The Worst Dancing With The Stars Partnerships/Couples Of All Time

Since the debut of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2005, dozens upon dozens of celebrities have joined the show to trip the light fantastic. Partnered with the show's professional ballroom dancers, these high-stepping celebs hit the dance floor to vie for the coveted Mirrorball Trophy, all under the scrutiny of the show's judges and the millions of viewers who tune in each week. Over the years, a wide swath of stars have competed on "DWTS" — with varying degrees of success — a lengthy list that's included actors, athletes, reality TV stars, singers, politicians, and more.

When celebrities are picked to compete, they are partnered with one of the professional dancers from the "DWTS" in-house ballroom dance troupe. These pairings are made by the producers of the show based on factors like their heights and how their personalities would match up. But, of course, there have been occasions when celebs and their dance partners simply didn't jibe, which has happened from time to time — even with pairs who wound up winning.

Cheryl Burke apologized for her comments about Ian Ziering

During a 2016 appearance on the "Allegedly" podcast, longtime "Dancing with the Stars" pro Cheryl Burke was asked to single out her least-favorite celebrity partner. She named "Sharknado" star Ian Ziering, with whom she was paired during the show's fourth season in 2007. 

"The fact that his name's not ee-an, and it's eye-an makes me wanna throw up," Burke declared on the podcast (via TMZ). Discussing Ziering's actorly intensity, Burke admitted that he wore on her. "Think of spending time with that for, like, eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week for three months," she added. Asked if that made her want to quit the show, she quipped, "No, but it made me want to slit my wrists ... I was, like, crying to the executives. I was, like, 'Is there any way to please to just eliminate us?'"

Burke's comments were hit with backlash, and she tweeted an apology — not to Ziering, but to anyone she'd offended by making light of suicide. In 2021, Burke admitted during an episode of her "Pretty Messed Up" podcast that she'd come to regret her words. "I was completely out of line," she said, publicly apologizing to Ziering. "I just took it to that next level of just nastiness." In 2023, Burke revealed she sent Ziering a personal apology via email, and that the hatchet had been buried.

Jaleel White got into heated fights with dance partner Kym Johnson

Jaleel White was and always will be best known for playing Steve Urkel in the 1990s sitcom "Family Matters." The actor joined "Dancing with the Stars" in 2012 for the 14th season and was paired with Kym Johnson. While Johnson and White impressed the judges with their dance-floor routines, reports soon emerged of tensions between the two. During the filming of the competition in 2012, a source claimed to Us Weekly that a rehearsal grew "heated" when White accidentally stepped on Johnson's foot, causing her to exclaim "Ouch!" That reportedly set him off, with the source claiming he "got in her face" and accused her of "acting like a baby ... He was shouting at her, calling her an 'idiot.'" "DWTS" pro Mark Ballas reportedly intervened in the argument. 

White, however, dismissed the report. "It was completely exaggerated," he said of the incident in an interview with People, blaming his outburst on stress. Johnson concurred. "This has been a stressful week for us, and people have stressful weeks," she added. 

Meanwhile, White also claimed he hadn't yet heard about the new nickname he'd been given online because of his alleged bad behavior: Jerkel. "My relationship with Kym should speak for itself in [terms of] ... what's going on on the dance floor," he noted to People. White was ultimately sent home in the seventh week of the competition. "I have absolutely no regrets going on this show," he later told Glamour

Tony Dovolani joked he required 'therapy' after partnering with Kate Gosselin

When Kate Gosselin – of "John & Kate Plus 8" fame — joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2010, she immediately made headlines for her ... sub-par dancing. Critiquing her first routine with partner Tony Dovolani, judge Bruno Tonioli sniped (via ABC News), "It looked like Tony was pushing a shopping cart across the floor." She was ultimately the fourth celebrity sent home that season.

Two years later, Dovolani appeared on Anderson Cooper's talk show, "Anderson." "I always felt bad for you because you got stuck with Kate Gosselin," Cooper remarked to Dovolani. "I remember watching her dance. I'm still, like, traumatized by that experience." Dovolani laughed and quipped back, "Wait, wait. Anderson, did you just call it dance? We didn't dance." After spending those weeks with Gosselin, Dovolani joked, "There was a lot of therapy involved."

Gosselin responded to being dissed by Dovolani and Cooper in a post on her blog (via CBS News). "I think it is a shame that Tony has been left only with a negative impression of our time together," she wrote, insisting she only held positive memories of the experience. She also addressed Cooper, telling him that if he thinks "Dancing with the Stars" is so easy, then he should give it a shot. "I can only imagine how your view of the subject may change 180 degrees, not 360 degrees, if you are given the opportunity to cha cha cha!" she added.

Hope Solo alleged that Maksim Chmerkovskiy became physically violent

Former soccer star Hope Solo showed off her dance skills during the 13th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2011, but she and dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy wound up getting eliminated in the semifinals. While viewers watched her clash with Chmerkovskiy during a rehearsal that was broadcast on the show, Solo claimed that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the physical mistreatment she allegedly endured from her partner.

"He was often nasty, swearing at me and being harshly critical," she wrote in her 2012 book, "Solo: A Memoir of Hope," excerpted in USA Today. "He manhandled me in rehearsals from the start, pushing me, whacking my stomach, bending my arms roughly," she added, but figured that was part of the process. She recounted another incident where Chmerkovskiy slapped her stomach "with his open palm," leaving a red hand mark. However, things became far worse during a rehearsal for the Halloween show. "He wanted my head in a specific position. To achieve that, he slapped me across the face. Hard," she wrote.

Chmerkovskiy denied these allegations and made his feelings about Solo crystal clear during a subsequent appearance on the "Allegedly" podcast (via E! News) in 2015. "She's just a s***ty person," he said. "There's no excuse for that."

Jesse Metcalfe confirmed he didn't get along with Sharna Burgess

It seems that "Dancing with the Stars" pro Sharna Burgess didn't make fond memories during her stint on Season 29 with partner Jesse Metcalfe. During the 2023 debut of her "Oldish" podcast, Burgess recalled a rough Season 29 after not being asked back the previous season. "I had a partner that was really difficult ... I wasn't able to be in the room alone with him after the first couple of weeks because of things that happened," she recounted on the episode. "That was rocky and we were eliminated very quickly."

In a subsequent appearance on Cheryl Burke's "Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans" podcast, Burgess shared more. "I had a situation with a partner where it got to the point where we couldn't be alone in a room without people watching," she added. While she never specifically named Metcalfe, it was widely assumed she was referring to the "Desperate Housewives" alum, as he was the one she danced with during the show's 29th season in 2020.

Metcalfe responded with a statement his representative issued to People. "If she is referring to a time where our client Jesse Metcalfe worked with Ms. Burgess four years ago, the only recollection was that they didn't get along. Vague insinuations are not only reckless but also irrelevant," the rep explained, claiming that Burgess fabricated the allegations to drum up interest for her podcast. The statement concluded that Metcalfe would not be commenting on her claims: "He is taking the high road."

NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani's squabbling came to a head

Best known for stirring up drama on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," NeNe Leakes competed in the 18th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2014, dancing with Tony Dovolani. As the pro dancer quickly discovered, the fiery nature that had made Leakes such a "Real Housewives" fan favorite was definitely not an act. That became clear after a partner switch, which had Leakes paired with Derek Hough for one episode while Dovolani danced with Candace Cameron Bure. 

After being reunited with Dovolani the following week, Leakes stormed out of a rehearsal, with the incident captured by "DWTS" cameras. When she threatened to leave, Dovolani apparently assumed she was joking; she was not. "You're going to have to come with a better attitude tomorrow," Leakes warned him during the episode (via ABC News). "I'm dead-a** serious because you've got a damn attitude today and that s*** ain't gonna work. You wanna go back to Candace? You should call production so you can go back to Candace so you can be happy."

The reality star offered a blunt assessment of their relationship. "Thank God we ain't married in real life," Leakes said in her confessional interview. "We'd be divorced." Dovolani addressed the tension to Us Weekly, citing the pair working through jet lag after a red-eye flight for the "little tiff." Although they were able to work out their issues, Leakes was ultimately eliminated, a victim of Latin Night.

Mischa Barton clashed with Artem Chigvintsev during 'awful' time on DWTS

Many celebrities have looked back on their experiences on "Dancing with the Stars" with affection. Mischa Barton was not one of them. While competing on the 22nd season in 2016, it was clear to viewers that the former star of "The O.C." did not get along with her dance partner, Artem Chigvintsev. "I can't do another week of that. He just is not getting it, and it's horrible for me," she complained about Chigvintsev (via Us Weekly) before what wound up being their final performance; They were voted off in the season's third episode.

Later that same year, Barton slammed the show. "Ugh, I had no idea it would be so bad. I got told off by my dancer," she said in an interview with The Ringer. "I was supposed to control the costumes, I was told that I could do the design aspect of it, that's kind of the reason why I agreed to do it. That didn't happen. It wasn't collaborative like a choreographer on a film set ... I was so confused by it.

She continued by comparing her experience on the show to being akin to that of the tributes in "The Hunger Games." "It was all a popularity contest," she griped. "It was awful. I was so glad to get kicked off."

The late Kirstie Alley was Maksim Chmerkovskiy's most 'challenging' partner

Kirstie Alley appeared in the 12th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2011, then returned for the all-star season in 2012. Both times, she danced with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The pair began having issues in her first season, after they took a tumble during a performance. "My thigh just gave out," Chmerkovskiy attributed the fall to The Hollywood Reporter.

Chmerkovskiy later discussed their fractured relationship during a 2014 appearance on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" (via E! News). "She stopped getting along with me," Chmerkovskiy explained. "We had a great relationship," he added, implying that the longtime Scientologist had been told not to "associate" with him. "I'm not judging people by their religion. I'm Jewish. I don't really believe in science fiction, but whatever." He concluded by stating, "But I still think the world of her, and I wish her all the best." Alley responded with a scorched-earth tweet, writing, "Dear Sir..after you have a** r***d me there is really no reason to include 'I wish you the best'.. It's rhetorical."

After Alley's death in 2022, Chmerkovskiy appeared on Cheryl Burke's "Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans" podcast, where he was asked to single out his most "challenging" dance partner on the show. "Oh geez ... I would say Kirstie because it was twice and a lot," he responded. However, he also named Alley as his "most fun" partner.

Hannah Brown and pro Alan Bertsen had a rocky relationship

Former "Bachelorette" star Hannah Brown made her "Dancing with the Stars" debut in 2019 on the show's 28th season, dancing alongside pro Alan Bersten. While rumors of a "DWTS" romance persisted, the pair made their mark on the dance floor, ultimately taking home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy.

In 2021, Brown published her memoir, "God Bless This Mess: Learning to Live and Love Through Life's Best (and Worst) Moments." Among the book's revelations was that even though she and Bersten connected through dance, that was far from the case in their interpersonal rapport. Admitting their relationship was mercurial, she wrote (in an excerpt via Us Weekly), "As a dance partner, standing strong, I came to trust Alan more and more every week. I think that showed in our performances. Our chemistry on the stage led to the press speculating that we had something more going on between us, but we didn't. Off the dance floor, we were not compatible people." She described how they were just "totally different," and also claimed that Bersten pushed her past her limits when they rehearsed.

To add context, Brown also admitted her mental health was at a particularly low ebb when she competed on "DWTS." "I was emotionally unwell. I was on the brink of tears every day, and nobody on the set knew what to do," she wrote.

David Hasselhoff ticked off Kym Johnson with his diva-like antics

When actor David Hasselhoff was partnered with Kym Johnson for the 11th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2010, she thought she had hit the jackpot. "When they told me I had 'The Hoff,' I was so excited," Johnson told ABC News.

That excitement didn't last long, with the pro dancer soon discovering the day-to-day difficulties of trying to rehearse a dance routine with the former "Baywatch" star. As an insider told Us Weekly, Hasselhoff "was a mess" when he showed up. "His people would call staffers 20 times a day, changing rehearsal times, canceling shoots and even suggesting things like camera angles and poses," the source added. "At first, Kym thought getting Hoff as a partner was quite a coup, but then quickly realized it was a mistake. She is so disappointed!"

Luckily for both Johnson and "DWTS" viewers, Hasselhoff's shortcomings on the dance floor were not overlooked by the show's judges; He was the first celebrity voted off the show that season. "Going into this I kinda knew I wasn't going to be the judge's favorite," Hasselhoff told ABC News, insisting that his stiff, Frankenstein-like moves during their cha-cha-cha (set to Tom Jones' "Sexbomb," no less) represented his best effort. "I gave it 120%, and I didn't let back at all," he added. However, judge Bruno Tonioli had the final word when he described the routine as "a potpourri of insanity disguised as dance."

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Vanessa Lachey were 'playing nice for the cameras'

Maksim Chmerkovskiy was teamed up Vanessa Lachey when she was tapped for the show's 25th season in 2017. Reports soon surfaced that the two were not exactly simpatico. "There is a lot of fighting going on behind the scenes," a source told Us Weekly of their volatile relationship. However, viewers were likely oblivious to the behind-the-scenes discord between Lachey and Chmerkovskiy, whose moves on the dance floor impressed the judges week after week. "They're playing nice for the cameras but both are miserable paired with each other," the source added. 

However, an eyebrow-raising situation unfolded during one episode when Chmerkovskiy was absent from the show, forcing Lachey to partner with another dancer, Alan Bersten, for that week's performance. "Maks is dealing with a personal issue so Alan is stepping in and dancing with Vanessa tonight," "DWTS" co-host Erin Andrews informed viewers. According to a different insider, Lachey had shown up for rehearsal that week, but Chmerkovskiy wouldn't rehearse with her.

Meanwhile, a source told People that the situation between the two had become tense. "There's a big chemistry issue. They both have big personalities and that's not always the best recipe for a good partnership," the source said. Chmerkovskiy, however, denied there were any problems at all. "What drama?" he told Us Weekly. "[Things] were never bad. They were great things. It's been a great season."

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough had a blowout argument on camera

It couldn't have been too surprising to viewers of "Dancing with the Stars" when Jennifer Grey – who was best known for hitting the dance floor in "Dirty Dancing" — twirled her way to victory in the series' 11th season in 2010. Grey's journey to winning the Mirrorball Trophy, however, was not without a few bumps in the road, including an occasionally rocky relationship with her dance partner, Derek Hough. That was evident in footage taken from one of their rehearsals and aired on the show, in which Grey stormed out after an angry Hough became exasperated with her difficulties in learning some choreography. 

"I rarely, rarely, rarely, like, lose my temper or anything like that," Hough told People afterwards. "I've seen this one lose hers before. Scary!" Grey also addressed their spat, insisting it was simply one of those heat-of-the-moment things. "Let's just say we're human beings," Grey explained. "I'm very sensitive, and you know, he was frustrated. So what? We're human beings. Whatever. It's not that big a deal." She also blamed the stress of having their rehearsals filmed for the show. "We're like caged animals," she said.

Meanwhile, Hough offered up nothing but praise for his dance partner when he was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly. "Jennifer is amazing," Hough gushed. "She's in fabulous shape — not just for her age but for anyone."