After seasons of butting heads with the judges on Dancing With the Stars, fan-favorite dance pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy got a chance to see what it's like on the other side of the table while judging dancers for a new AOL national dance video during an open call in NYC this weekend.
Wetpaint Entertainment had a chance to chat with Maks at the event, and he dished on why he doesn't put a lot of stock in the DWTS judges, what Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani did right, and what his future with the show might be.
Wetpaint Entertainment: We're excited that Tony and Melissa won All-Stars. What did they do right?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy: I think she was the best dancer we had left. And they were so endearing and cute, and had the whole positive vibe about them, both. Tony was super excited, and you could tell that he really wanted it. Honestly, it was the first time, I think, that we're celebrating a pro's win more than [the] celebrity's.
Some fans have complained that the judging seemed inconsistent this season, especially when it comes to choreography choices. Do you agree with that?
I'm judging right now, actually. I'm on the panel and, you know, I see that it's harder than it seems from the side, especially with the human factor. But I love that fact that I'm able to express my personal opinion on performers. On our show, I feel like it's a 50-50 between "that's what I think, and that's what I need to say." So sometimes they don't really say what they truly believe. To be honest with you, we've gotten away from judges scores — at least to me, personally, they don't represent what the performance was worth. At the end of the day, it's exactly what happened with Val being in the final with Kelly, and with Tony and Melissa winning against all odds, and against what the judges might have wanted to see.
Can you tell us a bit more about the event today?
We're having actually a lot of fun. I love that [it's] the first thing I do after this crazy season. AOL is coming out with a new campaign, and I'm helping, together with [hip-hop stylist] June Ambrose. We're having fun picking people to be dancers representing AOL and its new remodeled — AOL's getting a facelift, so to speak.
What was the biggest surprise for you this season?
I don't know. I mean, it was just a long, long season. It lasted a year, you know? Seeing Val finally experience what its like to do the whole thing and be in the finale was awesome, but at the same time he comes up to me as soon as we wrapped, in the car on the way to the jet, and he was like "How many times do you do this?" I'm like, "This is my thirteenth." He's like, "How many times you're in the final?" "Four." "And semi[finals]?" "Another probably like, two three." "You're insane!" [Laughs] He's like, this is crazy, because my body is shot, my mind is shot. I think it's just an incredible experience.
There were no surprises. I think the whole show was great. The production was amazing. I think it was the best show we ever had. What they're going to do from now on, I have no idea. But I hope it's going to go back to being about ballroom, and not these crazy Hip-Hop, "Cavemen" Hustle, you know, "Surfer" Flamenco.
Yeah, fans have had mixed reactions to the wacky themes and unusual dances. It was fun, but it was hard when it was outside the dancers and even the judges' expertise.
We stayed more relevant than some shows, like So You Think You Can Dance — no disrespect — because we were so different and, I personally believe, because it was based on ballroom. So we don't have to mix anything else in there. Our Cha-Chas work, our Sambas work, they're fan favorites, and we need to keep doing that.
So, are you going to be back next season?
If that's what's in cards, yes. I'm under contract, as I've said, for another, I think, two. I'm not trying to jump the contract, and I love the show. What it is now is a little different than what it used to be, so we have different perspectives. So I would love to. If there's going to be a better — not better, in that sense of the word — something interesting of an opportunity, I'll politely ask to pursue that.
You said the show has changed. What do you think is the biggest change?
I don't know. But if they want to change something, get rid of the judges. Just bring in new people.
For more from Maks, follow him on Twitter @MaksimC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.
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