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Originally published Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Disney Channel’s Zendaya graduates to ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Zendaya, 16-year-old star of Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up,” is the youngest contestant to have ever cut a rug on “Dancing with the Stars,” which returns to ABC on Monday, March 18, 2013.

Contra Costa Times

On TV

‘Dancing with the Stars’

8 p.m. Monday, ABC.

Tonight in Prime Time

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How does it feel to be the youngest person ever to be named to the roster of “Dancing with the Stars”? Zendaya, the 16-year-old Disney darling from Oakland, Calif., will tell you that she’s full of pride — and in a lot of pain.

“Everything hurts,” she informs me during a phone call from Los Angeles. “I’m almost positive that I’ve discovered muscles that I never knew I had before. My neck, my arms, my legs, my abs — they’re all very achy.”

The pain, of course, is the result of rigorous training sessions with her pro partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, as they prepare for Season 16 of the ABC reality series. And yes, it does, indeed, hurt to laugh, which makes it a little awkward for someone who happens to work on a sitcom — Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up,” where she has the role of Rocky Blue, one of two girls living their dreams as TV show dancers.

The invitation to strut her stuff on “DWTS,” one of TV’s most popular shows, marks a major step up in terms of exposure. Zendaya says she seized the opportunity because it’s something “different and out of my comfort zone.” Also, she wanted to please her Danville-based grandma, who is a “super fan” of “DWTS.”

Zendaya, of course, has done a lot of dancing for “Shake It Up,” but she and co-star Bella Thorne have mainly engaged in hip-hop moves, which haven’t exactly prepared her for the ballroom.

“Some people have assumed that I’ll just naturally do well, but the styles of dancing are so different. There are more rules, more concerns about posture and elegance,” she says. “In some ways, it’s even harder for me. I have to unlearn things, start from scratch and kind of erase what’s in my head.”

Amid a cast that includes Olympic legends (Dorothy Hamill), comedians (D.L. Hughley and Andy Dick), singers (Wynonna Judd and Kellie Pickler) and boxing champs (Victor Ortiz), Zendaya figures to be one of the least-known celebrities. Not a whole lot of adults, after all, watch the Disney Channel. Still, a Disney Channel star — Kyle Massey — was the show’s runner-up in Season 11, and Zendaya’s “Shake It Up” castmate, Roshon Fegan, posted a sixth-place finish in Season 14.

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