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Dancing With the Stars’ Karina Smirnoff Explains Kissing Ex-Fiance Maksim Chmerkovskiy During Live Show: “I Didn’t Know What Else to Do”

Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff on July 30, 2013 in New York
Dancers Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff were engaged from 2008 to 2009.

The Dancing With the Stars semi-finals was filled with fast footwork and tears as the finalists were crowned and former King of Queens star Leah Remini was sent home. But loyal fans of the ABC competition show got a special treat when former flames Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were reunited. 

Smirnoff, 35, is a current pro on the show, who along with partner Corbin Bleu is heading to this season’s finals. Chmerkovskiy, 33, used to be a pro on the show, and, despite a somewhat heated exit from the show in 2012, returned on Nov. 18 to be a guest judge. The seasoned dancers were engaged from December 2008 to September 2009 before amicably splitting. 

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So Smirnoff was clearly anxious to dance in front of her ex on Monday night. But the Ukrainian performer had nothing to worry about. Chmerkovskiy gave her high marks on both performances, and following her second dance — the rumba — he had some especially kind words 

“I think you have a huge advantage in this competition,” he said to Bleu. “You have what I consider to be Top 5 best female dancers of all time.”

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Touched by her ex’s words, Smirnoff left Bleu’s side and ran up to the judge’s table to give Chmerkovskiy a kiss on the cheek. After the show, she explained her actions to Us Weekly.

“He had such a sweet comment, and I didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “I was like, that’s so sweet. Should I give him a kiss?”

corbin bleu and karina smirnoff
Karina Smirnoff dances with her partner, Corbin Bleu, on Dancing With the Stars season 17.

And Smirnoff had a critique of her own for her former flame. 

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“I think he did a great job,” she said. “He had a lot of constructive criticism because he has been on both sides now, as a judge and as a dancer, and he knows how much work we put in every week getting the dances ready. I think he did a great job, and I was pleasantly surprised with that comment, but Maks is always full of surprises!”

Smirnoff dated her DWTS season 6 partner Mario Lopez from 2006 to 2008, and after Chmerkovskiy, she was engaged to MLB pitcher Brad Penny until 2011 when the couple ended the engagement. 

Chmerkovskiy is currently dating Sport’s Illustrated model Kate Upton, and recently talked to Us about the blond bombshell. 

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“She’s an amazing person,” he told Us. “We have an incredible time together, and, you know, I definitely didn’t see that coming and I think neither did she.”

Chmerkovskiy isn’t the first former pro to return to guest judge this season. Dancer-turned-actress Julianne Hough caused quite a stir on the show when she gave a controversial critique of since-eliminated pro Mark Ballas in early October. 

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