A Conversation with Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Ballroom phenom Maks Chmerkovskiy talked exclusively to "Jake's Take" about "SWAY's" trip to Miami. (Photo property of Trueheart Management)

Ballroom phenom Maks Chmerkovskiy talked exclusively to “Jake’s Take” about “SWAY’s” trip to Miami. (Photo property of Trueheart Management)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a true honor and privilege to welcome one of my all-time favorite dancers, Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy, to Jake’s Take.  

Maks began to dance at the age of four and when he got into his teenage years, he became a force to be reckoned with in the ballroom community.

Maks’ life was changed forever when he first appeared as a professional partner during Dancing with the Stars (DWTS)’s sophomore season in January 2006. The fan-favorite “Bad Boy of Ballroom” partnered with a diverse group of women including Tia Carrere (Season Two), Willa Ford (Season Three), Laila Ali (Season Four), Mel B (Season Five), Erin Andrews (Season 10), Brandy Norwood (Season 11), Kirstie Alley (Season 12) and Meryl Davis (Season 18).  While he was able to take Ali, Mel B, Andrews and Alley to their respective finals, Maks finally won the show’s coveted Mirror Ball Trophy with Meryl Davis at the end of Season 18 in 2014!

After 14 incredible seasons, Maks left America’s Favorite Ballroom and created his own production company: Maksim Chmerkovskiy Productions (MCP). Through his production company, Maks provided material for two theatrical productions: La Reve and Burn the Floor.  He also made appearances on Access Hollywood Live, The Chew, EXTRA, Good Morning America, The View and on numerous international television programs.

In addition to all of his accomplishments in the media world, Maks formed Dance With Me USA, a franchise of ballroom studios that has helped hundreds of students learn the art of ballroom dancing nationwide.  Besides sharing his passion of ballroom dancing with his students, Maks along with his brother, Val Chmerkovskiy, father Aleksandr and longtime friend and business partner Tony Dovolani created Sway: A Dance Trilogy, a true stage spectacular that has captured the hearts of East Coast audiences.

From December 3 to 6, Maks will join Val, Tony, Peta Murgatroyd, Henry Byalikov, DWTS alumni Meryl Davis and Rumer Willis as they take Miami by storm for five shows at the Olympia Theater.

In this edition of A Conversation, Maks talked about SWAY’s evolution and why the five shows in Miami will be special for the audience.

Jacob Elyachar: How has “SWAY” helped you grow as a dancer?

Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy: I think that there are a lot of layers in any creative, athletic or business activity. You could be a one-dimensional professional or a well-rounded entrepreneur. I have a business mindset and I pride myself on that aspect of my upbringing, education and in my life. It is one thing for me to grow as a dance professional, producer, stage director and choreographer, but I have also learned how to take care of logistics and giant tasks that have been a part of every process that is involved in this beautiful (even if I say so myself) stage production. This show has been both a blessing and an opportunity. It certainly made me better and realize what I want to do in the future.  This has been an incredible experience, plus I get to dance and try to better myself in the process. Because it is my show, I was always responsible with my job…period. If you are your own boss, you want to be your own best employee as well.

JE: Could you describe your section of the show to my readers?

MC: Two years ago when we put the show together, we had decided to conclude the show with what is endearing to all of us…which involved the Latin American dance styles. I anchor this portion of the show, because I am drawn to the South American styles of music and movement. I think it speaks to everybody in the cast and it is something that I really enjoy doing. Not that I enjoy other dance styles, but these dance styles are very dear to me. It not only excites me, but it also excites the audience. We decided to set my section in South Beach. It’s very ironic because now two years later, we are in South Beach and this section is very relevant. The audience can expect a lot of high energy movement, with a lot of homage to Cuba, salsa, tango and an overall run-through of what South America has to offer through the eyes, bodies, movements and interpretations of a bunch of Eastern Europeans. (Laughs) That description might sound very strange, but I think the audience is going to have an incredible time.

JE: How has “SWAY” evolved as a show since its inception?

MC: In the last 10 years, Dancing with the Stars has given me the opportunity to expand my personal and professional horizons through some of the opportunities that the professional dancers are offered. One of those opportunities was to choreograph Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas. It is one of the best Cirque-like productions put together by some of the best minds in stage production. What I learned from them was that a show does not have to be set in stone and stay that way for 20 years, what I learned was that the show should be treated like a live element. You make it better, make it grow, adopt, adjust and do many more things to it.  The SWAY cast has changed over the last three installments. Numbers have been updated, certainly we have done a lot of work for this particular installment of SWAY. This is our fourth time performing the show, we do it every six months and that is enough time for the audience to forget that particular version and expect something new. I think we ironed out all of the wrinkles and in my eyes, the show is exactly what it is meant to be and right now, we are kicking it in all cylinders. This is an amazing production, if you already saw SWAY before…there is something new that you can look forward to. If you have not seen it before, you get the best run of SWAY of today. Everybody wins!

 

Maks Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd SWAY

Maks and Peta Murgatroyd are among the dancers that will be taking Miami by storm as part of the cast of “SWAY: A Dance Trilogy.” (Photo by Stefania Orru and courtesy of Trueheart Management)

JE: With “SWAY” being a massive and lavish production, what are some of the challenges that the cast and crew face in preparing for the show? How do you overcome them?

MC: The biggest obstacle that we face is logistics! Putting a show of this magnitude together with most of the cast spread out throughout the United States is a challenge. My brother, Peta and a few others are a part of the upcoming Dancing with the Stars tour. They are literally in the middle of rehearsals right now, and I am stealing them away for a week. They will be going from a job to another job. It puts a lot of physical toll on them, but they are very gracious and we try to keep them comfortable. We have to facilitate a lot of things in terms of comfort such as the hotel and rest time. We have amazing talent that I think we would not have been able to attract and put on one stage, if had not been us. We certainly do not take it for granted. I take my relationships with these people very seriously. I try to provide them everything that I could provide them with to make sure that they have a very positive experience, that they come back and work with (and for) us. As a performer myself, I also have to allocate time for myself to practice and get myself into physical shape. I think we have an incredible team of performers and also a superb team working backstage. It is truly a family affair! My father is a big part of it, while my brother leads us both on stage and backstage.  Tony is my business partner and everybody from Dance with Me USA, which compiles most of our cast, play integral parts in the show’s creation process. Honestly, the best part about SWAY is the fact that we are able to do it. We are an immigrant family, not to pat ourselves on the back and say that our journey was harder than others. All of the immigrants can tell you that it is equally difficult, but to have gotten to this level and to have this opportunity to put on a show of this magnitude like I said: “It is a dream come true.” Looking back and saying that the last 20 years was worth it.  There is nothing about this production that can be possibly be too difficult, because it is a blessing just to be able to do it.

JE: In this installment of “Sway,” You will reunite with your fellow “Dancing with the Stars” Season 18 co-champion: Meryl Davis. What is it like to have the opportunity to work with her once again?

MC: Meryl has been a part of the last two SWAY productions. She loves performing with the cast and I love working with her. I think that we try to stay close as friends and maintain this relationship that was developed on DWTS. I think we have succeeded! We have a lot of mutual friends on that stage and she is going to have an amazing time as she did in the last couple of installments.

 

Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy SWAY

Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy will dance together on stage once again this weekend during “Sway: A Dance Trilogy.” (Photo by Stefania Orru and courtesy of Trueheart Management)

JE: While Meryl and Rumer Willis (Val’s Season 20 co-champion) will be participating in this go-around of “SWAY,” would you like to have some of your former “DWTS” partners perform in future installments?

MC: (Laughs) I think we are good! I think that SWAY is now in its ultimate form. One of our main goals was not to turn SWAY into a Dancing with the Stars homage. Meryl, Rumer and everybody else from DWTS are characters in SWAY. We are not ourselves, we represent characters that drive our show’s storyline.  We asked and attracted people that we thought could fill those roles and that was Meryl and Rumer. Zendaya also has done very well in previous installments, but unfortunately she was unable to participate this time around. There will be opportunities in the future where I could possibly work with my past partners. I am always open to working with them again.

JE: If “SWAY” has a successful run in Miami, would a nationwide tour be in the foreseeable future?

MC: (Laughs) There has always been talk about taking the show nationwide. SWAY was the very first show that a lot of us had in producing a show of this size. We (as a company and creative team) know that we can do it. But, after this SWAY installment, we are going to go back to the drawing board. We have other ideas and scripts on the table that we want to entertain, if we want to go on that side of the business. We certainly feel like that Dance With Me as a production company can tackle a show of this magnitude successfully. However, I think we are going to end the run of SWAY after our Miami performances. These upcoming shows will be sentimental and it will be anchored by the South Beach vibe. It was always our ultimate goal to perform SWAY in Miami! The next step is probably going to involve a different production and that will be focused with a nationwide tour in mind.  This show was not born to travel; it was created for us to experiment. This experience was just like baking a cake! The first time you made the cake too big, because you did not know your proportions. (Laughs) SWAY is way too big for both travel and production.  We are going to trim it, use some ideas that we did not think that we could tackle and we are going to put on a show for everyone to love and fall in love with.

JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring dancers who want to work in the entertainment industry, what advice would you share with them?

MC: My best advice would be to implement the 10,000 Hour Rule. The 10,000 Hour Rule works! You do more work physically and put in more time into anything that you are doing, you are going to be ahead of the curve. To put in more time than anyone in your industry, you will be the best at whatever it is you do! Talent will only go as far and on its own, it is not enough. The more time and effort you put into working on your craft, the more you can get out. Yes, you have to be a little lucky and be at the right place at the right time; but most of the time, it is how prepared you are to accept the opportunity. All of us come across opportunities and when we do not seize the moment, it means we are not ready We are only ready when we put in enough work to grab that opportunity. My advice is to always stay ready!

If you are going to be in the Miami area this weekend and want to watch Maks and the “SWAY” cast in action, here are the show times:

-Thursday, December 3: 7:30 PM

-Friday, December 4: 7:30 PM

-Saturday, December 5: 1:00 PM

-Saturday, December 5: 7:30 PM

-Sunday, December 6:  3:00 PM

To learn more about the show, visit “SWAY’s” page on the Dance With Me website!

You can also connect with Maks on social media! Visit his Facebook, Instagram & Twitter channels.

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar