‘DWTS’ Pro Jenna Johnson Previews Tonight’s Double-Elimination Semi-Finals

ABC/Eric McCandless

While it’s still anybody’s mirror ball championship to win on Season 29 of Dancing With the Stars, dance pro Jenna Johnson and Nev Schulman (Catfish: The TV Series) are headed into tonight’s semi-finals as the competition’s top-scoring couple. Tonight, the duo will perform two routines – a contemporary dance set to “If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe and Julia Michaels, and one chosen by the judges as a “redemption dance” to which they’ll dance to Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times.”

Is Johnson on her way to winning a bookend trophy? (She and Olympic ice-skater Adam Rippon won Dancing With the Stars Season 26 – also known as Dancing With the Stars: Athletes.)

TV Insider chatted with Johnson about her mindset going into tonight’s live performance, how she and husband, dance pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy, help each other throughout the competition, and her plans for the future, where she will continue to be an advocate for people with mental health and body-image issues.

What preview can you give of both the dance and your mindset going into tonight’s show?

Jeanna Johnson: I’m really excited about tonight. We’re doing a contemporary dance, which will be Nev’s first time doing that. The story behind it is both personal and relative to everyone regarding what’s going on this year. We’re excited to share it with the world. This year has been very hard for so many and we’re hoping to bring a little bit of light with our performance tonight.

And you have a “redemption dance,” too?

Yes. We are going to be “redeeming” our Foxtrot from week one. Nev has improved vastly since then. I’m so excited to redo it. Hopefully, there’s a big difference that everyone will see, mostly, the judges.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jenna Johnson Chmerkovskiy (@jennajohnson)

How do tonight’s semi-finals differ from other nights?

It’s nerve-wracking because there’s a double-elimination. That automatically adds another level of anxiety and stress. We’re going into it like any other night, bringing our A game tonight, and we’ll hope for the best. What I’ve loved about our partnership is that Nev and I both take each week at a time.

'Dancing With the Stars': Meet Season 29's Semifinalists See Also

'Dancing With the Stars': Meet Season 29's Semifinalists

Six couples are left, and three have received perfect scores so far.

How have you seen Nev progress throughout the season?

Yes. Nev came into this show being a super fan of Dancing With the Stars, which I think everyone saw. He was delighted to be a part of the show. I can tell he’s gotten stronger. He’s transformed over these past 10 weeks. When I look back at our pieces, I’ve seen that he’s gotten so much better. The first two weeks there were some frantic nerves going on, but he’s settled in and has found his groove.

Had you ever experienced the show as a two-night format?

As a troupe member, I had. I remember the two-night format being a lot of fun. People got to relax a bit. There were artist performances and pro dances on Tuesday night. It was a show. Unfortunately, at the end of the night, there’d be an elimination. The one-night format adds pressure because you can be eliminated on the same night you perform. But, as a competitive person, I find that to be fun. I’m used to it now. I’ve spent more seasons on the show with the one-night format.

Will you and Val help each other out once one of you is eliminated?

We [actually] both help each other throughout the season. This season was very abnormal. Val’s the person I can call if I have any idea. Back when I was a troupe member, I’d be that for him. I love our partnership that we have. It’s powerful.

This season, there have been no backup dancers and few props used in routines. How do you feel about that?

The show has definitely been stripped back, which has added more pressure. Everyone’s watching you. I’ve gone back to the fundamentals of teaching. There’s no covering things up by hiding your star behind other dancers. It has felt like the show’s earlier seasons.

Tyra Banks, Jenna Johnson, Nev Schulman, DWTS

ABC/Eric McCandless

What was it like having Adam Rippon as a partner?

I laughed more that season than any time my life. It was constant. It’s not like Adam’s trying hard to be funny. It comes naturally and he’s so sweet as well. It was never sarcasm. It was just a series of comments that were hilarious.

'DWTS' Carrie Ann Inaba on That Hug With Kaitlyn & Artem: 'COVID Is No Joke!'See Also

'DWTS' Carrie Ann Inaba on That Hug With Kaitlyn & Artem: 'COVID Is No Joke!'

A perfect score for Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev leads to a spontaneous hug with the social distancing judge.

How have you found Derek as a judge?

He’s brilliant. I absolutely love that Derek is here as a judge. I respect him. I know his credentials. I’ve seen him experience the show as a pro dancer. Everything that he says he’s spot-on. He’s fair and he’s honest. I love his constructive criticism and I take that into my next rehearsal with Nev. I miss seeing him dance on the show and as a pro, but I’ll take him as a judge any day.

Your bio states that your journey hasn’t always been easy as you’ve battled mental health and body image issues. What would you like to do to help people?

I don’t take my having a role in the public eye for granted. The reason I’m open about [my challenges in life] is because I have been through these hard times. I don’t like to sugarcoat my experiences because they weren’t easy. There need to be more people who speak out. I’ve done charity work and spoken at both schools and facilities for women. We only do disservice if we try to cover things up or act embarrassed about them. I want to be there for others.

Final thoughts on going into tonight’s show?

Yes. This is the most important night. Nev and I will either advance to the finals or not. He and I both so appreciate all the support we’ve gotten from all the people who have voted for us, so, please, vote, vote, vote!

To vote for Nev Schulman and Jenna you can either text NEV to 21523 or go to ABC.com


Dancing With the Stars, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC