For Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy â€“ arguably best known for their respective star turns on the hit show â€œDancing with the Starsâ€ â€“ dance is something they know very well. As to what turned the two brothers on to the discipline, Maks can only guess. He claims that his parents had no background in that area whatsoever, but he does recall that they instilled in them a desire for excellence early on: â€œThey were just young parents when somebody said to them, â€˜In order for them to have a happy childhood and become productive people, they have to try everything.â€™ They took it literally. We did everything. We danced. We played sports. We excelled in academics.â€
In addition to having them participate in countless activities, Maks and Valâ€™s father taught his sons one steadfast belief. â€œHis theory in life was that it doesnâ€™t matter who you are. You can be a janitor â€“ no disrespect to janitors â€“ but you have to try to be the best at it,â€ he relates. Maks also asserts that it wasnâ€™t all drive: â€œWe didnâ€™t have a lot of money, but what we didnâ€™t have financially we made up for with an abundance of love. How can you not succeed in that sort of environment?â€
And succeed they did. Eventually, dance became the pursuit to which they wished to dedicate their lives. â€œWhen that happened, we just tried accumulating 10,000 hours and being the best at it,â€ says Maks.
When â€œDancing with the Starsâ€ came to the U.S., Maks was already ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 4 in the world for professional Latin dancing. Val enjoyed a similarly decorated career as a professional dancer and acted for a time as the concertmaster for one of the youth orchestras for InterSchool Orchestras of New York. Maks was immediately snatched up by the show, and Val followed some years later.
Maks has since retired from â€œDancing with the Stars,â€ but he and Val have decided to collaborate on an exciting new project: a national tour that serves as an autobiography of the brothersâ€™ lives put to dance and music. â€œThis tour that weâ€™re doing right now, weâ€™re telling the story of how we came here and the reason we came. Itâ€™s the story of our immigration.â€
The brothers cast the show in Los Angeles. With the knowledge that the well of talent runs deep in that city, they had to be particular about their casting, especially considering that some of the performers would be playing key figures in the brothersâ€™ lives like their parents. â€œFor us to give someone that role, it has to be someone we trust. It has to be someone who will treat it like a job and with respect but also someone who will put the passion behind it. They feel it, and they understand the importance of the role. Thatâ€™s who we hired,â€ says Maks.
He goes on to say that the reason the show works is that you get to see different sides to the Chmerkovskiy brothers than what is shown on â€œDancing with the Stars.â€
â€œThe audience expects us to come out, take our shirts off a couple of times, watch some things and move on with life,â€ says Maks. â€œAll of a sudden, the show breaks out, and itâ€™s a play. Thereâ€™s a throughline, a narrative, and people go away with having gotten a lot more than they expected.â€
The brothers aspire to instill a sense of positivity in their audience, to inspire them to strive for lives full of their own hard-won success. Since the tour began in Orlando, mere days after the Pulse night club shooting there, the brothersâ€™ message of hope, love and tenacity couldnâ€™t be more powerful or necessary: â€œWe have these meet-and-greets, and so many people said, â€˜Thank you for doing this. We needed this.â€™ Iâ€™m not saying weâ€™re the only ones doing anything, but when people come out and say that â€“ Iâ€™m just a dancer. Iâ€™m not a doctor or in the military. I used to wonder, â€˜What is the importance of my job?â€™ I know now.”
Maks & Val Live on Tour: Our Way will be at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 502.584.7777 or visit kentuckycenter.org.