Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Dancing with the Stars' lineup of Season 8 celebs has been released, and fan-fave pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy finds himself happily hooked up with actress/reality star Denise Richards. sat down with Maksim on the set of Good Morning America, where he met Denise for the first time, to get his thoughts on some of this season's other celebs. How does it feel to be back competing on Dancing with the Stars?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy: We're very happy, especially in this economy, that we get a job. It's a little bit of a whirlwind because we literally finished our last day of the tour yesterday, in Philly. Some of the people already flew out to meet their celebrities, and this is my meeting [with Denise]. We start rehearsals [Feb. 10]. Did you get to indulge in any pet projects during your time off?
Chmerkovskiy: I didn't have time off. I choreographed the tour, which went to 38 cities, and I was also the dance captain in charge of all the injuries and replacing people... . It was a crazy experience, and a lot of work. But it's fine. I'm 29; I'll relax when I'm 50. How excited are you to be paired with Denise?
Chmerkovskiy: Very. Very. Things are happening up here [in my head], as to what we're going to do for our first dance... . I'm picking up on all the things she's been saying about her flexibility and the Pilates. Most of the things that are difficult for the celebrities are moving their legs and arms in different directions at the same time, to the music. Coordination is important. [Olympic gymnast] Shawn Johnson might have the athleticism and Belinda Carlisle and Lil' Kim may have rhythm, but...
Chmerkovskiy: Lil' Kim is going to be up for a challenge, I think. We'll see. The cast is as diverse as it's ever been. All jokes aside, there are some people that I would probably not want to be paired up with. I lucked out with Denise. What sort of unique challenges face Shawn Johnson, who is just 4-foot-10?
Chmerkovskiy: I actually think her main challenge is that she's so young [age 17] in a big girl's world, so to speak. Her challenge will be to spice things up if the judges say that she's too quiet and calm. But we all saw her at the Olympics — she's amazing and focused and determined. A very hard worker. She could break into a tumbling pass in the middle of a Paso Doble!
Chmerkovskiy: Oh, she could do a cha-cha on her hands! We're kind of guessing that she'll be paired up with Mark [Ballas], and he's crazy with the [choreography]. Some are speculating that dancing as a team could be tough on Julianne Hough and Chuck Wicks, her country singer-boyfriend. But I think if DWTS has shown us anything, it's that it cultivates romance. They could come out of this stronger.
Chmerkovskiy: I don't want to start the season with a usual Maks rant, so I'm going to plead the fifth on that pairing!