Gabby Windey on ‘Vulnerability’ of ‘DWTS’ vs. ‘Bachelorette’ as Val Chmerkovskiy Sits Out Halloween Episode

Gabby Windey and Val Chmerkovskiy in 'Dancing With the Stars'
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ABC/Eric McCandless

Gabby Windey (The Bachelorette) continues her quest for mirror ball glory on Dancing With the Stars tonight but she will do so without her pro partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy. The two-time DWTS mirror ball champion shared on Friday that he has tested positive for COVID and will not dance this week. Alan Bersten, who was voted off the show last week with singer Jessie James Decker, will step in and perform the Argentine Tango with Windey.

“I’ll be back next week,” Chmerkovskiy shared on social media. “Thank you for your support. This is a minor setback for a major comeback.”

The dance pro’s upbeat attitude is consistent with how he was feeling when TV Insider, along with a small group of reporters, spoke to him and Windey after their performance on Michael Bublé Night. “Life is good,” Chmerkovskiy said. “I’m very grateful to be enjoying my life, my personal life, and I’m super-grateful to be enjoying my life professionally. I’ve really got it all.”

Last week, Chmerkovskiy’s wife, Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy, stopped by the rehearsal hall to help Windey perfect the dance she was doing with her husband as the rumba called for the two to dance quite intimately.

“I’ve been doing rumbas with girls since I was 10 years old,” says Chmerkovskiy, who hastened to add that he understands how it might be difficult for Windey to dance with him so closely as she doesn’t come from the dance world. “I wanted Gabby to feel comfortable [so] Jenna [came] in and offered advice. I can help guide her but Jenna came in and helped Gabby find inspiration.”

The pre-dance video package was both helpful and a bit comical as Johnson Chmerkovskiy illustrated to Windey what she had to do in order to dance a proper rumba with her husband. “It [was] a more seductive dance and so, you want ‘permission,’” Windey says. “Learning from Jenna and getting her OK empowered me to perform. Jenna’s an amazing dancer and she keeps Val in check. I learn so much from her.”

Johnson Chmerkovskiy’s contributions helped the duo score an impressive 46 points – nine each from judges Carrie Anna Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough, and guest judge Michael Bublé, and a 10 from Bruno Tonioli.

Gabby Windey and Val Chmerkovskiy in 'Dancing With the Stars'

ABC/Eric McCandless

After the duo’s dance, in an impromptu moment, Chmerkovskiy invited co-host Alfonso Ribeiro to press his ear onto Chmerkovskiy’s bare chest as Windey had done during their routine. “Those are my favorite moments,” Chmerkovskiy shared. “The exchanges with Alfonso and the live element. It makes for the best show… it’s live, streaming… even if you don’t see the show ’til later, you can’t replace that feeling.”

Did Chmerkovskiy’s heart beat faster when Ribeiro had his ear to his chest? “Oh, for sure,” the dance pro chuckled.

As a lead on The Bachelorette, Windey has fallen in love on national with Erich Schwer and also performed intimate dances with Chmerkovskiy on DWTS. Which has been more challenging? “I think playing the ‘role’ here is,” Windey says. “You have to believe it. There’s a lot of vulnerability and ‘danger’ danger… uncharted territory. I think it’s because I’ve never acted or anything like that before. I’m always true to myself. I think people know how real I am. So, when I’m sniffing Val’s mustache it’s not because I want to — it’s because I want a ‘10.’”

Not only are the Chmerkovskiys expecting their first child but former DWTS champion Lindsay Arnold has announced that she’s expecting her second child. Perhaps in about a decade or so, the offspring of the dance pros could take part in another Dancing With the Stars: Juniors? “Oh, my gosh … that’s an idea,” enthuses Windey. “Why would we want to put our kids through that?” rhetorically quipped Chmerkovskiy. “Yeah, right … like you’re not going to,” Windey chuckles.

One thing Chmerkovskiy might revisit is his violin playing on the show — especially now that pro dancer/two-time mirror ball champion Mark Ballas is back in the competition. The two played musical instruments and danced with other dancers to a Britney Spears hit on DWTS in 2011. “We bonded together with that ‘Toxic’ performance,” Chmerkovskiy recalls. “We want to do a 2.0 version. The show has been so supportive of letting the dancers shine. It’s empowering and inspiring us to do more stuff. We’re going to do something.”

Dancing With the Stars, Mondays, 8/7, Disney+