many more options here. I'm working with artists and taking lessons from professional singers. I trade dance lessons for singing lessons. Once you get in, doors open."
Orrock said there are 15 million people in Chile, but there isn't much outside of Santiago.
"People come to Santiago for university studies and entertainment," he said. "There are tons of foreigners from the U.S. and Europe.
"The weather in Chile is like California. The coast is cold and then there's the Andes mountains. Downtown Santiago has a sub-Mediterrean tropical climate. It's a clean city and gorgeous in summer."
He learned Spanish in Chile and is getting better.
"At first, I'd get laughs on the show for pointing at my hand and saying 'elbow.'"
The dancers are responsible for training and teaching their celebrity partners. Orrock said he has one week to teach his partners how to dance, learn the music and how to do the steps.
"It depends on dedication of both people," he said. "I built a relationship with my partners on the show. I even made one of my partners do push-ups."
Orrock was in the U.S. for Christmas to visit his grandfather Ben DiSalvo and friends in Gardnerville, mother Katherine DiSalvo in Wyoming and father and siblings in California. He was due back in Santiago this month to see if he will return on the next season of "Dancing with the Stars." The show will be starting its fourth season and Orrock hopes to make it his third year on the show.
"I feel more confident as an interpreter of dance. I think it's my calling," he said. "I want people to know me."
-- R-C People Editor Sharlene Irete may be reached at 782-5121, ext. 210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.