"Dancing With the Stars" has instituted more than a new host (Erin Andrews) and band leader (Ray Chew) this season — a new twist will have the contestants trade dance pros at some point in the competition. It's a tweak that some of the professional dancers aren't quite sure about.
According to ABC, viewers "will be given the power to vote and change" the pairings, and "all couples will be required to switch partners" at some point during the season. (Partner swaps have never occurred on the show before.)
An ABC rep told us that more details of the switch up will be revealed on-air and that the partner-switching could come at any point in the competition.
But until then, there's confusion surrounding the twist.
“I don’t know how it’s going to be,” Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who’s returning to the show after a two-season break from the competition, told TODAY. “They’ve tried explaining it to us four times. There was a lot of confusion. It’ll be a little awkward if I get paired up with someone who loves me, but (my partner) Meryl (Davis, the Olympic ice skating champ) wants to stay with me, too.”
“Normally, I don’t mind change,” said Tony Dovolani, who’s paired with "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star NeNe Leakes. “But changing partners is raising my eyebrows. I don’t like sharing my women! I grow them into the partners that I want them to be, and ... halfway through the season there will be a switcheroo? You can feel cheated.”
Changing partners can also potentially affect the progress that stars make under their assigned pro.
“You build a relationship with your partner,” offered Sharna Burgess, who’s paired with Davis’ Olympic partner, Charlie White. “You develop your own language, and you learn how to work with each other. The odds of someone moving to another person with (equal success) are unlikely.”
Two champions of the “switch up” are longtime pros and multiple mirror-ball winners Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke.
“It’ll be interesting to see if the celebrity improves with the new dance pro,” mused Burke. “It’ll say a lot about the pro’s ability to teach. The star could come back to their pro and say, ‘I really did miss you.’”
It might also quell any feelings of envy that some pros may have over who their fellow dancers receive as partners.
“I suggested (the switch up) a couple of years ago,” Hough, who’s paired with Paralympian snowboarder Amy Purdy, revealed to TODAY. “It’ll be either a train wreck, or it’ll be fantastic. Some (pros) will complain, perhaps, ‘Well, if I had this partner, I could do that.’”
That said, none of the pro dancers are going to let go of their celebs lightly. And that's just fine with the stars.
“This all works in my favor,” quipped James Maslow, the actor-musician who’s paired with past mirror-ball champ Peta Murgatroyd. “It means she has to be extra nice to me.”
Added first-time pro Henry Byalikov, “We don’t want to start something we can’t finish.”