Maksim Chmerkovskiy named his most challenging partner on “Dancing With the Stars.”
The Ukrainian-American pro dancer competed on 17 seasons of the celebrity ballroom show, with a list of partners that included Willa Ford, Hope Solo, and Amber Rose. But it was his partnership with an Emmy-winning sitcom star that proved to be his most difficult.
In September 2023, Chmerkovskiy appeared on Cheryl Burke’s “Sex, Lies and Spray Tans” podcast, where he was asked to name his most “challenging” DWTS partner of all time.
“Oh geez…I would say Kirstie [Alley] because it was twice and a lot,” Chmerkovskiy replied.
But when Burke then asked him to name his “most fun” partner, Chmerkovskiy had a surprising answer.“I would say…I have to say, Kirstie. I’m sorry,” he said of the late actress.
Here’s what you need to know:
Maksim Chmerkovskiy & Kirstie Alley Had a Roller Coaster Relationship
Chmerkovskiy originally teamed up with Alley for the 12th season of DWTS in 2011, where they landed in second place behind mirrorball champs Kym Johnson and Hines Ward. Chmerkovskiy reunited with the “Cheers” star the following year to compete in the “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” season. The duo did not fare as well that season, landing in 7th place.
At the time, Alley thanked Chmerkovskiy for being so “patient” with her, per Us Weekly.
But the dance partners later had a falling out. In 2014, Chmerkovskiy appeared on “Watch What Happens Live” to claim that Alley “stopped getting along” with him. He hinted that the estrangement had to do with Alley’s Scientology beliefs.
“I think the world of her,” Chmerkovskiy said, according to Entertainment Tonight. “I’m not judging people by their religion. … I’m Jewish, and you know, I don’t really believe in science fiction, but whatever. We had a great relationship. I thought we had a great relationship, and if it was something else or not, I don’t know. But I got a message that now that I’m associating with other people that she can’t be associated with, I am no longer to be spoken with, and sorry, but that is what it is.”
At the time, Chmerkovskiy was friendly with ex-Scientologist Leah Remini, who had been a DWTS contestant in 2013.
In early 2022, Chmerkovskiy called out Alley over the comments about the war in Ukraine, According to People, after the actress posted to Twitter to say she didn’t “know what’s real or what is fake” regarding Russia invading Ukraine but that she would pray, Chmerkovskiy responded to ask her to give the same energy and support that she did to victims of Hurricane Sandy a decade earlier. “No one needs your prayer if you don’t know what’s real or fake,” he added.
Following Alley’s death in December 2022, Chmerkovskiy posted a poignant tribute to her on Instagram, calling the late star “one of the most unique people he had ever met and “easily one of the brightest moments” of his personal and professional life. Chmerkovskiy also described his relationship with the Alley as “a wild rollercoaster.”
“As I’m typing this, memories of our time together rush to my head, I remember how absolutely wild you were, and I start to tear up. Something you’d absolutely hate.,” Chmerkovskiy wrote. “And now I can’t help but smile because I remembered exactly what you wanted me to say at your funeral. Don’t think I can do it here…
“I thought you’d be around forever,” he added. “I wish we spoke often.”
Kirstie Alley Once Told Maksim Chmerkovskiy He Was ‘So Flirty’
While speaking with Burke in 2023, Chmerkovskiy recounted another story about Alley from their early rehearsals on “Dancing with the Stars,” when talking about how dance partners sometimes fall in love.
“Kirstie Alley, Rest In Peace,” Chmerkovskiy said. “She said it …She’s like ‘you’re so flirty.’ I’m like, me? We were on a break and she’s like ‘you’re so flirty.’ I was like, what? You’re crazy.”
“And I’m walking around nervously pacing trying to think how to make this woman look good on Monday,” he added. “And we’re running out of time, she’s not getting it, and it’s like oh my God what else can I do? And in the midst of that, she’s like, ‘you’re so flirty.’ I’m like, ‘Kirstie, please. Not right now.’ I’m begging. And then I’m like, ‘what do you mean when you say that?’ She’s like, ‘Look where you’re placing your hands.’ What? Where am I placing my hands?”
Chmerkovskiy revealed that he had to explain his hand placement to Alley so that she would understand he was trying to keep her balanced.
“It’s not your butt,” he said he told her. “I’m placing my hand on your center of gravity where I move you, I’m helping you. If I place it on your shoulder, you’re gonna keel over and fall. … I’m doing you a favor. Anyway, it’s that, it’s the misunderstanding of close proximity.”
Chmerkovskiy added that “Dancing With the Stars” can sometimes feel “like summer camp.” “The whole show 24/7 you’re not with your husband, you’re with me,” he said. “It’s the summer camp for adults and that’s the only way to describe it.”