Dancing With The Stars: Revelations From The ProsPublished on April 18, 2018. Updated August 25, 2020
Dancing With the Stars has grown into a reality TV phenomenon over more than 25 seasons and since its 2005 debut on ABC, the popular competition series has seen over 40 dancing pros try to lead their celebrity partners to a Mirrorball Trophy win! It is safe to say that no two pros have had the same experience, with some becoming long-time veterans, others exiting the show, and some going on big winning streaks. Although pros have tried to stay tight-lipped about what really goes on behind the scenes, others have shared some secrets, and some have been truly surprising. Here are some interesting revelations from the pros of Dancing With the Stars:
12. Competitive Tension
Ever since Dancing With the Stars premiered, some pros have set themselves apart as the ones to beat and rumors of rivalries between the pros have swirled. A lot of the pros have spoken out to let fans know that the backstage tension is not nearly as bad as reports make it out to be. “It’s intense for the show. But in reality, we are good friends. It’s not like, ‘I have to beat Mark Ballas!'” Peta Murgatroyd said. Sharna Burgess agreed, stating, “To be honest, I think the fans fight more than we do! The stories about bad blood and confrontation get blown out of proportion.”
11. Making Pairs
Over the show’s many seasons, dedicated fans have definitely seen similarities between the celebrities that some of the pros are matched with, but it seems a lot actually goes into which celebrity gets paired with which pro. “The producers like to create storylines,” Sharna Burgess revealed. “[Audiences] like the couple that maybe might fight a little bit, the couple that’s going to flirt a little bit, the brother/sister love, and the couple that’s going to do amazing choreography.” “They always have a ‘grand idea,'” she explained. “You want different dynamics throughout the show and you want there to be controversy. You want there to be story and ups and downs.”
10. Sharna’s Most Difficult Partner
Since it is usually abundantly clear when pros strike up automatic friendships or even relationships with their partners, it is also clear when the pair seem to not really get along at all. Although the pros have always tried to be as gracious as possible, a few have opened up about their worst or most difficult partner, and for Sharna Burgess it was football player Antonio Brown. She said working with him was like a “roller coaster” and added, “it took us a minute to find our chemistry and our vibe and understand each other and be able to work well with each other.” “I fully believe that he could have made it to the final and gone all the way. He was so, so talented and lovable,” she explained. “But our chemistry and our balance was so off in the very beginning that none of our best traits were coming off on camera. It sort of, just came off a little bit awkward. We found our groove by like, week five, but by then people had already picked their favorites, so it was too late.”
Aside from the dancing, the romance melodrama has been a key focus through every season of Dancing With the Stars, and while real couples have formed, there have been many more flings and even more rumored couples. Pro Maks Chmerkovskiy revealed, “It’s a very incestuous group” and while many were convinced he was an item with his season 18 partner Meryl Davis, he said, “We never were together. It got to the point where we didn’t even know how to continue saying, ‘No, we’re not dating.’ The funny thing is, I’m engaged, I have a baby coming, and there are still people who think Maks and Meryl can be a thing!” While Sharna Burgess and her partner Bonner Bolton were rumored to be together, nothing ever happened, but she later revealed they almost did date. “We met and had incredible chemistry and neither of us were against it. But I was the coach and he was the student. Our dynamic changed. I don’t know if I’d be able to be romantic on one side and then the boss on the other. It never got to be a romance. I never say never.” Mark Ballas added that a lot of the time, the romance rumors aren’t true. “When two people dance in and it’s steamy, people will talk. I would say 80 percent of the time, there’s no truth to the hookups,” he said.
8. Rehearsal Stress
One thing that is easy to discern from Dancing With the Stars, is that celebrities, specifically the ones with no dance experience (and even those that do) quickly become overwhelmed, and rehearsals often become incredibly grueling and stressful. During his impressive tenure on Dancing With the Stars, Derek Hough had a few blowouts with stressed partners, but he revealed that one partner whom he didn’t name had a very bad meltdown. He explained that it was so bad that after he “went over to the camera, ejected the tape and broke it.” His actions actually got him in trouble with the producers, but Hough stood his ground because “there was no way I was going to let a human being come off like that.”
7. Maks and Kirstie Alley
Some pros and their celebrity partners create such a great chemistry and friendship, their relationships last much longer than their season and that was the case for Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Kirstie Alley. The pair stunned everyone when they danced all the way to second place in season 12 and then reunited for the All-Star season in season 15, and it was clear they had an incredible bond, so it was very surprising when Maks revealed their friendship had ended because of Alley’s involvement with Scientology. When asked about what happened to dissolve their friendship, Maks bluntly stated, “Scientology happened. You can thank Leah Remini for that. A note was sent to a friend telling me I was ‘disconnected,’ as in, I am no longer allowed to be Kirstie’s friend. I find it ridiculous for an adult human being to ‘disconnect’ from someone. But everyone is entitled to their own insanity.”
6. Hidden Cameras
Fans of Dancing With the Stars get a very good glimpse of life behind the scenes thanks to rehearsal packages and clips shown before a couple’s big dance, but there are a lot of hidden cameras everywhere ready to pick up on the drama. Sharna Burgess revealed she always warns her partners about the cameras everywhere. “You have to realize that every single word that we say is on camera. And it can be daunting. It can be a really hard thing for people to get used to.” She also has a tip for her partners: “Try not to blow up on camera if you’re having a really bad day. Just go to the bathroom and take a little five minutes to yourself.” The dancer also admitted, “I’ve been caught in the mirror — the hidden camera in the mirror — fixing my eyelashes, or you know fixing my makeup, not realizing there [are] now hidden cameras everywhere on Dancing With the Stars.”
5. Tony’s Exit
Although many of the show’s professional dancers have made entire careers out of appearing on the show season after season, some have taken breaks and some have quit altogether, but Tony Dovolani was one of the few to really open up about his exit. “When I decided to quit nothing major happened, it was just a build up of things where I just said, ‘I didn’t sign up for this,’” Dovolani revealed on a podcast. “For babysitting, maybe, a little bit. Some of these celebrities, or reality celebrities, I should say, they sometimes … they have an idea of what they think they are and who they are, and they didn’t realize that I wasn’t there to deal with them. I was there to teach them how to dance. So, when it becomes about other than teaching them how to dance, I want no part of it.”
4. Meeting the Partners
Val Chmerkovskiy let fans in on a lot of knowledge about how Dancing With the Stars really operates in his memoir “I’ll Never Change My Name” including the process of the pros meeting their celebrity partners for the first time. “The ‘first meeting’ segments were like mash-ups of a blind date and an arranged marriage, with a little bit of a shotgun wedding thrown in, too. Normally they took place in Los Angeles, organized by Deena Katz, the show’s casting director, but at times they were shot elsewhere, for the convenience of the celebrity involved. The meetings were all done on camera. The producers liked to spring the news on the contestants with the videotape rolling in order to increase the drama. When we were finally introduced, our reactions were shot in close-up, to be broadcast so that thirty million people could dissect and debate every nuance of the match,” he wrote.
3. Cheryl Burke and Ian
When it comes to the pros, there are some that fans expect to be a lot more open with their opinions, so when Cheryl Burke opened up about how much she disliked Ian Ziering, fans were shocked. “My least favorite partner would be Ian Ziering,” she said when she was a guest on a podcast called Allegedly. “The fact that his name is not EE-AN and it’s EYE-AN makes me want to throw up.” Burke didn’t stop there! She referred to Ziering’s behavior on Celebrity Apprentice and said, “That’s the true colors that they didn’t show on Dancing With the Stars. Think of spending time with that for like eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week for three months.” She even revealed she had such a bad time with the actor, she begged to be kicked off. “I was like crying to executives. I was like is there any way to please to just eliminate us? They’re like we can’t. We can’t do that and I swear, every time I asked, we just kept going. We would last till the end.”
2. Sexual Tension
Whether the pro or the celebrity is in a relationship or not at the time of the season, there is no denying that the dances are sexy and emotional and many of the pros have admitted that all that time together working on them always stirs up some feelings. Sharna Burgess and Val Chmerkovskiy have both said that the best way to deal with the tension is to incorporate their celebrity partner’s significant other. “When we had rumba for [week six], I said, ‘James, you need to talk to Becky,'” Burgess recalled of working with James Hinchcliffe. “‘Because this dance is about to be very, very intimate and our noses are going to touch and we’re going to have to tell a love story. And I think you should just give her a little heads up on that.'” She added, “It’s so important to bring that person in. You go to dinner after the show. You talk about it; they’re part of the whole experience. And I think that’s when it can be smooth sailing.” In his memoir “I’ll Never Change My Name,” Val revealed that he had issues with jealous husbands or boyfriends over his many seasons, writing, “The situation itself tended to bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy and revealed involving the husband’s was the key. “I tried to involve him whenever possible, because when he was comfortable she could relax and concentrate on the performance,” he wrote of working with Ginger Zee and her husband, Ben.
Everyone from actors to singers to reality stars and athletes have been tapped as the “stars” for the show’s many seasons, and according to the pros, it seems to be athletes that are the most difficult. “I used to want an athlete over any actor. But some of these athletes come on the show for the wrong reasons. It can be their management pushing them to do it. They don’t know what they’re getting into. They say, ‘This isn’t what my agent told me would happen.’ I say, ‘You should’ve done better research.’ It’s like going to Disneyland when you hate cartoons and rides and people,” Maks Chmerkovskiy revealed.