“She’s a great student. She knows how to take direction and she doesn’t take things personally. With me, I think that’s, like, the biggest thing. There’s a very — and I wouldn’t say it’s a thin line — I think it’s a very clear difference between being hard and demanding accountability when it comes to the work that we do on the show. In regards [to] me, at least,” Chmerkovskiy, 36, exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, September 27. “I try to not to venture into being a dick as much as I can. I do have dick moments, but she thankfully is patient enough to understand that.”
According to the DWTS pro, his ability to communicate with Windey, 31, has also helped the partners make significant progress in the competition. “I’m the first to say that the patience that you want from me when it comes to teaching you how to dance [is] what I would love back,” he continued. “I have moments [that are] not my best moments, but once those moments pass I’ll be the first to make them right. [So] Gabby has been wonderful to work with and I’m only as good as my partner.”
The Ukraine native, who has previously won two seasons of the ABC ballroom dance series, offered a glimpse at his dynamic with Windey that fans may not have seen yet on screen. (The pair scored 28/40 and 32/40 in their first two weeks.)
“We laugh about it [but] she calls me a short king. We joke around about the height challenge, especially in the ballroom dances,” he shared with Us. “We talked about the physical challenge of our height, but slowly that just starts to disappear. I feel it even in our couple [of performances so far]. It was challenging for me because there’s also an aesthetic that I enjoy in my dances. I enjoy being, like, significantly bigger in size where here I just have to carry myself as that regardless.”
Chmerkovskiy added: “But you could feel it in the dancing. It’s becoming much more together and we could still create that speed and power. Other than that, really, the challenge has been her schedule. She’s wrapping up The Bachelorette, so we missed two days last week, which was kind of a challenge. But she’s fully focused on the competition and I’m excited.”
The choreographer hinted that he was in a better space than in years prior when it comes to his participation on the series. “I’m in such a different mental place than I was if you asked me this question, like, five years ago,” he admitted. “I would’ve given you a little bit more bravado [in my] answer [years ago]. But I definitely feel like it’s a different type of season for me. It definitely is a new feeling for me.”
Chmerkovskiy, who is expecting his first child with wife Jenna Johnson, noted that he is making more of an attempt to be “grateful” for his journeys both in and out of the DWTS ballroom.
“Eastern Europeans, we are very superstitious people. Anytime we have anything good in our life, we knock on every piece of wood we see. It’s like we have to whisper our blessings just in case, you know?” he added. “So I feel very lucky. I have a great partner. She’s wonderful to work with and she’s loved by a lot of people. She can dance, and I think I have every single tool I can ask for when it comes to a show like Dancing With the Stars. So I hope not to mess it up.”
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi