Dancing with the Stars professional dancer Derek Hough says the show will go on without Maksim Chmerkovskiy -- suggesting it may even be better without the controversial, outspoken figure. "We had a meeting with the producers. We always have a meeting before the show, and we really want to bring like the innocence back to the show and the positivity and the fun and not -- [yes] be competitive -- but we don't want to make it sort of negative competitiveness," Hough told Entertainment Tonight.
Hough, a three-time champion, made the comment after Dancing with the Stars' sixteenth-season cast was officially announced on Tuesday and Chmerkovskiy's name was not on the list. "It's the nature of the show, you know? People aren't asked back certain seasons and come back later, like [Chelsie Hightower]'s not back and [Louis van Amstel]'s not back. It's just the nature of the show," Hough added. "But it'll be a different dynamic but that's what it's about I suppose. I'm excited for the new pros."
Chmerkovskiy -- who has competed in thirteen of Dancing with the Stars' prior seasons but never won -- said in a statement he's leaving the show because he's "eager to explore other opportunities" such as "producing and acting" and "fulfilling my sponsorship obligations." The pro dancer had previously announced he planned to leave the reality dancing competition when his contract expired after Season 17.
In addition to Chmerkovskiy, Van Amstel and Hightower, Anna Trebunskaya will also not be returning to the mix as a professional partner this season. However, a show representative recently noted the group will "continue to be a part of the Dancing with the Stars family," according to People. Dancing with the Stars' sixteenth season will premiere Monday, March 18 at 8PM ET/PT on ABC -- one week after the finale of Sean Lowe's currently-airing The Bachelor edition airs in the same time period on March 11.