Why These Pros Left Dancing With The Stars

"Dancing with the Stars" is a popular television series that takes celebrities (and even some controversial figures) from all walks of life and pairs them with dance professionals in an intensive atmosphere where they try to learn a new skill: ballroom dancing. Airing since 2005, the show entered its 32nd season in 2023 and will likely continue on for years to come.

Over the years, a number of different professional dancers with various backgrounds in the art have been given the opportunity to teach the stars how to dance and, as you might have expected, it has been reality television gold. Between learning a whole new skill along with having to practice and perform their routines within one week, "DWTS" is a challenge for the famous people and their professional partners alike.

That said, the show's professional dancers have come and gone (some more than once) for a variety of reasons. Some dancers left to focus on other aspects of their careers while some actually weren't offered a contract to return. We're taking a look at the reasons behind why some of the most beloved members of the "DWTS" family have left the show over the years — and some of those reasons may actually surprise you. 

Keo Motsepe

Keo Motsepe first joined "Dancing with the Stars" in the role of professional partner on Season 19, becoming the first Black pro on the dance competition show. Early on, Motsepe was paired with celebrity partners who were consistently eliminated early on in the competition. He did, however, have a few good runs at the coveted Mirrorball Trophy. In 2016 when he was partnered with "Full House" star, Jodie Sweetin, the pair nearly made it to the semifinals, ultimately finishing the competition in 6th place. Then in 2018, he and softball pitcher Jennie Finch Daigle made it to the semifinals, but were sent home just before the finale. On Season 27, Motsepe and "Harry Potter" actor Evanna Lynch nearly took it all the way, but finished in third place.

Season 29 marked Motsepe's last stint on the show. He was partnered with actor Anne Heche, who was eliminated during the third week. When the next season came around, fans noticed that Motsepe's name wasn't on the roster. "While it's disappointing to not be back for Season 30, I've been honored to be on the last nine seasons of the show and look forward to returning in the future. There's a great group this season and I wish all the dancers and the show the best of luck," he told People in 2021. "I also have some exciting opportunities in the works, so don't worry, you'll be seeing me again soon enough," he added.

Tristan MacManus

Tristan MacManus was cast on "Dancing with the Stars" as a troupe member on Season 12, performing numbers throughout each live taping with the show's group of in-house dancers. After one season, the Irish-born ballroom star earned a promotion and became a "DWTS" pro. He did pretty well his first time out of the gate, nearly taking partner Nancy Grace to the semifinals before being eliminated the week prior. During his five seasons as a pro, MacManus never took home the Mirrorball Trophy. He ended up leaving the show for good in 2013, after Season 17.

In a 2017 interview with the Irish Independent, MacManus revealed that it was his choice to part ways with the competition program, saying he felt akin to "the Grinch" when he had an issue. "I didn't enjoy doing those [shows] and that's why I stepped away from them," he told the outlet. "I have no regrets about quitting 'Dancing With the Stars' ... because I have always felt that if you are not happy doing a job, go and try something else, there is no point in hanging around."

MacManus actually went on to join Australia's version of "DWTS" as a judge in 2019. When the announcement was made, MacManus chatted with reporter Kristyn Burtt of Dance Dish and admitted that he had no interest in returning to the American version of the show, though he missed it at times. "At the same time, I am happy outside of that," he explained.

Lacey Schwimmer

Lacey Schwimmer appeared on "So You Think You Can Dance" before joining the cast of "Dancing with the Stars," becoming one of the first of many to cross over from dance show to dance show. During her first season as a pro in 2008, she hit the partner jackpot with NSYNC's Lance Bass, and the two made it to the finals – though they fell short of winning the Mirrorball Trophy in third place. In her six seasons with the show, the closest Schwimmer got to winning was in Season 11 with her partner, Disney Channel star Kyle Massey. The two finished in second place, losing the Mirrorball to "Dirty Dancing" actor Jennifer Grey and her partner, Derek Hough.

In 2011, Schwimmer decided to depart from the show for personal reasons. "There are a lot of things going on in my life that I kind of need [to] step back and focus. I'm trying to partition my time," she divulged to SheKnows in 2012 following her exit. 

While longtime "DWTS" fans have yearned for Schwimmer to return to the ballroom, she seems to have moved on to other things without looking back. After leaving the show, Schwimmer went on to work as an instructor at NRG Dance Project, and she serves as director for The Ballroom Project, a dance convention dedicated solely to the ballroom style. The former "DWTS" pro also has her own line of dance attire in a collaboration with the brand Chelsea B.

Tony Dovolani

Tony Dovolani was essentially an OG cast member on "Dancing with the Stars," entering the cast of professionals during Season 2. He was easily a fan favorite, with viewers loving his dance style and technique and producing striking dances episode after episode. Over the course of 21 consecutive seasons, Dovolani won the Mirrorball Trophy once — on All-Stars with Melissa Rycroft in 2012. For the most part, Dovolani found himself in the middle of the pack with memorable partners, like Leah Remini, NeNe Leakes, and Suzanne Somers.

After Season 22, Dovolani wasn't on the official line-up. When Dance Dish asked why he didn't return to the show, Dovolani responded that the "DWTS" producers didn't have a partner for him to dance with. "They know that I really like my time at home. I enjoy my kids — they are at the perfect age right now," Dovolani admitted during the 2017 interview. "I told them, 'Unless it's someone really special ... if you guys leave me out, I'm okay with it.' It's not really like I'm being left out; It's more like I am taking a break for now."

But Dovolani hasn't returned to the ballroom since. The father of three is staying busy in other ways, however. He previously did a stint with the Chippendales in Las Vegas in 2018, and he has also been focused on doing charity work and spending time with his family.

Edyta Śliwińska

Some newer "Dancing with the Stars" fans may not recognize the name Edyta Śliwińska, but she was one of the first six pros to ever compete in the ballroom. Partnered with boxer Evander Holyfield in Season 1, Śliwińska helped get the show off the ground. Plus, she was a serious contender. Śliwińska made it to the halfway point or further in Seasons 2 through 6, coming close to a Mirrorball win in Season 6, finishing in second place alongside NFL player Jason Taylor.

After Season 10 in 2010, Śliwińska left the on-air ballroom behind. She told TMZ at the time that she got into a disagreement with the producers that got so bad that she quit. "The producers' vision of what they wanted my career to be did not meet my expectations. They wanted my career to be the show. I can't be a dancer my whole life," Śliwińska explained, adding that there were other things she wanted to accomplish, such as earning a college degree. 

Six years later, Śliwińska's name popped up on the cast list again for Season 22. She was partnered with Geraldo Rivera, but they were the first eliminated. "It was wonderful. It was a bit like riding a bike. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. And the show has just improved," she said on "Good Morning America." Although she put her past fight with producers to the side, Śliwińska didn't return to "DWTS" after that.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Maksim Chmerkovskiy is easily one of the most recognizable names and faces associated with "Dancing with the Stars," but he decided to retire from the show after an impressive run. Although his time on the program only included one Mirrorball Trophy (on Season 18 with Olympic ice skater Meryl Davis), Chmerkovskiy was a "DWTS" fan favorite alongside his brother, Val. During an interview on "The Real" in 2018, Chmerkovskiy shared that he was in a different place in his life and that it was time for him to move on from the show.

"I'm a dad, I'm a husband," he said. "Your chemistry changes when you have a child ... things look different, they seem different." At the time, he and his wife, Peta Murgatroyd, had recently welcomed their first-born son, Shai. "There's also something to be said for what the show is itself," Chmerkovskiy complimented the show for promoting dance nationwide. However, he explained that "you find yourself politicking for your votes" on the show, which wasn't something he wanted to continue doing. 

In the time since he officially left the show, Chmerkovskiy and Murgatroyd welcomed another baby — a son named Rio – into their lives. Moreover, Chmerkovskiy proved that he's not exactly done with reality television; he's part of the cast of season 2 of "The Traitors," which is set to premiere in 2024.

Karina Smirnoff

Karina Smirnoff had a great run as a "Dancing with the Stars" pro. She joined the show in its third season, taking her first celebrity partner, Mario Lopez, to the finals. Although they finished in second place, Smirnoff set herself apart from the crowd and sent a clear message that she was ready to rumble. She went on to win the Mirrorball Trophy in the emotional Season 13 finale with her partner, J.R. Martinez, an Army veteran who had most of his body burned when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb during his time in Iraq.

About five years later, in February 2015, Smirnoff took to her Instagram to share that she was leaving "DWTS" to work on her own career dreams. "After a lot of thought and prayer, I've decided to focus my energies on some other exciting endeavors including adding author to my resume. I have absolutely loved dancing for all of you for all these years and feel blessed to have been given a platform to put my passion for dance, choreography and creativity on display. 'DWTS' has been a huge part of my life for the last 10 years and I will always have a special place in my heart for it," she wrote. She briefly returned to the show for Seasons 21 and 22, but left "DWTS" for good after 2016.

Anna Trebunskaya

Anna Trebunskaya was another early addition to "Dancing with the Stars," joining the cast as a pro on Season 2. Straight away, Trebunskaya was a force to be reckoned with, finishing in second place with football player Jerry Rice on her first outing. She took a couple of seasons off and then returned for a couple of seasons, almost winning the Mirrorball again on Season 10, this time finishing as runner-up with figure skater Evan Lysacek. On and off through almost a dozen seasons, Trebunskaya parted ways with the show ahead of Season 17 for a very understandable reason: She was pregnant!

"It wasn't planned, but when it happened, I thought, 'This is perfect — I'm ready to be a mom,'" the dancer gushed to Us Weekly at the time in 2013. "This is something really good for me and fulfilling, and it'll give me a whole new meaning in life. I'm really looking forward to it." Trebunskaya took an extended break from the dance competition series, returning for Season 21 partnered with Gary Busey before leaving the ballroom for good. Well, in the form of reality television, anyway. Trebunskaya and her mom co-own a dance studio in Hermosa Beach, California, not too far from where she and her husband live with their two kids.

Mark Ballas

Mark Ballas is definitely one of the most beloved members of the "Dancing with the Stars" family. From the moment he stepped out onto the dance floor, his vibe was electric — and everyone felt it. He has reached impressive feats over the course of his career on the show, which started on Season 5 in 2007. He won the Mirrorball Trophy in Season 6 alongside Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, and again on Season 8 with Olympic gymnast, Shawn Johnson. Ballas would find himself in the semifinals more often than not, before taking a break from the show in 2017. He returned in 2022 paired with TikTok personality Charli D'Amelio, and once again, winning the ultimate prize.

Although Ballas hasn't made any sort of official announcement about where he stands with "DWTS," he revealed his decision to leave the program during a stop on the show's live tour in March 2023. "I've done 20 seasons now," Ballas said during the Las Vegas concert, according to ABC. "I started this journey when I was 21, 22, and honestly, being able to dance and perform for you fans ... you guys are the best fans ... This will be the last time you see me dance in this capacity. I'm coming to a close tonight. This is going to be my last dance."

Cheryl Burke

Cheryl Burke joined the "Dancing with the Stars" cast on Season 2, winning the Mirrorball Trophy with singer Drew Lachey. Almost like it was proof against any beginner's luck, she won again the next season, leading football player Emmitt Smith to victory. She continued on "DWTS" until Season 31 — competing with newscaster Sam Champion — when she decided it was time that she retire as a pro.

"Tomorrow night will officially be my final dance as a pro dancer on @dancingwiththestars. This has been one of the absolute hardest decisions of my life & I am also confident that it is the right one," Burke captioned her candid Instagram post in November 2022. "This show has been my 2nd family since I was 21 years old. The cast, crew & fans have seen me through my highest highs & some of my lowest lows, & I honestly don't know who I would be today without them. I also know that it is time for me to begin the next phase of my career, although dance will always be a part of me," she added. 

Burke is still a fan of the show, however, and even started a behind-the-scenes podcast, called "Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans," in September 2023 to spill some tea about what has transpired on "DWTS" since it premiered back in 2005. Her 26 seasons of "DWTS" made her the longest-running pro in the competition's history.

Julianne Hough

Julianne Hough has quite an interesting history with "Dancing with the Stars." She joined the program in Season 4 and wasted no time getting her first Mirrorball Trophy. She finished in first place with her celebrity partner, Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. Not unlike Cheryl Burke, Hough won back-to-back seasons, bringing her season 5 partner, race car driver Hélio Castroneves, to the winner's circle, too.

However, Hough left the show in 2009. "I am appreciative to be taking this coming season of 'Dancing with the Stars' off to focus on my other career paths like touring in support of my album and recording my next one," she told People in a statement at the time. Hough returned to the ballroom in 2014, but in a much different role; She joined the judges table to offer her critiques.

Hough was a "DWTS" judge for five seasons before again leaving in 2017 to focus on her other passions, such as acting. In 2023, after six years away, Hough was offered the role of co-host, joining Alfonso Ribeiro to lead the live shows. "The door has always been open for me to join or come back in any capacity because 'Dancing with the Stars' is my family. It's where I feel the most myself and the most at home," she told Variety ahead of Season 32. "I am my happiest self when I'm surrounded by my family. This show is family."

Sharna Burgess

Sharna Burgess was brought on to be a pro in Season 16 and quickly became a staple on "Dancing with the Stars." It took 12 seasons for her to win her first Mirrorball Trophy in 2018 alongside radio personality Bobby Bones. Bones's win remains one of the most controversial in the history of the show; Despite having consistently average scores from the judges, viewers suspected his fans voted Bones all the way through to the finale.

After her win, Burgess was a part of the cast in Seasons 29 and 30, but decided to sit out Season 31 after giving birth to her first son, Zane, with boyfriend Brian Austin Green. "I'm a full-time breastfeeding mama. And not only that, I just am so in love with being a mom. As much as it was hard to say no to 'Dancing' ... I have this family and this newborn at home that I may never get these moments back," the dancer wrote on her Instagram Story at the time (via Page Six).

Although Burgess was hoping to be back in the ballroom to compete in Season 32, she revealed that she was actually cut from the cast. "I can love the show and be excited for everyone, but I can also be really sad and heartbroken that I don't get to do that this season, and I don't know if that means I'll never get to do it again," she said on her "Old-ish" podcast.