Dancing With the Stars pro Alan Bersten couldn't have asked for a more perfect time for him and partner Skai Jackson to earn the first 10 of the season from the judges. Having dedicated their Foxtrot to "Ordinary People" by John Legend to the Disney Channel actress' late Jessie co-star Cameron Boyce, who passed away in July 2019, Bersten said Friday on PopCulture @ Home he was "shocked" to get a 28/30 from the judges.
Getting the first 10 of the season was "totally unbelievable," the pro dancer told PopCulture.com. "I don't know if you saw my face, but I was shocked." Jackson's live performance during Monday's show was the best it had ever been, he continued, which is "so rewarding when you put in so much hard work then finally when it counts, you make it happen." Looking back on the previous week's far lower scores, it was quite the comeback. "Last week we got sixes, so to go to nines and a 10, it's like, 'What is happening?!'" he recalled of the big moment.
Dedicating the dance to Boyce, who died at just 20 due to complications with epilepsy, added extra "pressure" to his side as the choreographer and team leader. "[The dance was] something that [Jackson] had to be extremely vulnerable with and open up to me about things that I don't think she's ever opened up about," Bersten said, adding, "We finished the dance and we knew that that was something special. And so for the judges to kind of agree with us, and for it to resonate with [Carrie Ann Inaba] so much, it just meant the world to me."
"It felt like such a sigh of relief once it was done that it goes well, because there was so much riding on it," he continued. "Aside from the scores — I don't care about the scores — but for Skai to be able to go out there, get emotional and tell her story about someone who meant so much to her, that makes me feel really special that I had some part of that."
Even with the first 10 of the season, there's no room to coast with what Bersten thinks could be the most competitive cast DWTS has ever had. "This season more than ever, every single person could make the finals," he told PopCulture. "If you look at the dancing, everyone's really good. And then the personalities — everyone's really good. I feel like they really made this the best cast."
Going into '80s week, Jackson and Bersten will continue the "celebration" of their 10 with a Jazz dance to "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News for Back to the Future. "We did get the first 10 ... I'm gonna keep mentioning that," he joked. "We're gonna use that motivation and that momentum moving forward this week and just enjoy this dance, have fun on the floor." Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.