Maksim Chmerkovskiy, <EM>Dancing with the Stars</EM> Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Dancing with the Stars

This may break a million hearts, but Dancing with the Stars pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy says he won't be returning for Season 6 in March. "The 25 million viewers are going to remember me whether I'm there or not," says Chmerkovskiy, who hopes to return to professional ballroom competition and is busy over the holidays choreographing a New Year's Eve show at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Chmerkovskiy, 27, says he's had a great time over the past four seasons teaching celebrities like Spice Girl Mel B. and boxing champ Laila Ali how to dance. But he's impatient to become a student again himself. "Other dancers on this show have aspirations to become actors and singers and they lose focus of where they came from," says Maks. "The second you close that door and stop educating yourself? You stop developing." 

Maks' continuing education, he says, will involve bringing to this country a fantastic Russian dancer "who I personally want to dance with," he says. "We're going to start practicing. I want to go back to my coaches, to learning."   

The fact that so many viewers care about his future just underscores the fact that this was the year that the Dancing pros finally came into their own. In this fifth season, some of them — notably Maks, Cheryl Burke, Julianne Hough and Edyta Sliwinska — were more famous than some of the celebrities on the show's roster, including models Albert Reed and Josie Maran. 

But Maks says that instead of falling in love with Hollywood and all its trappings, the celebrity spotlight turned him off. "This is a very lucrative world," he says. "And I spent some time here just looking around and going, 'Wow, this is an amazing house.' But I'm a very analytical person. And right away, I looked past the curtains and I saw the drugs and the difficult lifestyles and the failed marriages. And I saw absolutely no family values — and that is the most important thing."

Maks, who is single, is quick to point out that his last two partners — both married — are not included in that description. "It's really important to me to maintain the relationship after the show," he says. "With Laila, I love her. But it didn't work because she's a very private, very reserved person. But this season, with Mel, this is a person I'll be able to call any time and say, 'Hey, I'm in town. Let's have dinner.'"

Maks and Ali came in third in the competition. Maks and Mel B. were the runners-up. Has not crossing the finish line first been another source of frustration? "I don't think a woman can win this competition," says Maks. Why not? "Because women don't vote for other women." Then he surprises you with the last thing you'd think would come out of his self-assured mouth. "Women, in general, are better dancers than men," he says. "Except for Mario Lopez and Emmitt Smith, in every other season, there were women who should have won."

Regarding Mel B., Maks says the two developed an instant rapport. "From day one, you saw us on that [video] clip where I said, 'Ready… set… go.' And she said, 'No!' And we laughed from then on. I told her, 'You have to let it go. That control.' And she told me later, 'You're probably the first man that I can say, "I just met you and I totally gave up control."' And it's a really big deal when you're being moved around and spun around and jerked around. For a grown person to just be led, it's a big deal."

He may be walking away from Hollywood, but that's one memory Maks will be taking with him. "The fact that she allowed me to really teach her means a lot to me."

Relive Maks' Dancing moments in our Online Video Guide.

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