Dancing Through the Storm With Family, Footwork, and Funny
Brothers Maksim and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, known more simply as Maks and Val, have taken the world by storm with their wit, fiery personalities, and choreography from TV to stages like Radio City, and now to streaming. The Dancing with the Stars ballroom bros were set for a massive U.S. tour this summer alongside their wives Peta Murgatroyd and Jenna Johnson respectively, now rescheduled for 2021. But the pandemic did not stop Maks and Val. In addition to Val continuing on as a dance partner on the 29th season of Dancing with the Stars this fall, the guys have created a timely app called Dance & Co. featuring performers from both Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance with a range of content including choreography and instruction to fitness to celebrity interviews. It is both educational and entertaining, a healthy place for the mind and body, all while improving dance skills.
Dance is one of the oldest art forms known to humans, and it’s had an incredible resurgence over the last decade or so with even more interest over the last several months as people seek an escape from quarantine. The same is true for Maks and Val, who have had to shift around their lives and careers, all while seeking out ways to spread joy through dance. Maks and Val spoke with Hamptons Monthly about the movies that have inspired them most, memorable moments in the Hamptons including Maks and Peta’s wedding in the region, and their careers.
Val Chmerkovskiy: The movies that inspired me the most and continue to inspire me the most are sports movies, but not just sports: it’s the movies that kind of shed light on camaraderie and on the human spirit. I like family movies. I’m being general but a movie like John Q about a father doing extreme things for the health of [his] son, The Mighty Ducks, seeing a bunch of outcasts coming together. Remember the Titans is a film about community coming together over football. The athletics pivots to our upbringing and even our introduction to dance. The world discovered us as adults pursuing dance as a craft and from the creative standpoint of it. We joined dance a long time ago as a sport and as an athletic activity – so our pursuit in terms of having the discipline and the health and athleticism that is behind it, that is huge. And doing it alongside my brother, those are the films that I found familiar to having a parallel in my life.
Maks Chmerkovskiy: My thing is just outside of being on the nose and the influence of the classics we are inspired by. We are not including all the Dirty Dancings and the West Side Storys. For us it’s a curriculum. Outside of all of this, I’m heavily influenced by cartoons. Within my circle it’s public knowledge: I will turn away from a horror movie and opt out from gory and bloody situations and I’m not very big on super dramas. Like The Bourne Identity sort of freaks me out and it’s sort of high pressure. Instead of getting into the story I get under pressure with the main character. Cartoons to me parallel life so well, and with the innovations of Pixar and Dreamworks, things like Inside Out, if you didn’t cry, you just have no feelings. Being the father of a three-year-old, one of the best things is this kid has a library accessible by remote to about 14 or 15 films that he has watched about 100 million times each and at the same time I am watching this gorgeous storyline and visuals, and it’s great to be inspired by this.
VC: And it’s fun to see how it reflects in his performances. Maks as a performer is so animated, that’s just where he goes. It’s the simple things; it’s a very old approach to entertainment.
Maks, you were married to Peta a few years back at the beautiful Oheka Castle in Huntington, not too far from The Hamptons. This looks like quite the magical setting to have a wedding. Can you talk about how this came to be your special place?
MC: At the beginning of my relationship with Peta I said one time that I wanted to get married at a castle.
VC: Because he watched cartoons!
MC: As an adult, I sort of didn’t give it that much weight. I have wanted to be married and have kids since I was 20 years old. So, Val is right, the cartoon element, there’s a lot of castle-happily-ever-after to it. Fate led us there to be able to have an incredible wedding that we both dreamed of. It’s something that I will never forget. We had a moment when we said “I Do’s” and a rainbow appeared in the distance. People asked how we pulled it off. I will never forget it.
VC: My Hamptons castle story is that last season of Dancing with the Stars I pulled up and met Christie Brinkley. I pulled up to a multi-acre estate of a castle.
MC: On that topic, we love The Hamptons. We’re New Yorkers. We spend a lot of time on all sides of Long Island, and it’s been one of those sort of like dreamy places that has inspired us, and we have enjoyed it. We love the community, and it’s something that is close to our East Coast vibe.
VC: I spent a lot of time with Christie, three weeks. the Hamptons are an accomplishment to even visit. But the history and literature that came out of the Hamptons, it’s a testament to the place. It also has a fairly blue-collar community, it’s a small town feel so far removed. It’s a very beautiful place and community.
Val, you have competed in 15 seasons of Dancing with the Stars, winning twice with Rumer Willis and Laurie Hernandez, coming in 2nd with Zendaya, and taking third four times. What are you most looking forward to with the upcoming 29th Season of Dancing with the Stars and will there be some socially distant changes to the show that you can reveal?
VC: What I can reveal is I’ll address my excitement for the season. In terms of COVID protocol, this show has gone above and beyond to hire professional consultants and leading doctors in the field, so I’m not concerned for our safety at all. Having said that, things change daily on this topic. It’s a big back and forth: shut it down or keep it moving. Even when you shut it down though, you can’t shut down human emotion. Just like basketball, as a human, I never thought I needed something like this. It’s therapy at this point, just seeing them compete, and something I enjoy watching. Dancing with the Stars has become a family tradition that millions of families have felt together on their couches. Forget if it wasn’t even on, I know for a fact how healing and empowering and how much joy this show brings in September and October and into the holidays, and hopefully the world will be in a healthier place. I’m ecstatic.
You have put dancing to the test during quarantine with all kinds of interesting content from choreographed routines to fitness workouts to humorous TikToks. You are also entrepreneurs who just launched a new dancing app called Dance & Co. that will bridge dancing and entertainment with education, fitness, and wellness. How did you come up with the app, and what are your short-term and long-term goals for it?
MC: Well again, we can come at this from different angles. My personal angle is the world came to a standstill; we’ve never seen anything like this before. I focused at this time on my family with the inability to know what’s next. We also have a company called Dance With Me, and those brick and mortars got shut down. We immediately went to online classes through Vimeo, where there was a donate button where people could donate even $1 to benefit our staff.
We were pumping out online lessons for eight or nine weeks. We realized that we were helping ourselves for our sanity. I could just take my hat off and dance, man. There’s a lot of emotion in this ‘cause it’s reality, and there’s a lot of people depending on us. There’s a lot of people relying on this for their mental health.
VC: Dance & Co. is yet another stage, and with every stage just like Radio City, just like the famous Russian restaurants in Brooklyn, nursing homes, Carnegie Hall: it always gives us a time to communicate. There’s beyond just the artistry in us, but to spread love and create positive change, that’s always been in the fabric of what we do. We didn’t have our fix on the stage or in the studio – we were like, damn, I’m not going to stop wanting those things. We need to figure out where and how to channel that energy. We landed on a platform like Dance & Co. ‘cause it’s been Maks & Val and so many other talented people around us that we want to spread their joy and their message and talent as well.