When JoJo Siwa was announced as part of Dancing with the Stars 30th season, her casting came with a historical footnote. The former Dance Moms star, who recently came out as part of the LGBTQ+ community in January 2021, is competing on DWTS as part of the show’s first same-sex pairing in the show’s 16-year history. When Siwa stepped out on the dance floor for the first time, audiences learned pro dancer Jenna Johnson is the other half of this pairing. These facts about Jenna Johnson from DWTS are just some of the reasons why she was chosen to be Siwa’s other half.
Dancing with the Stars’ decision to pair Siwa with a woman dance partner comes only a year after the series it is based on, Strictly Come Dancing, did the same over in the U.K. Despite the history of same-sex dance partners stretching back decades on traditional dance floors, it wasn’t until 2020 that Strictly broke barriers by pairing Olympic champion boxer Nicola Adams with pro Katya Jones. (For the 2021 season, Strictly is introducing its first male same-sex pairing, giving fans hope DWTS may follow suit there as well.)
Nicola and Katya only lasted three weeks in the overseas version of the show, something that DWTS seems to be hoping to avoid by partnering Siwa with Johnson. Here are a few facts about Johnson and why her pairing with Siwa might go the distance on Season 30.
1. Johnson comes from a dancing background.
Johnson comes from a dancing family, with two professional dancer older sisters. She spent her younger years on the competition circuit and is a five-time U.S. National Latin Champion and a three-time National Contemporary Winner. Before crossing over to dancing competitions on TV, she represented the United States at the 2012 World Latin Dance Champions.
2. Johnson has a history with reality shows.
Like Siwa, Johnson has a long history of performing on TV, making them an ideal pairing. She first entered the world of reality competition when she appeared on Season 10 of So You Think You Can Dance in 2013. Like many SYTYCD alumni, she parlayed that experience into becoming part of the DWTS troupe of dancers the following year. Since 2014’s Season 18, she’s been part of the DWTS family in one way or another, either as part of the larger esprit de corps or as a dance pro partner.
3. She won DWTS before.
Johnson was first paired as a pro in Season 23 with celebrity Jake T. Austin. In her first year, she didn’t go very far, and then she sat out Season 24. But when she returned to the partner circuit in Season 26, Johnson was far more ready. Her second time out, she took partner Adam Rippon to the finals and won the mirrorball trophy.
Since then, Johnson hasn’t won a second time, but she’s gotten close. Last year, in Season 29, she made it to the finale with partner Nev Schulman, ultimately taking the first runner-up prize. If Siwa was looking for someone primed to go all the way this year, Johnson is a smart choice.
4. Johnson is married to a DWTS cast member.
Following her win in Season 26, Johnson announced her engagement to another Dancing with the Stars ballroom-dance professional, Valentin Chmerkovskiy. The two married in 2019.
The Chmerkovskiy name is almost synonymous with DWTS. Val’s older brother, Maksim, was part of the show’s troupe for 15 years, since Season 2 when Val was still a dance student; the brothers danced off against each other on TV for years following. Val joined as a troupe member in his own right in Season 13, only a couple of years before Johnson.
Johnson’s marriage to Val means she’s not only married to one of the best dancers ever on DWTS, but she’s also the in-law of two others. (Maksim married DWTS pro Peta Murgatroyd in 2017.) That makes her one of the ultimate established DWTS pros, bringing gravitas to her pairing with Siwa that a newer cast member might not have.
See how far Siwa and Johnson can go together as Dancing with the Stars Season 30 continues with new episodes every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.