Tony Dovolani Hints At ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Return After Daughter’s Autism Diagnosis

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Former Dancing with the Stars pro Tony Dovolani is hinting that his time on the hit ABC show may not be completely over just yet, despite him hanging up his dancing shoes after Season 22 in 2016. Though he confirmed last week that he had officially left the show after not appearing on Seasons 23, 24, or 25, Tony appears to be suggesting that there’s a chance he could return in the future.

Just over two months before Dancing with the Stars Season 26 is set to premiere as a shortened, athlete’s only version, Dovolani revealed that he’d be willing to return to the series if the time was right.

“I never say no,” Tony told Hollywood Life when asked about potentially heading back to the show, before then adding a coy, “Maybe.”

However, any big return to the show after three seasons away would have to fit in with his family life to make sure he has time to spend with his children, including his daughter Elsa who is on the autism spectrum.

“At some point in your life, you have to put your priorities straight,” he said. “For me, since the kids grew up, they’re 12 and 9-years-old, my twins are 9-years-old. Elsa was [diagnosed] with autism, so it was time to make a choice, and my choice is always family.”

Tony confirmed his daughter had been diagnosed with autism back in 2014 in an interview with The Huffington Post. He then continued on with the show for two years but ultimately made his last appearance in 2016.

But if Tony ever does head back to the ballroom, it may not be as in the way that DWTS fans have come to know and love him over the past several years.

Dovolani told the site that he’d “absolutely” be open to taking on a role on the judging panel, likely in a similar way to how Julianne Hough made the jump from professional to judge in 2014, which would allow him to spend more time at home with his family.

“I think I can offer a lot to a lot of professionals and a lot of the celebrities that would come through… I’ve been on the show for so long, so I understand their pain,” Tony continued of why he thinks he’d make a good judge alongside Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, and Carrie Ann Inaba.

Tony Dovolani wants to return to 'Dancing with the Stars' as a judge
Tony Dovolani with fellow 'Dancing with the Stars' pros Peta Murgatroyd and Val Chmerkovskiy.Featured image credit: John SciulliGetty Images

“I know what they go through,” Dovolani then added of how his past experience would help him behind the desk. “I think I would be very respectful and constructive when it comes to my criticism.”

Tony’s latest comments come just days after he confirmed amid much speculation that he had officially left the show after skipping out on the last few seasons.

In another interview with Hollywood Life, he appeared to claim the reason for his exit was because he had some bad luck with celebrity partners, namely Kate Plus 8 reality star Kate Gosselin who he danced with back in 2010.

“Some of these celebrities, or reality celebrities, I should say… they have an idea of what they think they are and who they are, and they didn’t realize that I wasn’t there to deal with them,” Tony said of his past stints on the ABC series after it was widely reported that he and Kate didn’t exactly get along.

“So, when it becomes about other than teaching them how to dance, I want no part of it,” Dovolani continued of his decision to leave DWTS.

But while it’s not yet clear which celebrities and professional dancers will be competing on Season 26 later this year – or if Tony will get a spot on the judging panel after Julianne quit last year – a few names are already swirling for the next round of shows.

Names already rumored to be in the mix for the athletes only mini-series include Caitlyn Jenner, Colin Kaepernick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., though ABC isn’t expected to announce the confirmed DWTS line-up until a few days before the big premiere.

Dancing with the Stars shorter Season 26 is expected to debut in April 2018.