Look who’s returning to Dancing With the Stars to take back the trophy!
EW has learned exclusively that Karina Smirnoff, the 37-year-old Ukrainian-American who won the Mirror Ball Trophy in season 13 with soap opera star J.R. Martinez, will head back to the ballroom for its 21st season.
“I was a little nervous about not dancing on the show at all last season. I was doing it for the last 10 years,” says Smirnoff, who took season 20 off to promote her book We’re Just Not That Into You: Dating Disasters from the Trenches and to star in the indie film Tango Shalom opposite Lainie Kazan. “I had other things to do in my life, but not going back to the show felt like trying to see if I can walk on my own two feet! I’ve had obvious moments when I missed it.”
Though casting for season 21 is still underway, EW can also confirm exclusively that season 20 champ Val Chmerkovskiy (who won with Rumer Willis) and Witney Carson (who last danced with Chris Soules) will return this season, as well. The rest of the pros for the new season are expected to be revealed this week.
The pros still don’t know with whom they’ll be partnered for the new season. Though Good Morning America is expected to reveal the stars during the first week of September, Smirnoff says that the pros themselves sometimes only find out on the first day of reheasrsal.
“I’m excited and a little nervous,” admits Smirnoff. “Normally I can at least narrow it down a little bit, like whether it will be an athlete or an actor, but I have no idea.”
Dancing With the Stars returns Sept. 14 on ABC.
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