Her victorious DWTS run “brought her family closer,” Chmerkovskiy tells PEOPLE.
“That for me was the accomplishment this season – to see her family outside of their last names or their stature, but as parents, sitting there completely in awe of their daughter,” says Chmerkovskiy, 29, who is close to his own family, including brother Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
“For me that’s huge,” he says. “Validation from a parent? To look at their kid with pride and say, ‘Wow. I never thought she could do that. Thank you so much for allowing us as a family to experience that.’ Being a part of that – that was the best part.”
During Willis’s grueling, 10-week run on the show, her famous parents – Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, who remained close after their 2000 divorce – were often seen tearfully cheering on their daughter in the audience and backstage.
After the 26-year-old’s emotional win, Willis and Moore even surprised her with a special video message congratulating her on her win at GMA’s Dancing with the Stars 2015 After Party the morning after she took home the crown.
“You did it, kid, and I love you,” Moore, 52, said on the video. “You worked so hard. I am so proud of you.”
“Get back out there,” added the dance champion’s dad, 60.
Chmerkovskiy says he loved how encouraging his partner’s parents were throughout the whole season.
“Her dad was incredibly grateful,” he says. He called me many times whether he was on the show or not telling me how proud he was of us and how genuinely happy he was.
“I’m glad that the world got to see a different side of the Willis and Moore family. First of all, they saw class, beyond the images. I know pictures say a thousand words, but they also don t say millions of other words that need to be said.
“Her younger sister, Tallulah, 21, got to speak and got to show what a wonderful, intellectual, classy lady she is. The whole family is pleasantly surprising in the most incredible way.”
Willis loved dancing on the show so much that she joined the Dancing with the Stars: Live! Perfect Ten Tour this summer, which kicks off June 13 in Atlantic City.
“They can’t get rid of me just yet,” she tells PEOPLE, laughing. “I love being here with them. I love everybody.”
She says she would like to keep dancing after that – on Broadway or on the silver screen.
“I definitely want to make it part of hopefully whatever career opportunities come up for me,” she says.”I definitely want to make sure that there are some dance elements to it.”
Dance pro Tony Dovolani, who said having her on the show was fantastic, supports her desire to dance more.
Says Dovolani, 41, “It’s a beautiful thing, and we are going to support that all the way to the end.”