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Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Interview: Maks and Val show will be part biopic, part dance showcase (Cobb Energy, June 23)

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Monday, June 20, 2016

The professional dancers on 'Dancing With the Stars" are frequently arm candy for the celebrities. They are the coaches, the employees paid to make the amateurs look good. But many of the regular pros are now better known than the so-called celebrities.

For example, fans often appear to vote for Derek Hough as much as whoever is dancing with him. (He has been on 16 seasons and his partner has won six times.) He and his sister Julianne have become popular enough to fill Chastain Park Amphitheatre as a brother-sister combo during a 2015 tour.

Now swoon-worthy, ab-crunching "Dancing With the Stars" brothers - bad boy Maksim Chmerkovskiy (who goes by Maks) and the kinder, gentler, younger Valentin (who goes by Val) - have built up a big enough following to do a theater tour themselves. The pair lands at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Thursday, June 23, 2016. (Buy tickets here)

"It's a biographical, documentary-type driven show," said Val in a recent phone interview. "We narrate our journey from the Ukraine to New York City to Hollywood. It's everything that led us to 'Dancing With the Stars.' "

Neither of their parents danced yet they didn't discourage their sons' interest in ballroom dance.

"People would laugh at my parents for investing so much energy, time and money they didn't have for something that had no foreseeable future," Val said.

When Maks was 14 and Val was eight,t he family immigrated to Brooklyn where the two boys continued to dance competitively.

Val said their success is "the immigrant story in the most non-classical, weird way possible. I never thought ballroom dance would be our calling. Yet it fell into place."

He added: "Ballroom dancing was nonexistent for many many years in terms of the public eye. With the success of a show like 'Dancing With the Stars,' overnight we became relevant."

Their ambitions run deep with this stage performance. "I want this show to do for ballroom dance what 'Hamilton' is doing for Broadway," Val said. "It's a strong statement. I want it to feel organic and edgy. I want it to feel real."

"It's perfect timing for both of us to do this show," he continued. "We have reached that moment where we know who we are and are finally realizing we could tell the story in the best way possible. It's been so incredibly therapeutic and reflective."

The program features 10 other dancers including two former students of theirs. "They are an ethnically diverse set of kids, truly embodying what my surroundings looked like in New York," Val said. Three video screens will feature graphic,  photos of the brothers growing up and interview snippets with their parents. The music is a mix of throwback jams and hip hop, traditional ballroom music and original music incorporated into the narrative.

The tour began in Florida last week where a reviewer for the Sarasota Herald Tribune said the show's first half is strong but loses momentum after intermission. "The brief memories shared by the brothers seamlessly lead into well-choreographed dances that illustrate, often with humor, their commentary," writes Carrie Seidman.

Val, 30, said the brothers have been tight since they were kids. "We've been bunk bed buddies a majority of our lives,' he said.

With 36-year-old Maks off "Dancing With the Stars" (for now) and about to have a baby with fellow "Dancing With the Stars" pro Peta Murgatroyd, their lives are shifting. So this tour gives them bonus time to be together.


Maks & Val Live On Tour - Our Way

7:30 p.m. Thursday

$46.50-$76.50 plus fees

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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