Showmance or the Real Deal? Investigating the Couples of Dancing With the Stars

In the wake of Sasha Farber and Emma Slater’s break up, we’re looking back on all the romances (and showmances) that have come out of Dancing with the Stars.

By Sarah Grossbart Aug 27, 2022 7:00 AMTags
Watch: DWTS Pros Emma Slater & Sasha Farber SPLIT

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.

Dancing With the Stars Couples Take on Disneyland

Now, in the 17 years and 30 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.

ABC/Eric McCandless

Through it all, stars have been made (hello, Julianne HoughMaksim ChmerkovskiyCheryl 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. And some, like Sasha Farber and Emma Slater, have waltzed their way apart.

Nonetheless, one could argue that the competition series might actually be a more reliable matchmaker than that other ABC darling.

Here, we present our case:

Gabby Windey & Vinny Guadagnino

The former Bachelorette and the Jersey Shore starstoked dating rumors during their time competing against one another on season 31, thanks to their flirtations on social media and coy responses when asked about their possible romance.

"You get to know the other celebrities on Dancing with the Stars," Gabby told E! News last December. "So, we formed a friendship right away and I feel like our senses of humor are really similar. I was so tunnel vision during the competition. I was like, 'I'm here to win' and I didn't have room for anything else. So, we live in different states, but we are having fun. We'll see."

Showmance or Real Deal: Forget GTL, this one was DOA. The pair never ended up officially dating and Gabby debuted her romance with comedian and TV writer Robby Hoffman in August. 

Britt Stewart & Daniel Durant

Months after placing fifth in the 31st season of the dance show, the couple confirmed their romance on Valentine's Day 2023. "My Valentine," the CODA actor captioned a selfie with the choreographer. "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Britt and Daniel then announced their engagement in December 2023.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Alek Skarlatos & Emma Slater

While she was partnered with Hayes Grier, the 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 had 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 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. However, in Aug. 2022, E! News confirmed that after four years of marriage, Slater and Farber were going their separate ways.

Showmance or Real Deal? Despite the outcome, they were still the real deal and have remained close friends and cordial co-stars after their split. 

"It's not a nightmare at all," Emma exclusively told E! News in October. "We support each other so much that I want the very best for Sasha. We support each other, very, very truly."


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. In July 2022, they announced they were expecting their first baby together. The two welcomed son Rome Valentin in January 2023.

"Life is awesome," Val told E! News in May. Becoming a dad "definitely elevated my joy for life, my joy for my family, and every day I learn something new being a father."

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

Chrishell Stause & Keo Motsepe

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

However, after two months of dating, E! News exclusively confirmed they had called it quits. 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." 

Chrishell has since found love with partner G Flip.

Showmance or Real Deal: We're calling Chrishell and Keo's romance the real deal.

Nikki Bella & 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 son Matteo Artemovich Chigvintsev!

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

Alexis Ren & Alan Bersten

Model Alexis and relatively new pro Alan flirted up a storm throughout season 27, and Ren had admitted on the show that she had a crush on him. 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 their split in December 2018, blaming it on long-distance and demanding schedules. 

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. They then welcomed baby Rio in June 2023. 

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, Karina and Mario 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 remained friendly, even going on vacations together.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal.

Daniella Karagach & Pasha Pashkov

Married since 2014, the pros announced the arrival of their daughter Nikita in May 2023.

Daniella shared the happy news by posting a photo and video of Pasha with Nikita to Instagram Stories. She wrote "daddy's girl" alongside the clip and "My Gemini's" beside the picture.

Showmance or Real Deal: Real deal, baby!

Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas

The partners struck up a romance in season five, but broke up a few months after their shocking exit. Still, Sabrina and Mark 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...," Derek tweeted that August. Finished Shannon, "However, we love and care about each other very much and will remain friends and in each others lives."

Derek is now married to his dance partner Hayley Erbert.

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 him 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," Cheryl 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 signed on as the show's co-host.

Erin is now married to Jarret Stoll.

Showmance or Real Deal: We're calling those Erin and Maks rumors a showmance.

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 Peta.

Showmance or Real Deal: Showmance!

A version of this story was first published on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 8:53 a.m. PT.