updated 03/14/2014 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/17/2014 AT 3:20 PM ET
Peta Murgatroyd is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 14 – only her second season on the series – with Donald Driver. The Australia native will blog for PEOPLE about competing with Big Time Rush band member James Maslow during the show’s 18th season.
This has been the most work I’ve ever had in the off-season. I didn’t stop working. I was touring and making appearances and attending charity events. I didn’t get any break or holiday or anything like that, but that’s how I like it. I love being busy. It felt like this season crept up so quickly. The premiere is right around the corner and I feel like I just met James.
I think there’s a very eclectic bunch of people this season and, so far, everybody has such a nice personality and demeanor. There’s not one of them who isn’t really, really lovely to work with. I think having three Olympians will be amazing for the competition. They’re going to make everyone work a little bit harder to catch up to them.
Rehearsals have been going very well. James has come into the studio and really given his all. I feel very, very blessed and grateful that he has musicality and timing under his belt. Obviously being from a boy band, he knows how to count rhythm and has done a little bit of choreography. All of that has sort of shaped him into the “dancer” he is today.
We have fox-trot to start out with. James is 6’2” and that will be really nice for the fox-trot. We’ve been working really hard on his frame and where his head is positioned. The first week, his head had a kink in it, but we rectified that now. I think everyone’s going to really love our dance. Also, he has such a passion for the music industry that when the song comes on, he really gets into it. He’s not afraid to show emotion, which I love.
It’s super fun being paired with James. He’s a great-looking guy, and I think he’s really going to show America that he can dance. He’s not going to rest on the fact that he’s a cute guy. But I do think it helps a little bit that he’s very charming and he hasn’t got an arrogant bone in his body.
His main fan base is the tweens – the teenage girls. They absolutely go crazy for James. We have a younger audience watching this season, and I think it brings a fresh vibe. They kind of just revamped the whole show.
I think the changes are a great thing. Brooke [Burke-Charvet] has been an amazing host and she’s such a beautiful person, but I think the show needs to develop a little bit more. We are trying to create a younger demographic watching our show. I really think we need a younger vibe. Erin Andrews is like the girl-next-door. She’s been hosting for so many years and she’s a friend of mine.