‘DWTS’: Val Chmerkovskiy Called Season 19 ‘Disappointing’ Because He ‘Entered Into a Romance’ With His Dance Partner

Mirrorball champ Val Chmerkovskiy tied the knot with fellow Dancing With the Stars pro Jenna Johnson in April 2019. Prior to permanently pairing with Johnson, Chmerkovskiy apparently kept close to a partner in season 19, even when rehearsals were done for the day. He later revealed the personal relationship got in the way of their work on the dance floor.

Val Chmerkovskiy of 'Dancing With the Stars'
Val Chmerkovskiy of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Val Chmerkovskiy and ‘Pretty Little Liars’ star were paired for season 19

When Chmerkovskiy was matched with Pretty Little Liars star Janel Parrish in DWTS’ 19th season, the odds were initially not in their favor due to competitor Alfonso Ribeiro.

“[Janel] proved to be talented, ambitious, and a super hard worker,” Chmerkovskiy wrote in his 2018 book, I’ll Never Change My Name: An Immigrant’s American Dream from Ukraine to the USA to Dancing with the Stars. “But in terms of the competition of season 19, no one ever gave us a fighting chance, since the fans all agreed it would be Alfonso Ribeiro’s show all the way.”

Chmerkovskiy described the long hours of rehearsals each couple must endure in order to have a chance in the competition, which can sometimes lead to more than dancing.

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“Season 19 had turned out well, but something happened in the aftermath that left a sour taste in my mouth,” the DWTS star wrote. “Rehearsals can be exhausting, and the season with Janel was no different. Gradually all the interactions between us took on a highly personal flavor. We entered into a romance.”

‘I let the line get blurred’

In retrospect, Chmerkovskiy admitted he should not have let himself cross the line from professional to personal with Parrish.

“As happens all the time in ballroom, essentially Janel fell in love with her dance teacher,” he explained. “And her dance teacher (that would be me) was too weak, too stupid, and too trophy-hungry to take her aside and tell her, ‘Hey, I’m not really interested in this. I just want to dance.'”

With rumors constantly swirling of romances between DWTS partners each season, Chmerkovskiy got distracted by his liaison with Parrish and the surrounding hype. He also realized he had too much tunnel vision on winning the prize.

“I was too blinded by the opportunity to play at romance in order to achieve the goal I wanted wanted, which was holding up that Mirrorball trophy at the end of the season,” the pro dancer revealed. “I fell into the trap of letting relationship melodrama get in the way of me sticking to the script, which was to focus on dance. I let the line get blurred. I didn’t separate the personal from the work.”

Val Chmerkovskiy and Janel Parrish landed in third place

Though the couple made it to the finals and came in at the respectable ranking of third place, Chmerkovskiy wasn’t happy with how the season unfolded.

“The reason I came to look at season 19 as disappointing wasn’t a result of the content or not winning, but that what appeared to matter was the romance, not the performances,” the DWTS star explained. “I wound up feeling empty about the effort I had put in, creating the experience and crafting an environment to help the two of us to succeed.”

Chmerkovskiy learned that mixing business with pleasure can have a negative affect, especially when it comes to dance.

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“I can’t have a performance without my partner,” Chmerkovskiy wrote. “Janel reciprocated every effort that I made. But at the end of the season she seemed to be more concerned about our personal relationship than excited about the great dances we had created. … For me, the heart of the show was always the dance.”

The couple ended up parting ways. Parrish went on to marry Chris Long in 2018, and Chmerkovskiy and Johnson will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in April 2021.