Better Than a Mirrorball: Let’s Celebrate All the Couples Dancing With the Stars Has Helped Create

In the 15 years since its debut, Dancing With the Stars has crowned 28 champs, made use of some 24 million sequins and created more than a few forever partnerships.

By Sarah Grossbart Sep 14, 2020 2:00 PMTags
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One warm June afternoon back in 2005, a New Kid, a Bachelorette and a soap actress sashayed onto an L.A. sound stage and the world of ballroom, competitive dance and spray tans was never quite the same. 

When the concept of Dancing With the Stars was first floated, the premise was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, even a few outright laughs from the host of a well-known L.A. morning radio program. Sure, they'd scrounged up six celebs to commit weeks of their life to learning the cha-cha and the tango and they were names you'd at least heard before (read: Rachel HunterEvander HolyfieldJohn O'Hurley), but would anyone really take time out of their summer evening to watch Seinfeld's J. Peterman shake it in sequins, much less call and vote to keep him around? 

A resounding 13 million people said yes, tuning in to see exactly how this experiment borrowed from British TV would turn out. By the second episode, it was the biggest show on network TV and so many viewers loudly voiced their judgment of the July finale that victor Kelly Monaco and runner-up O'Hurley agreed to a dance-off two months later. 

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By the end of the year, Academy Award winner Tatum O'Neal, future Housewife Lisa Rinna and decorated NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice had signed on for season two and suddenly the ever-cheesy mirrorball trophy was something truly coveted by those with far more impressive hardware in their trophy case. 

In the 15 years and 28 seasons since its premiere, Olympic gold medalists, Super Bowl champions and Grammy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning stars have swathed themselves in sparkle and spray tans in the hopes of being named the best in the ballroom. There have been sprained ankles, pulled muscles, broken ribs, countless strips of false lashes and some 24 million sequins that have donated their lives to the cause. 

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Through it all, stars have been made (hello, Julianne Hough, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Cheryl Burke) and rediscovered and, as a happy bonus, more than a few showmances and actual real-life relationships have bloomed in the ballroom.

While some of the partnerships were a clear grab for extra votes and several sputtered after the finale aired, more than a few danced their way right down the aisle. With four marriages to their credit and another in the works, one could argue that the competition series—returning tonight with the likes of Johnny Weir, former Bachelorette Kaitlyn BristoweSelling Sunset breakout Chrishell Stause and one of 2020's most meme-able stars, Tiger King's Carole Baskin battling for mirrorball supremacy—might actually be a more reliable matchmaker than that other ABC darling.

And at least Bachelorette Hannah Brown shimmied away from DWTS with a real prize. (Sorry, not sorry, Jed Wyatt.

Allow us to present our case. 

Chrishell Stause and Keo Motsepe

In December 2020, E! News learned the Selling Sunset star was dating the Dancing With the Stars pro. They had recently competed separately on season 29.

However, after two months of dating, E! News exclusively confirmed Chrishell and Keo had called it quits on their romance. At the time, a source close to the realtor said, "They had a fun time together but in the end, decided it would be best if they part ways. They are still friendly and cordial. It wasn't a messy breakup, just wasn't the right fit or right timing."

Nikki Bella and Artem Chigvintsev

Platonic throughout their seventh-place-finishing 2017 run, the friends found their way back to each other after the WWE hall of famer's split from John Cena. Since their late 2018 coupling, their dance cards have been filled. And with the Total Bellas star learning she was expecting mere weeks after their Paris engagement, the series may have found its first cast member for season 68 in weeks-old Matteo Artemovich Chigvintsev!

Showmance or Real Deal? As real as a rack attack. 

Alexis Ren & Alan Bersten

Instagram star and model Alexis Ren and relatively new pro Alan Bersten flirted up a storm throughout season 27, and Alexis had admitted on the show that she had a crush on Alan. At the time, a source even told E! News that they "really enjoy each other's company" and were "seeing where things go."

Showmance or Real Deal? All for the cameras, unfortunately. Multiple outlets reported Alexis and Alan's split in December 2018, blaming it on long-distance and demanding schedules. 

Val Chmerkovskiy & Jenna Johnson

Val and Jenna were dating in 2015, before she was promoted to pro dancer. They got engaged in June of 2018 before making it official and walking down the aisle in April of 2019. 

Showmance or Real Deal? Real deal, y'all!

Alek Skarlatos & Emma Slater

While she was partnered with Hayes Grier, these two hit it off during season 21's Switch Up week, with Alek calling her "so hot." After her elimination, Emma spilled that she and Alek have yet to go on a date, saying, "We'll see."

Showmance or Real Deal: Given Alek's tendency to blush and avoid answering questions about his feelings for Emma, telling E! News "no comment!" we think this crush was very real. But Emma danced away off the market for good following Skarlatos' 2015 run, so if it was real, it wasn't that real. 

Emma Slater & Sasha Farber

Which bring us to these two. After dating a little on and off since 2011, the pros got engaged live on the show in October 2016, and were married in March 2018. Now they're both back for season 29...meaning they won't be back under the same roof for a minute as the series' new COVID-era rules dictate they must quarantine separately. "It's gonna be bliss—I mean, it's gonna be terrible," Slater joked on Good Morning America after the season's roster was announced. "It's gonna be so different because we can't actually interact and even prep with each other, which is something completely different, but we're doing everything we can to keep it safe." 

Showmance or Real Deal? Obviously the real deal. 

Peta Murgatroyd & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

The professional dancers got engaged on Dec. 5, 2015 after dating since 2012. Maks proposed onstage at the SWAY: A Dance Trilogy event in Miami. Six months after welcoming their son Shai, the lovebirds exchanged vows during a lavish ceremony in July 2017. 

Showmance or Real Deal: A match made in DWTS Heaven! 

Robert Herjavec & Kym Johnson

Soon after the Shark Tank star announced he was separating from his wife of 14 years Diane Plese, sources confirmed to E! News that he and Kym Johnson, his pro partner from season 20, were dating and "really happy together."

While Robert and Kym at first played coy about the nature of their relationship, that quickly stopped. They were engaged in February 2016, married by June 2016, and welcomed twins in April 2018. 

Showmance or Real Deal: Very very very real. 

Mario Lopez & Karina Smirnoff

Partnered in season three, Smirnoff and Lopez quickly struck up a romance, which went on for two years, before they called it off for good in 2008. "The relationship wasn't heading in the right direction," Smirnoff's rep said in a statement, after rumors of infidelity on Lopez's part.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Karina Smirnoff & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

The professional dancers got engaged in 2009 following just six months of dating, shortly after her split from Mario Lopez. Sadly, they called it off later that same year. But the duo remains friendly, even going on vacations together.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas

The partners struck up a romance in season five, but broke up a few months after their shocking exit. Still, Bryan and Ballas remained friendly, with The Cheetah Girls star even returning to the ballroom to cheer for him the following season.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Shannon Elizabeth & Derek Hough

After showing off their insane chemistry during the sixth season, the duo dated for nearly a year before announcing their 2009 breakup in the most cordial way ever: matching tweets! "Hi everyone, we wanted you all to know directly from us, that Shannon & I have decided to end our relationship as boyfriend & girlfriend...," Hough tweeted that August. Finished Elizabeth, "However, we love and care about each other very much and will remain friends and in each others lives."

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Meryl Davis & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Though they dodged questions about their reported romance during season 18, a source told E! News that the eventual champs were just friends.

Showmance or Real Deal: This time, 'twas a showmance.

Chad Ochocinco & Cheryl Burke

While they never technically dated, it didn't stop Chad from trying to woo his professional partner during season 10, even buying her gifts like a diamond necklace and a diamond ring, which she eventually gave back. "We had a fling," Burke later told Wendy Williams. "A little flirty fling. Like, a little flirt, flirt. That's it."

Showmance or Real Deal: Showmance!

James Maslow & Peta Murgatroyd

Funnily enough, the duo had gone out on several dates before he even signed up for the show. And while they denied any romance rumors during season 18, that didn't stop them from playing up their chemistry during performances.

Showmance or Real Deal: Total showmance. 

Erin Andrews & Maksim Chmerkovskiy

One of DWTS' most playful pairings, rumors continued about their relationship for all of season 10, and they weren't doing anything to stop them! Seriously, they staged an almost-kiss on a bed for one of their finale performances. Their banter continued eight cycles later when Erin Andrews signed on as the show's cohost.

Showmance or Real Deal: Showmance.

Chuck Wicks & Julianne Hough

The only DWTS couple to enter the competition already dating, Hough returned to the show in season eight to dance with her country music singer love. Sadly, they were eliminated eighth and broke up shortly after.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd

While rumors ran rampant that the duo struck up a romance during season 17, the Pretty Little Liars star always denied that he was dating Murgatroyd.

Showmance or Real Deal: Showmance!

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