How Becoming a Dad Has Changed Artem Chigvintsev's 'DWTS’ Experience

A truly doting dad. It’s been nearly two months since Artem Chigvintsev welcomed his first child, a son named Matteo, with fiancée Nikki Bella — and he couldn’t be more in love.

The Dancing With the Stars pro opened up exclusively to Us Weekly about how different it is returning to the competition series after sitting out one season, especially with his growing family.

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“It’s been surreal coming back and coming back under these circumstances. In the previous seasons, I was so anxious, like fighting for something and trying to do better and be better. And all that, it almost gave me, like, anxiety,” Chigvintsev, 36, said after the Monday, September 28, episode. “This season, it’s kind of nice just to live in the moment, appreciate every performance, take it one day [at a time] and enjoy it. Not be like, ‘Oh, I wish I could get a better score!’ There’s none of that negative energy. I mean, it also helps them to have the most precious little baby at home waiting for me coming back home!”

The Burn the Floor alum’s partner, Kaitlyn Bristowe, chimed in during the interview, noting that becoming a dad has “softened this man up” — something he agrees with!

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“It definitely [creates] a whole different perspective of life, which I think translates into the dance floor,” the Russia native said. “Every single decision you make, it comes from a whole different place. Before, I might have been kind of bitter about things if I didn’t get my way. Now, it’s like you finally reached the realization that things naturally happen and you just embrace them and make something beautiful.”

The former Strictly Come Dancing star added that he just sees things on “a whole different spectrum” after becoming a dad. Additionally, he still feels very lucky that he was asked to return for season 29 after being cut last season.

“It just reminds me how much I love what I do. And taking that time, it kind of made me appreciate every single thing about the show — being able to teach, being able to create, being able to perform live and be able to get feedback from the audience and from the judges,” he said. “This whole process is very addicting. Once you get into it and once you get the taste of it and you get a good taste of it — where you perform really well and enjoy yourself — it’s like a drug. You just want to keep coming and do better and come back and do it again and again.”

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Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.

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