Since her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in 2018, Selma Blair has adapted to many challenges with fierce determination and infectious enthusiasm, so it’s no surprise she’s “beyond thrilled” to join the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS).
In a recent group interview with Good Morning America, the 50-year-old actor and author said she’s “grabbing at every joy we have in life,” and is excited about “getting out and moving,” even if her muscles get a bit worked up in the process. “The truth is when I am trying new things I get a lot of spasticity, dystonia,” she said, “and I am okay.”
MS is a complex neurological condition that impacts the central nervous system. Experts believe the disease is autoimmune in nature because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of the body and damages the protective insulation, known as myelin, that forms around nerves. Essentially, this makes it really tough for the brain to communicate with the rest of the body, which can trigger a slew of wide-ranging and potentially disabling symptoms—from muscle weakness and memory problems to chronic pain and even partial paralysis. Spasticity and dystonia, for example, are both disorders that can impact muscle movements.
But Blair and her DWTS partner, pro dancer Sasha Farber, see all of this as an opportunity to get a bit imaginative with their routines. “Walking is much harder for me than when I can get into the groove of settling into dance and fluidity,” Blair told Entertainment Tonight. “This is an amazing lesson to use my emotions and body together to unite a little more with the support of Sasha and music.”
And Farber finds his partner equally exciting to work with: He told Entertainment Tonight that joining forces with Blair “isn’t about a dance competition,” because he genuinely just wants to see her “improve and grow.” That’s why the duo took things really slow when their practice rounds first started; Farber checked in with Blair before each rehearsal to make sure she wasn’t in pain, and they liked to perform breathing exercises together. “I wasn’t aware of what I could do,” she said, “if I could safely push myself.”
Blair has always been candid about the reality of living with MS, including how important mobility aids and adaptive devices are when it comes to figuring out everyday life and being a mom to her 11-year-old son, Arthur.
So a little anxiety is also to be expected. Blair told GMA that she gets nervous “if I lose my partner’s touch,” while dancing, since she’s used to having her dog, Scout, or her cane for support at home—but that’s not going to stop her from enjoying herself on stage, she said: “This is so powerful to me.”