SAN DIEGO, June 29, 2016 – Professional ballroom dancers Valentin and Maksim Chmerkovskiy have success beyond their dreams: starring roles on the reality TV smash “Dancing With The Stars,” a successful dance studio operation, the sort of access and privilege celebrity brings.
But it wasn’t always this way. The brothers tell their story, a classic tale of family, ambition, and the immigrant experience in America, through dance, music and theater in their stage show “Maks & Val: Our Way,” which debuted June 15. The tour will visit 45 cities before it wraps up in California in August, including a stop at the EagleBank Arena (formerly Patriot Center) on Saturday, July 9 at 8 p.m.
In an interview with Communities Digital News, Val Chmerkovskiy spoke passionately about this project, which he and older brother Maks brought to life after many years of effort. While it’s true that “Dancing With The Stars” gave the brothers the platform to make the production a reality, it’s not a road version of the TV show.
“This is so many years in the making. I feel like it would be a shame not to take advantage of these opportunities given to me and these doors opening,” said Val.
“I am dedicated to DWTS, but there’s more to me than that,” said Val. “Taking off my shirt on national TV, that would be too easy. I have more to share than that. I cry during the show, because I get to share myself. We are building a show that is genuinely reflective, therapeutic, cathartic.
“Those people who experience us together in the same room say, ‘Guys, you need to do a show!’ Our feistiness, our friction toward each other is entertaining. We celebrate family, ambition, pride in one another and our work, achieved through persistence and hard work. We want to pass this to the next generation,” Val added.
Val Chmerkovskiy said the recent success of the musical “Hamilton” on Broadway with its multicultural themes helped give him and Maks the last push to make “Our Way” a reality. “For what it’s doing for Broadway, that’s what I want to do for ballroom. “Hamilton” represents a community and a culture. We want to do this too.”
The brothers’ pride in the production comes from not from the dancing (which from early reviews is as spectacular), but from telling a personal story of family, the immigrant experience in America, and the drive to succeed felt so deeply by people who come to the United States seeking the American Dream.
“We build a show deep into who we are and what we pride ourselves on,” said Val. “It’s an incredible dance show, sure. … There’s a fine line between preaching and touching people in a real way. That’s why I’m so ecstatic about it.
“If you have family, if you have ever been ambitious, if you have ever struggled or felt out of place, if you have been teased about your accent, there are so many relatable stories. We can tell those stories through movement, and words too,” explained Val.
The Chmerkovskiy family emigrated from their native Ukraine, settling in Brooklyn, New York among a tight knit neighborhood of Eastern European immigrants. Like many communities, they brought their culture which included music and dance, in this case ballroom dancing.
“I have competed in ballroom dance since I was seven years old,” said Val. “Most competitions were overseas or in Europe, Asia. In our small Eastern European community in New York, dance is celebrated in our culture, even for boys. We encourage our boys to dance. They learn chivalry, etiquette, how to conduct themselves around the ladies.”
For many years, competitive ballroom dancing was an obscure art form in the United States. Val tells a story about passing through customs in New York. “I would be coming back through customs home, and when they would ask me what do you do for a living, I’d tell them dance. Then they’d say ‘No, what do you really do?’”
Thanks to “Dancing With The Stars” and other reality television shows, the appetite for ballroom dancing has completely changed. Val agrees there is something of a golden age in ballroom dance today, providing many more opportunities for professional dancers to do what they love, reach audiences and make it their full-time profession.
Now when he goes through customs, it’s a completely different story.
“Now, they say, ‘Oh yeah, I love ballroom dance! I love Dancing With The Stars! Hey, you’re Maks’s brother!’ I love it. We have a whole new generation of kids inspired to dance. There is an end result – It doesn’t have to be a dying dream, and you get to 50 and realize you missed out. It’s never too late to dance,” added Val.
Val said he’s been overwhelmed by the positive reviews after the first few weeks of the “Our Way” tour.
“People cry during our show. They laugh, it’s a roller coaster,” Val said. The response is beyond any of my expectations. It has exceeded them … I’m humbled, I’m flattered. It’s surreal. The fact we have our names on the marquee, it’s a gift to our parents. I never received a more enthusiastic response from any audience for any show.”
In addition to his dance numbers including several with Maks, Val gets to display his skills as a musician, playing the violin. “Yes, in a little section I help compose a Fiddler on the Roof/Notorious B.I.G. mashup,” he laughed. “It signifies our journey from Ukraine to New York City.”
Adding to the family theme of the show is the impending birth of Maks’ first child with DWTS pro Peta Murgatroyd. Val says it’s changed his brother for the better.
‘With this new development in his life, it’s added a completely different perspective on life for him. I’ve never seen my brother more put together, more dedicated than ever.”
Val said the ultimate goal for the show after it concludes its initial 47 city tour is to one day have a home on Broadway or Las Vegas. For now, lucky fans can let the show come to them.
“I’m not trying to say we’re the greatest dancers of all time,” said Val. “There are people out there right now better than us. It’s not about that. It’s about heart, it’s about reflecting on gratitude about where we came from and passing our passion to the next generation. That’s what the show’s about.
“Life is great!”
Tickets for “Our Way: Maks & Val Live on Tour” are available through Ticketmaster.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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