The fall 2013 season of "Dancing with the Stars" kicks off Sept. 16 on ABC with an all-new cast of celebrity mirror ball trophy hopefuls. In a Sept. 5 Today blog entry, returning professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy, who successfully partnered Disney star Zendaya to a second place finish at the close of "DWTS" season 16, dished on his brand new better dance half.
Assigned the difficult task of following fan-favorite Zendaya on Val's dance card is actress Elizabeth Berkley, who played beautiful bookworm Jessie Spano on the 1990s teen sitcom "Saved by the Bell." Val shared that he was gratified to learn that the actress had requested him as her pro coach, and wrote that it "feels great" to be paired with someone who knows and has respect for his work.
Although he admitted that Elizabeth has prior dance experience and that she even considers the art form to be her "main passion," he went on to explain that she hasn't performed in "over 20 plus years," and that doing so will involve a lot of emotion. He likened her enthusiasm to that of "a kid in a candy store" and insisted that she's "here for the right reason."
Val, who is the younger brother of show favorite Maksim Chmerkovskiy, has enjoyed success during two of his four seasons as a "DWTS" pro. In addition to the highly successful pairing with Zendaya, he also partnered soap star Kelly Monaco to a third place finish during the ultra competitive all-star season.
Whether or not Elizabeth has enough star power to advance far into "DWTS" season 17 remains to be seen. She faces stiff competition from a number of her celebrity competitors, including actress Amber Riley, whose turn on the mega hit "Glee" makes her one of the season's most recognized personalities. Riley is paired with four-time pro winner Derek Hough, who along with celebrity partner Kellie Pickler, bested Val and Zendaya to win the spring 2013 season.
The "Dancing with the Stars" fall 2013 season begins Sept. 16 on ABC.