'Dancing With the Stars' Pros on How They Stick Together Amid Controversies (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
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Dancing With the Stars fans hear it all the time -- "the pro dancers are like family." Yes, they may be competing against each other for the mirrorball trophy, but at the end of the day, they're all rooting for each other, on and off the ballroom floor.
It seems that bond between the cast and crew has never been tighter than what we're witnessing during the show's current 29th season. The dance competition series has made various headlines over the past few months, with critics discussing everything from casting choices (Tyra Banks as the new host, allowing controversial Tiger King star Carole Baskin to compete) to judge Carrie Ann Inaba's tough feedback for Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev. There's also been plenty of stories written about celebrities/pro dancers making their injuries "part of their storylines," along with speculation over why Gleb Savchenko really split from wife Elena Samodanova after competing with Chrishell Stause, why judges don't seem to be scoring as consistently without Len Goodman this season and more.
"We are more in the headlines this year than ever, I will say that," Carrie Ann admitted to ET on Monday, just moments after Icons Night wrapped. "We have been from the beginning, from once Tyra took over being our host and people having a lot of things to say. I like Tyra, and I translate that as good because people are passionate."
"Social media is a form of people having a voice and I think that's important," she continued. "We've been seeing it for so long -- and the election has just happened -- that people need to have a voice. We talk about it a lot on The Talk. 'Speak up and be heard' is our theme for the season, and here on Dancing With the Stars, it's no different. People want to speak up and be heard, and I think that's great."
One pro dancer who certainly knows what it's like to have his name in the press is Alan Bersten. Over the past few seasons, many have speculated whether his chemistry with partners like Alexis Ren and Hannah Brown went beyond the ballroom. Fans love a good showmance, but let's not forget that connecting with your partner is all part of the process, and what can set a good routine apart from a great one!
"Thank god with [Skai Jackson] I don't have those rumors," Alan joked, referencing their eight-year age difference. "We saved that for somebody else this season!"
Alan told ET that he thinks the reason why so many fans assume DWTS pairs are more than just a partnership stems from a number of reasons. The romance rumors seem to be heightened even more when both the celebrity and their pro partner are single.
"Just because people look good together, the [viewers] are hoping that they are together," he explained. "You do spend so much time with the person, you develop a relationship."
"I think there's a lot of people that compare it to an arranged marriage," he added. "You're literally forced to be in a room with someone every single day for, like, five hours a day. And then on Mondays, you spend the whole day with this person. So, you either really enjoy each other's company or you hate each other."
Artem spoke similar sentiments, giving ET even more insight into just how close the DWTS team is. He said they support each other through everything; the highs, the lows and everything in between.
"The thing is, we've known each other for so long. I've known probably 99 percent of the professional dancers for, like, decades. I've been friends with some of them since I was 13," he shared. "We've known each other for an extended amount of time, so I don't think you can just kind of like close eyes on whatever the situation is."
"We always do [support]," he continued. "We always try to do that for each other, no matter what the situation would be."
Jenna Johnson also weighed in on the subject, telling ET that another thing she loves about this season is that the pro dancers are continuing to show up to set, even after they're eliminated. Gleb, Peta Murgatroyd, Pasha Pashkov and Keo Motsepe, for example, were all spotted in the ballroom Monday night, cheering on their fellow pros and their celebrity partners.
"I am really grateful for the support system here. My best friends are on the show, so if anything would ever happen, I would immediately get a call or a text message from multiple people," she gushed. "Also, when you're eliminated as a pro, it's discouraging ... so I just want to thank the pros that have been eliminated for coming back every Monday night, giving us that support, cheering and having a smile on their face. I just really admire and appreciate them."
"I also feel like [my husband] Val Chmerkovskiy is living his best, like, 'dance mom' life right now, for the both of us," she joked. "It is just the cutest thing. It makes my heart literally melt."