Former Dancing With the Stars pro and champion of the dance world Maksim Chmerkovskiy is a strong, candid man who arrived in this country at the age of 14 with almost nothing and created a life for himself, which he describes as fun and happy without the drudgery of a typical 9-to-5 job.
It may surprise some fans to learn Maks didn’t immigrate to America with dreams of becoming a dancer. In fact, he originally wanted to become a chemist. However, Maks realized he wanted more in his life, and dancing provided him with the ability to create those types of opportunities. He overcame many obstacles including a diagnosis from doctors at the age of 13 that he may never dance again due to a skiing accident that left him with a titanium rod in his leg.
An immigrant from the Ukrainian SSR, Maks is open about the difficulty in arriving in the United States with very little and immediately going to work. He admits his proudest moment came when he received his United States citizenship, and that he felt a feeling of belonging, but he wonders why it takes a piece of paper for so many to actually see human beings for what they are — people. The powerhouse ballroom dancer recently sat down with me and discussed his growing family of dancers, becoming a dad, what makes him tick, rehabbing his body after numerous injuries, and how he’s recently come full circle in terms of his career.
Plus, the dancer revealed an outstanding strategy for motivating himself now to set himself up for tomorrow. Maks also talked about the exciting plans for the future for himself, his wife Peta Murgatroyd, and his brother Val Chmerkovskiy as well as Val’s fiancée Jenna Johnson. As a bonus, the dancer gave me the lowdown behind Peta’s recent strange admission about an unusual hygiene practice he has, on which Inquisitr recently reported.
— Entertainment Tonight (@etnow) February 15, 2018
Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Hello, Rachel?
Rachel Dillin: Yes. Hi Maks. How are you?
MC: Great, thank you.
RD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I read the news yesterday that your wife said she was interested in maybe trying for baby number two.
MC: I don’t know why it’s such massive news. Oh my God, they’re trying for baby number two. We’ve been trying for babies since, I don’t know, since puberty, but you know. It’s not a, you know, I mean people who start families tend to continue having them. Yeah no. We don’t have plans for baby number two right now. We have plans eventually. When that happens that happens. It’s just cute to wake up to a tabloid article. ‘Maks and Peta are trying for baby number two.’ I look at her and say, ‘baby you want to keep trying?’ What’s happening?
RD: In that vein, I wanted to know how becoming a dad has changed you. I know your son had his first birthday this year.
MC: We are completely different people. I think it changes anybody. Fatherhood. Motherhood, to be clear, you change physically, mentally. Fatherhood is a little less physical change, but definitely, my mind was blown over every single kind of step of pregnancy and having a child after you know the first year. Now we’re at 19 months and you know there was a day we looked at each other and said babe you know we’re doing it. It’s actually happening. I’ve changed as a person totally. I have different priorities I had a completely different set of things I’m looking forward to doing versus what I was looking forward to before. I think it’s normal.
RD: What are some of the things that you’re looking for to now?
MC: Waking up at six in the morning to go play outside with him. It’s not something I do. I was a night owl and I partook of the nightlife at a certain point in my life. I was never the guy to wake up in the morning but today I can’t wait. I wake up. I’m like, ‘is he up? Can I wake him up?’
RD: I hear you, I have kids too.
MC: You lose your mind, and he’s teething. Then she’s waving his arms in Gymboree, and some kid hit him in the face. There’s just so much stuff happening that I never even thought of paying attention to.
RD: You said that you hope your son doesn’t become a professional dancer, but will you teach him even just for fun?
MC: I don’t know. I guess LeBron wanted one of his kids to be a basketball player to play together in the NBA with the father-son situation. Thinking about it right now I can’t wait for him to become a certain age and if he is interested in dancing then yeah we’ll do something together. But if it’s not going to happen and he wants to pursue another profession like a medical professional and artist or any other sport for a doctor or Ph.D. or a rocket scientist. I don’t really care whatever he wants to be I’ll be happy for him. A beautiful person and be happy. Be better than us.
RD: You work closely with your family. I know you guys did your tour. What is that like working so closely together?
MC: It’s amazing overall. When you have a family like that where you get to work together and stay family. A lot of people can’t, but we always have. One of our businesses is a dance studio, and our Dance With Me Company is big but you know it’s a family thing and it’s always been a family thing. So we’ve done that already we’ve gone through the hardships and ups and downs of working with people close to you and so we’re used to it. Val and I actually this year celebrated our 20th anniversary of working together as dancers. At his ripe age of 12 and mine of 18, we were performing together in Brooklyn Russian restaurants, and now we’re 20 years later still performing together but just on a different stage. Now Peta is my wife and she’s one of the best in her career as well so that’s an upgrade. Now, Jemma is becoming part of the family so double upgrade. We are having fun.
— E! News (@enews) July 29, 2017
RD: You talked about how you started at 18 dancing in restaurants and your brother performed with you. Back then you didn’t necessarily plan to be a dancer. It came about when you wanted to raise. Did you have someone back then that you looked up to you in the dance world like now people could look up to you and your brother?
MC: I don’t think so. And I don’t want that to sound like I’m undermining my own dance community or theater. I had a thing for Gene Kelly. It wasn’t like oh my god I want to be Gene Kelly. It wasn’t like that.
This is my train of thought literally. I wanted to be a chemist, and I realized that I didn’t want to stay in Brooklyn and go to university. My first and only choice was LAU, which has the best pharmaceutical program in the country or one of the best today or at that time. And they had two campuses one was upstate New York and one was in Brooklyn, and when I realized I wasn’t going to get out of Brooklyn for any reason, I knew I needed an excuse to be on the train and in the city in Manhattan. That’s how I became sort of a dancer when the realization set in that in order for me to go to that and follow my dream of chemistry and biology I would have to stay in Brooklyn.
I looked around and weighed my options and decided no I’m not going to major in chemistry and biology because I want to be in Manhattan, so I went to Bays business school. I had absolutely zero interest in that at that time and I eventually dropped out because I had my own business at that time. My point is I don’t dance because of Gene Kelly. He wasn’t an obsession. It was more like I saw the person who looked big. I read somewhere that he was a boxer and he was a stockier guy then say Fred Astaire who looked kind of skinny and super dancey. I was that guy who said I don’t want to dance, I want to play basketball or go swimming. My Gene Kelly thing is that he looked big and I was like ‘well I can do that.’ He looks like a dude and a man like he can go play football and then go do dancey things. Later I found out that Fred Astaire is actually like 6’2′ which is my height. Gene Kelly is like a much smaller man.
The point is I was completely off. The person I looked up two was not even close to what I thought he was. My dance thing is not because I was that kid with posters of Baryshnikov on the wall, my dance thing it’s because I was an immigrant kid who wanted to utilize what he had. I bet on me, and then I just kept betting on me. That’s how I became a dancer. I’m not going to influence my son to dance, though. I’m not that guy.
RD: What kind of experiences have you had as an immigrant in America?
MC: It’s tough not to get political or draw parallels, and this isn’t that kind of conversation. Although I don’t shy away. I’m very open, but I just don’t want. I’m going to answer your question, but it’s just hard to answer an immigration question without having someone now days saying, ‘Whoa. I’m having a worse experience.’ I’m not comparing anyone’s bad time, but this is exactly what that is. It’s a bad time for a person like my dad or our parents who are highly educated who have to take their kids. You have kids, I have a kid, and I’m terrified of an idea of having nothing. Having two children who are 14 and 8 and packing up and going to a different continent, and having no language, and being treated like second-class humans.