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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

Tony Dovolani Hasn't Waltzed Away from 'DWTS'

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

One of the most memorable things about attending a taping of Dancing With the Stars is the pre-party. The audience is able to get up and dance on the ballroom floor before the show begins. In the seasons that Tony Dovolani has participated, he was always out there with close friend and co-worker, Val Chmerkovskiy — and the ladies loved it. 

In fact, you could always hear female attendees saying, “I just love Tony’s smile. He’s one of my favorites.” He’s also one of three DWTS pros I am consistently asked about whether he’s returning to the show.

I know many appreciate his patience as a teacher when he has had an older contestant or someone who isn’t a natural mover. They know that Tony could teach them to dance.

Even though he’s been absent for the last two seasons of DWTS, Tony has been keeping busy in the dance world. Dance Dish caught up with him to discuss the evolution of the show, whether fans will see him return and the best advice he could give some of the younger pros.

Dance Dish: Were you in the mix to return this season as a pro on Dancing With the Stars?

Tony Dovolani: I was in the mix. They didn’t have celeb for me. At the same time, they know that I really like my time at home. I enjoy my kids — they are at the perfect age right now.

I told them, “Unless it’s someone really special… if you guys leave me out, I’m OK with it.” It’s not really like I’m being left out; it’s more like I am taking a break for now.

DD: Are you still under contract with the show?

Tony: Let me put it this way: they don’t need a contract to have me. I love Dancing With the Stars and it’s been a part of my life for a very long time. We’ve never ever spoken to each other in a contracted way and we never will. The door is always open.

DD: Do you miss some of the simplicity of the early seasons of the show?

Tony: I think the simplicity in the beginning seasons was special. It was very simple, it was very much to the point. It was about overcoming adversities or being able to teach someone who’s never danced before. There were always very big personalities on our show.

As the seasons went on, obviously it became more and more competitive and the audience wants to see more. If you keep on doing the same thing over and over, the audience gets bored.

I find that with the introduction of a lot of different dance shows, the entertainment factor had to be hyped. In this particular case, we started to get a lot of celebrities with dance experience and it made for a really good show. So it has evolved, however, I do miss the early days of simplicity because I felt that the personal stories were much more effective.

To the audience at home, I feel like the old days were more entertaining and more for the entire family as opposed to now where certain performances are a little too risqué. There are certain performances my girls will not watch.

Photo credit: ABC/Adam Taylor

DD: Other than winning Season 15 with Melissa Rycroft, is there another contestant who holds a special place in your DWTS history?

Tony: Yes, Leah Remini. She had just left the Church of Scientology and she was going through a very, very tough time. Now with Going Clear and her show, Leah Remini - Scientology and the Aftermath, most people are starting to realize what she was going through.

We became extremely good friends — her family is my family, my family is her family. We have stayed good friends. I love her husband and her daughter. She comes and visits us all of the time. She has become my best, best friend.

DD: What is the vision for you, Maks and Val with the Dance With Me USA franchise?

Tony: We want to have a studio in every state and make sure that we reach out to as many audience members as possible who have supported us over the years. We always get messages through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram asking us to open a studio near their town.

We really took them up on it. Las Vegas showed up in a big way. When we opened up the Las Vegas studio, we had close to 800 people show up. That tells you right there that it was the right choice to make to reach those people.

We love dancing so much and perform for so many audiences, we love being able to give them the gift of dance. We see the look in their eyes when they take their first steps to music. It’s so remarkable and beautiful to see them come alive. That’s the reason why we teach so much.

DD: Do you have any advice for the younger pros about diversifying their interests in case they aren’t on DWTS for a season or two?

Tony: Yes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You’re developing yourself as a professional, so keep yourself developing as someone who studies in life, learns and finds their passion. Whether it is singing, teaching, dancing or going back to school, it’s not a bad idea.

You are doing things that improve you as a human being because we have to constantly evolve. For me, I haven’t stopped.

I’m on the PGA Player and Coaching Development Committee, I do shows, I am choreographing and I am commentating — I expand my brand. A brand is about doing the hard work, studying and doing your homework by representing yourself in the best possible way.

DD: You have the Dance at the Movies tour coming up. Tell us what we can expect.

Tony: We are bringing the movies to life. I love being able to emulate Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and have fun with my Ginger… Anna Trebunskaya. [He laughs.]

I am going to try and play as many characters as possible. Those guys are the reason I started dancing and if I could have a little taste of being like them, I’ll be a successful man for the rest of my life.


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