Whether performing the eloquent moves of Rumba or flying atop the explosive progressions of Jive, when Keo steps on the stage, he brings with him an exhilaration and passion that has been electrifying audiences since he was a child. Catapulted onto the competitive amateur dance scene at the age of eleven, Keo represented his home county of South Africa in international Latin Ballroom dance competitions, reigning for eight straight years as the South African Latin Dance Champion. In 2012, Keo made history by becoming the first South African to join the Burn the Floor world tour and now is making history once again by becoming the first South African to join Dancing with the Stars.
“I dance with my emotions. Whatever happened in the past, whether it was yesterday or ten years ago, if it makes me feel something, I use it as a motivation. I take a situation or experience on stage with me, pry those emotions loose and inject them into my dancing. Whether it’s nervousness or sadness or happiness, I let my feelings guide my movements, and with those movements, make the audience feel what I am feeling too.”
Born in Pretoria, South Africa and raised in nearby Johannesburg, Keo has been moving to the rhythm of his emotions since the age of 5 when a friend brought him to the small, neighborhood dance studio that would become the launching pad for his love affair with Latin Ballroom Dancing. The youngest performer in the modest studio, Keo knew immediately that this was what he wanted to do with his life, “I tried soccer for a while, before a friend said to me ‘this is not for you’”, he explains with a laugh. “But the second I found dance, I knew I had discovered my life’s ambition.”
Having spent his youth setting the amateur dance scene ablaze, in 2012 he was invited to join the cast of the internationally acclaimed, theatrical dance sensation Burn the Floor. His electrifying moves quickly captured the attention of producers and before long he was named the cast’s male principle dancer, hand-picked to perform as a soloist during the show’s residency at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. In 2014, Keo toured with Burn the Floor as principal dancer on the Australian and Japanese tours. He also performed on their weekly productions aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Getaway” cruise. Keo made his television debut performing on Strictly Come Dancing South Africa in 2013.
In June 2014, during his tenure in Australia with Burn the Floor, Keo had the opportunity to audition for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. One month later, Keo got the call that not only would he be joining the show, but that he had been selected as one of the Pro Dancers for the 2014 season.
“It was unbelievable,” says Keo, “the month of waiting to hear back was stressful, but once it was officially announced, it was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me.”
Now primed to set foot on network television, Keo is eager to tackle a variety of new endeavors, “Acting, modeling, singing, Broadway shows…I want to do it all. I’ve been influenced by so many different kinds of performers in my life and there are so many different things I want to try.”
When he is not busy practicing for or competing in some of the world’s most prestigious dance competitions, Keo opts for quiet escape from the roaring excitement of his professional life, “I’ve become obsessed with a few really good TV shows, so that keeps me busy when I’ve got time off,” he says with a smile. “Los Angeles, being my new home, I plan on doing a lot of exploring. So far, it’s been nothing short of remarkable.”
The 19th season of Dancing with the Stars airs on Monday, September 15, on ABC.