Misty May-Treanor and Maksim Chmerkovskiy by Karen Neal/ABC
Much to the dismay of Dancing with the Stars fans, pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy sat last season out. But now, rested and refreshed - and having gone through some physical rehabilitation - Maks is back and polishing his moves for season seven beginning Sept. 22. Never one to hide his feelings, Maks couldn't be happier about his new partner: Two-time Olympic gold medal-winning beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor. - Deborah Starr Seibel

TVGuide.com: You said you needed a break from the show. But did you miss it?
Maksim Chmerkovskiy: I actually did. And I'm happy to be back. The only thing I was worried about was I thought that I was gonna get punished for taking time off and get somebody to dance with who was not good. But they ended up rewarding me by giving me probably the best partner I could have. I thought I couldn't top Mel B.

TVGuide.com: Misty is better than Mel B?
Chmerkovskiy: I was shocked, and I don't throw that word around lightly. People are going to be very surprised by how well she's going to dance. Laila (Ali, season four) had an incredible work ethic. But I could be too much for her. She'd say: You've gotta back off. And then Mel (season five) was just this incredible personality. But she had zero attention span. So here, in Misty, I have a combination of the best qualities of both. She's like a perfect person to love. She has this aura of sweetness, and she'll practice for as long as it takes. Let Cheryl [Burke] and Julianne [Hough] collect the trophies. I'll collect friends for life.

TVGuide.com: Did your body benefit from the time off?
Chmerkovskiy: I took care of my health while I was off. I did this groundbreaking thing called MUA (a chiropractic treatment, Manipulation Under Anesthesia). They manipulated my muscles and broke up all the scar tissue. I was concerned about my lower back and my knees. And I had a small tear in a ligament in my left shoulder. But now, I feel great. I feel a lot more flexible.

TVGuide.com: You sound excited to be back.
Chmerkovskiy: For some of the other pros, it's just a show. Or a stepping stone to something else. But for me, it's me representing the ballroom world, so I have to do the best I can. I put a lot into it. And I have to do it on my own terms.