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Sam Harris leaves ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Harris, who has co-hosted with Tom Bergeron for the past eight seasons, told PEOPLE Thursday that the decision to leave the show wasn’t easy.
/ Source: PEOPLE.com

Samantha Harris has left the ballroom.

The “Dancing With the Stars” co-host will not return to ABC’s celebrity dance competition when it returns for its tenth season on March 22. Harris, who has co-hosted with Tom Bergeron for the past eight seasons, told PEOPLE Thursday that the decision to leave the show wasn’t easy.

“[‘DWTS’] could not have been more of a dream job,” she says. “I loved every single second of it and I’ve made lifelong friends at the show.”

But Harris, who majored in journalism at Northwestern University, says that she is focusing on other projects like her correspondent duties at “The Insider,” which she says have expanded in the past year, and her gig at “Entertainment Tonight Weekend.”

“I interned at ‘Entertainment Tonight’ 15 years ago, the summer after my sophomore year at Northwestern and I dreamed of working in the same space as hosts Mary Hart and Mark Steines and now I’m living that dream,” says Harris.

“Samantha has been a brilliant part of [‘DWTS’] and we wish her the best of luck on ‘The Insider,’” Dancing executive producer Conrad Green says, noting that he has begun the search to fill Harris’s slot. “She’s done an incredible job. Some of the most memorable moments on the show have been facilitated by Samantha. I think we’ll all walk away with enormous happy memories of working with one another.”

Bergeron says he is sad to see his co-host move on.

“I’m going to miss Samantha. We had a nice rapport off-camera and on,” he tells PEOPLE. “I could see that her workload was picking up on ‘The Insider’ and then she started doing ‘Entertainment Tonight Weekend.’ As somebody who’s been known to juggle a few jobs myself, I know that that can pull you in eight different directions.”

Since joining ‘DWTS’ in 2006, Harris has simultaneously held jobs at E!, ‘The Insider’ and ‘ET Weekend.’ In 2008 she co-hosted the official Oscar pre-show with Regis Philbin, and in 2009 she guest hosted for Meredith Viera on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.’ She also made her Broadway debut in July 2009 playing Roxie Hart in the musical ‘Chicago.’

Still, if Bergeron has his way, he will try to get Harris to return to the ballroom. “I’ve been known to try to twist arms behind the scenes,” he says. “I’m hoping this frees her up for us to have her as a contestant.”