Artem Chigvintsev says he was just as shocked as fans to learn that he wouldn’t be returning as a pro for season 28 of Dancing With the Stars.
The 37-year-old dancer recently sat down with his girlfriend, Nikki Bella, and her twin sister, Brie Bella, on their Bellas podcast, where he candidly discussed what it was like being cut from the show.
Artem revealed that he got the heartbreaking phone call from producers just a couple of days before the cast announcement was made on Good Morning America.
“God, I don’t know where to begin, to be honest with you, because obviously, it was a massive shock, and having those calls are never, never fun. Even if it’s positive, the fact is, it’s always terrifying to get that call,” said Artem, who first joined the show in 2014 as a member of the troupe before being promoted to pro for season 19. “It’s weird. Dedicating something for the past 10 years, putting your absolute all [into it] … it’s not even a job, it’s a lifestyle if you’ve been doing it for a very long time.”
Artem continued on, admitting, “There was never really a thought in my mind that I’m not going to be doing it.” He said he was texting with producers regularly in the weeks leading up to the announcement, and because it was always a “positive” conversation, he was “99 percent” sure he’d be on the show.
“There’s always a chance, as a pro, you might be doing some performances on the show and there’s still an involvement in some sort. But getting this call, [hearing], ‘There’s gonna be no involvement with the show from now on,’ it’s like going through a breakup of 10 years,” he confessed. “And good memories of a breakup. The show really exposed me. Not just as a dancer, or a teacher, it’s also exposed me as a person who’d be able to find those talents in my partners … and get something out of it that they’d be so proud of. It’s like, you’re making other people’s lives so fulfilled; that’s what the show is all about.”
“So that’s the hardest to let go, because I can always dance, I can always choreograph. But that [feeling is] the hardest part,” he added. “I dedicated 10 years of my life to that company and being let go a few days before the announcement, that’s, like, a punch in the stomach, really. I can’t let any one decide my fate from now on.”
Luckily, Artem can always count on the Bella twins for support. The sisters agreed that DWTS “lost one of their best dancers,” and Nikki is not OK with the way the decision went down.
“They’ve had these dancers on hold since March,” said Nikki, who competed during season 25 of the show with Artem. “They don’t give them compensation for it. So, literally, they’ve been all unemployed since March.”
“That made me really upset because how do you put people on hold and then cut them last minute?” she asked. “Because now, they’ve missed out on fall jobs. All the fall gigs are booked. And that part, to me, was so unfair. Cut them and give them compensation.”
After hearing about the podcast conversation, former pro Anna Trebunskaya (who competed on 11 seasons with stars like Jerry Rice, Sugar Ray Leonard and Drew Lachey) posted a lengthy message to her Facebook page in support of Artem.
“So people always ask, ‘When are you coming back to Dancing with the Stars?’ Gosh, I wish it was that easy,” she wrote. “As if it’s completely the dancers choice… we all wish it was that way but the reality is, well, it’s a reality TV show. There’s a huge casting process involved and a hierarchy of executives that decide these things and at the end of the day, the pro dancers are a piece of that complex puzzle. We’re not the ones making executive decisions, but we contribute and play a part to this great machine. It’s part of showbiz, or any biz, for that matter.”
“Being a part of DWTS for over 10 years myself I truly get what some of the dancers go through after they are being ‘let go’ (or hosts or musicians or producers or anyone else that’s been involved for years),” she continued. “At the end of the day, all you can do is just be grateful that you were part of this experience, that you did something fun and creative and met some great people along the way. But that’s true about everything in life. I will always cherish my time on the show and I’m so happy to be part of the DWTS family. And who knows what the future may bring … Thank you Artem Chigvintsev for talking about it and being so honest.”
Longtime fans of the show were devastated to learn that Artem and fellow fan-favorite pro Sharna Burgess would not be returning to the show in any capacity for season 28. Many of them have been vocal on social media ever since, urging ABC to “rethink” their decision and “bring them back.”
A source told ET at the time that it’s not uncommon for dancers to take a season off and then come back for another season, adding that Sharna and Artem will still remain a part of the DWTS family. ET has reached out to ABC for comment.
Earlier this month, ET spoke with DWTS host Tom Bergeron, who said he recently spoke with Sharna. Based on their conversation, it seems she was just as surprised by the news as Artem.
“As a matter of fact, I was just texting with Sharna recently,” he said. “She was surprised and I was too. But again, that’s somebody else’s call.”
Dancing With the Stars returns for its all-new season Monday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m ET/PT on ABC. In the meantime, hear more in the video below.
‘DWTS’ Fans React to New Season Without Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev
‘Dancing With the Stars’: Fans Reveal Their Dream Celeb-Pro Pairings
‘Dancing With the Stars’ Executive Producer Reveals New Live Voting Element for Season 28
‘Dancing With the Stars’ Season 28 Cast Revealed — See Who’s Competing!