On Wednesday, Artem Chigvintsev's appearance on The Bellas Podcast provided a raw and honest look at what the Dancing With the Stars pros truly go through in the lead up to a new season. By revealing the wizard behind the curtain, Artem showed that the dancers aren't always treated like the stars that they truly are.
Amongst longtime DWTS fans, it's no secret that many of them tune in to see the pro more than the celebrity contestants. For years, a majority of the pro roster remained the same. When the show had two seasons a year, viewers knew they could watch their favorite dancer on a consistent basis.
For the fans who follow the show closely in the off-season, it was no secret that a pro audition was held earlier this spring. The producers were looking for something different, but no one really knew what that was except for a "back to basics" concept for Season 28. The show hired two exceptional ballroom dancers, Daniella Karagach and Pasha Pashkov, who are seven-time United States 10-Dance Champions and Latin Champions.
With entrances, also come exits in the form of the troupe, Artem and Sharna Burgess. Besides that being shocking news to the fans, it was also shocking news to Artem.
“I dedicated 10 years of my life to that company,” he revealed in the podcast. “And getting let go three days before an announcement, that’s like a punch in the stomach, really.”
This practice has been going on for a long time on the series. In Season 21, Lindsay Arnold was flown to New York for the Good Morning America announcement as producers trying to lock up Alek Skarlatos' contract. She didn't know if she was a pro or in troupe until she landed.
Artem even fell victim to that last-minute casting change that same season, when his partner dropped out. He had already been announced as a pro, so he appeared in group numbers throughout out the season. The pros aren't the only ones who had to deal with the delayed hiring practices, the troupe also experienced it, too.
Troupe member Britt Stewart even talked about signing her contract in the car on the way to her first rehearsal for Season 23. Things were last minute on the DWTS set.
"The troupe are the last people to find out. It's hard. I think it's the name of the game. I try to remind myself, too, it's not just Dancing With the Stars that you find out things late," she said on To The Pointe in February 2018. "I think it's part of being a dancer. On the other side of things [behind the camera], there are a lot of moving parts."
Casting and contracts are most often to blame for the last-minute nature of DWTS, but this takes the dancers out of the loop for fall castings whether it is jumping on another show or joining the convention circuit to teach. It's very hard to have a Plan B in place.
The Bellas Podcast co-host and Artem's girlfriend, Nikka Bella, spoke out about how unjust some of these practices are.
“They’ve had these dancers on hold since March. And they don’t give them compensation for it. They’ve been all unemployed since March,” she explained. “That made me really upset, because how do you put people on hold and then cut them last minute?… Now all the fall gigs are booked, and that part, to me, was so unfair.”
This issue is a sticking point because talent doesn't want to be the squeaky wheel. Being too outspoken, sometimes puts a dancer out of favor with producers, but agents and the dancers' union, SAG-AFTRA, might want to take a closer look at this issue. A dance career has a shorter life span than other industries and dancers should have to right to make the most of their opportunities while they are healthy and ready to work.
Perhaps DWTS will see it a different way for future seasons after listening to Artem's graceful candor.
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This week's To The Pointe episode: