Pop Culture

'DWTS' pro Val: 'I'm not perfect'

“Dancing With the Stars” pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy is blogging about his experiences and thoughts on his sixth quest for the mirror ball trophy on TODAY.com throughout the season. The 14-time U.S. champion in dance is paired with Danica McKellar, who captured hearts with her performance as Winnie on “The Wonder Years.”  

Craig Sjodin / Today

I celebrated my birthday on Monday with a 7:30 a.m. call time at the TV studio where we do the show, and by doing what I love to do — dance. Danica’s very nice. She got me a birthday gift, which was a massage roller for my back. But the best gifts I got that day were her performing well and spending time with my loved ones.

I thought Danica was awesome in our samba. Sharing that on-air can be difficult because right after your dance you get the judges’ feedback. Then, you have a chance to give a five-second sound bite in the skybox to share your feelings. 

I don’t have an opportunity to really show my appreciation during the show. I need a moment to digest what’s gone down. Now that the show is over and I have had time to think, I can say I’m really, really proud of Danica. It was a real challenging routine. She pulled through. It wasn’t easy. It was difficult. She was upset at one point during rehearsals. But I’m glad we got the tears over with. 

Ultimately, this week gave us an opportunity to have a conversation and for me to show her that I’m not perfect. My teaching isn’t always perfect. I told Danica that I need her feedback and for her to able to tell me how she feels. We’re a team. When you spend five or six hours a day every day together — which we do — you can’t be flawless.

What happened was we’d had a great rehearsal for three hours and then, for the last hour, the producer told us we needed to get it all done. I felt this pressure and I put it on her. Her reaction that viewers saw in the video package was the result. It’s something I’m going to have to keep an eye out for and keep myself in check in the future. I told Danica, “If you see me getting in that zone where I get too demanding you can tell me and we’ll take five.”

This doesn’t mean we won’t try our hardest. Our relationship is give and take. This week, she gave me an opportunity to demand more and I did. I always will. This season is very challenging. The producers have made a lot of changes to the show. It’s tough. There are twists and turns and there’s the switch up coming up. That’s affecting us. There’s so much more anxiety this season.

When you watch the show it seems like there’s a rivalry between Danica and Candace Cameron Bure, who was on the TV show "Full House." Yes, they share a story together, a common denominator, but a lot of people do. It’s just an angle to take. I like Candace. If it were someone else I’d be a little annoyed, but we just laugh at it. We don’t take it personally. It’s all good.

I had blast on my birthday, and most importantly, with all of your help (#valenteam) I was able to raise the money needed to build a school in Africa. Thank you to Pencils of Promise for the opportunity to get involved and to all my fans that supported the cause. Best birthday gift ever.