The Dancing with the Stars season 16 contestants and their pro partners were announced at a live event Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. And when the dust settled, fans may have been left wondering why Maksim Chmerkovskiy wasn’t among the pairs.
The outspoken pro, who has competed in 13 of the past 15 season but never won, released a statement about sitting out the current competition, which begins March 18.
“I just want to set the record straight to all of my amazing fans that I will unfortunately not be returning for this season of Dancing with the Stars,” he said in the statement.
“I’ve been a pro dancer on the show for about seven years now and am eager to explore other opportunities that have been made possible because of Dancing with the Stars. I’m going to take this time to dive into producing and acting, while fulfilling my sponsorship obligations.”
Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower and Louis Van Amstel were other familiar names not called out on Tuesday. According to a rep for the ABC show, fans shouldn’t read too much into the omissions.
“We frequently rotate the professional dancers, so it is not unusual for them to rest a cycle,” the rep says. “As we consider who will be matched up each season, there are a lot of factors that dictate which couples make the best pairings. We appreciate each of our dancers’ dedication to the show, so this is a very difficult decision. Anna, Chelsie, Louis and Maks continue to be a part of the Dancing with the Stars family.”
“This has been such a big part of [my brother’s] life and such a big part of our family’s life the last seven years. It’s obviously sad to see him not be a part of it, but it’s an open-ended finish,” Val told PEOPLE on Tuesday. “My brother and Dancing with the Stars have a very good relationship. For the fact that they’re allowing him to do his thing and discover his other talents and passions and acting, I’m happy. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s positive.”
Indeed, Maksim’s statement seemed to reflect that positivity: “A big thank you to all of my fans for your never-ending support,” he said. “I also want to thank the entire cast and production of Dancing with the Stars.”
• Reporting by DAHVI SHIRA and MONICA RIZZO