Laurie Hernandez wins 'Dancing With the Stars': How pros help celebrities

The season finale for the 23rd season of the ABC reality competition 'Dancing With the Stars' aired Tuesday. Among the finalists, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and former football player Calvin Johnson Jr. faced off.

ABC
Calvin Johnson Jr. (l.) and Lindsay Arnold (r.) appear on the Nov. 22 episode of 'Dancing With the Stars.'

Olympic athlete Laurie Hernandez became the latest celebrity to win a season of the ABC reality TV competition “Dancing With the Stars,” with her partner, professional dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy, who won the competition for the second time. 

Ms. Hernandez, who competed in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this past summer, triumphed over competitors James Hinchliffe, who is a race car driver, partnered with Sharna Burgess, a professional dancer, and former NFL player Calvin Johnson Jr. and his partner professional dancer Lindsay Arnold. 

The season won by Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy is the twenty-third for the long-running ABC reality competition. A new season of the program will likely premiere next spring, as “Dancing” usually airs two seasons a year. 

"It's awesome," Chmerkovskiy told ENews. "It's absolutely unparalleled how fulfilling it is to work with a young girl [she's 16] like that, see her blossom…and grow and ultimately come out triumphant."

Chmerkovskiy’s previous victory was a recent one, as the professional dancer triumphed with actress Rumer Willis when the duo competed during the twentieth season of “DWTS.” 

The pro dancers are an important part of any celebrity’s win on “DWTS,” as the professionals are often teaching the celebrity participants dance skills. Entertainment Weekly writer Annie Barrett wrote of professional dancer Cheryl Burke, who has won the competition twice, “As long as she's paired with someone willing to try, Cheryl's fierce training method guarantees results.” 

While other professional dancers, including Peta Murgatroyd and Julianne Hough, have also won a season of “DWTS” twice along with Burke and Chmerkovskiy, the professional dancer who has won the most seasons of “DWTS” is by far dancer Derek Hough, who has become the winner along with his celebrity dancing partner six times.

How does Hough, in particular, triumph so often? Amber Riley, who won a season of the show with Hough, credited him with motivating her. “You always pushed me to be better,” Ms. Riley told Hough

And Ms. Barrett says Hough thinks outside the box when working on the routines for himself and his partner. “The choreography king … has been churning out the show’s flashiest, most innovative routines ever since [debuting on the show],” she wrote.

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