'DWTS': Diana Nyad - I Want To Dance With Cheryl Burke!

‘DWTS’: Diana Nyad - I Want To Dance With Cheryl Burke!

“Dancing with the Stars” will return on Monday, but Season 18 will have a twist: halfway through the competition, the celebrities will be paired with new pro partners, as chosen by viewer votes.

New contestant Diana Nyad, long-distance swimmer (currently paired with newbie pro Henry Byalikov), tells Access Hollywood she’s already got a certain pro in mind, if she’s lucky enough to make it to the trade-off portion!

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“Well, you know, first of all, I don’t like to [get ahead of myself] – I hope I’m here halfway through the season, that’s the main thing –so I don’t like to get too far ahead,” Diana told Access’ Shaun Robinson, at her and Henry’s rehearsal. “But, and this is gonna sound crazy, but I wouldn’t mind dancing with someone like Cheryl Burke for one week!

“Then I’ll be glad to go back to Henry,” she added.

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Diana – who is openly gay — has been an avid fan of “DWTS” since the very first season, and as such, was very familiar with all of the male pros she could have been paired with.

“They like to have a surprise meeting on camera, so I came to that room having watched the show so long, I know every male dancer very well and I was thinking, it doesn’t matter who it is, it could be Max, it could be Val, it could be Derek, it could be Tony, you know, I am gonna accept, because they’re all terrific dancers and I come in and I say, ‘Who the hell is that?!’” she said, laughing. “My first just instantaneous reaction was, you know, that’s not good for me, because the public has their favorite dancers, as well as the celebrities they vote for.”

While their initial meeting was rocky, Diana said it took mere minutes for Henry to start to win her over, and now she wouldn’t trade him for any of her former “Dancing” favorites.

“Five minutes later, Henry is charming, he’s intelligent – which I need of course” she said. “Talk about one week later, I wouldn’t trade him for any of them, any, not for a minute!”

“Dancing with the Stars” Season 18 premieres Monday at 8/7c on ABC.

-- Erin O’Sullivan

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