To a nation of television viewers, the names Maksim and Valentin Chmerkovskiy are synonymous with sexy ballroom dancing. Both former “Dancing With the Stars” champs (Val with Rumer Willis; Maks with Meryl Davis), the Ukrainian brothers are two of the long-running ABC reality series’ most popular pros.
With their touring collaboration, “Maks & Val Live on Tour: Our Way,” they set out to show fans that there’s more to the Chmerkovskiy brothers than teaching celebs like Kirstie Alley or Zendaya how to fox trot.
The production, which kicked off in Florida last week, waltzes into Ovens Auditorium Sunday. It promises a fun-filled show, but covering the story of their immigration to the U.S. in 1994 (when Maks was 14 and Val was 8) and their subsequent struggles and success is a little headier than a Tuesday night double-elimination.
“We sat down with the creative team and just vented,” Val Chmerkoskiy explains. “We spoke of our journey, being born in Ukraine, moving to New York, going through the struggles we did, being driven by the things we were inspired by, what family means to us and we mean to one another. We were able to create a unique original screenplay that embodies who we are.”
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They may be known for glitz and glam – of which there will be plenty – but “Our Way” is also a timely story about the experience of youngsters moving to a foreign country, learning a second language in a country where football overshadows the arts.
In a political climate where immigration is a topic of ongoing heated debate, “Our Way” offers a personal look at one family’s experience.
“I don’t think we speak for every immigrant out there, but you’ll certainly get a perspective from a family that made it their purpose, their destiny to return on the incredible gift this country has given them,” he says.
“For us to be welcomed into New York and be recognized as American citizens – for us it’s not about us taking advantage of that, it’s about the return. That drove a lot of our ambition and the goals we set for ourselves. It was behind what I wanted to accomplish, especially in ballroom dancing growing up.”
At the time, competitive ballroom dancers from the U.S. weren’t common.
“It was such a sense of pride holding up the American flag on a podium where it hadn’t been held up before,” Chmerkoskiy recalls. “I’ve won competitions overseas where they didn’t have an American anthem ready. They never had to play the American anthem.”
In the same way the show makes a subtle political statement, it also encourages viewers to rise from their couches and see live theater – in turn spreading cultural awareness via a mainstream TV show.
“(With) the platform ‘Dancing With the Stars’ has given us, (this) isn’t the conversation I should be having with a meteorologist that hasn’t danced the fox trot before,” he says of “Our Way’s” more serious subject matter.
“There are issues I feel strongly about and comprise the person I am. For me to have an opportunity to vocalize that … we aren’t going to discuss social policies, but I’d love to open people’s eyes on different perspectives on family, passion, love, ambition. Ultimately, the consensus will be we’re all the same. We may look or sound a little different, but we all want the same thing.”
‘Maks & Val Live on Tour: Our Way’
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.