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Maks & Val: Our Way

Maks and Val

Dancing With the Stars is a great show because above all of the glitz and kicks, it conveys how anything is possible through hard work and commitment. I had the pleasure of seeing two of the show’s stars express this theme in their own live performance, Maks & Val: Our Way, which detailed the Chmerkovskiy brothers’ journey from the Ukraine into the hearts of Americans.

Accompanied by a cast of six dancers, Maks and Val told their story through dance vignettes highlighting transformative moments in their lives along with video montages and onstage interludes in which the brothers would poke fun at each other.

The show began with a video of Maks and Val’s father discussing the decision to send Maks to dance school at age four and the reason for leaving Ukraine ten years later in 1994. In preparation for their move to the US, their father wrote inspirational quotes on their kitchen wall such as, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail,” and, “We wil surviv.”

It was evident that Maks and Val were grateful to their parents for giving them the opportunity to dance and to move to the US. To make the best of their opportunity, they dedicated themselves to dancing and lived by the philosophy that it takes doing something 1,000 times in order to do it well. Maks started teaching dance in New Jersey and dancing at restaurants on the weekends to help support his family, and Val trained to win the first-ever world junior championship for the US team in 2001.

My favorite part of the show featured Maks as a dance instructor attempting to teach a group of unruly three year-olds to do the salsa. Eventually, under Maks’ direction, the students successfully worked their way through all of the dance styles. I loved how it showcased Maks’ discipline, patience, and drive.

I also enjoyed Val’s dramatic interpretation of love in the second act. The fusion of dance styles – in which the female dancers were portrayed as violins – conveyed the intensity and intricacies of love. Val also played the violin during the show.

Our Way also featured some comic relief revealing more about the Chmerkovskiy’s relationship. At one point, the brothers found themselves dancing together, prompting Maks to correct Val’s hold. During Drake’s “One Dance,” Maks executed a few booty-shaking solos, causing Val to role his eyes. They even brought a woman – from my hometown – onstage to be Maks’ prom date for a cute skit in which they were crowned prom king and queen.

All in all, Maks & Val: Our Way was an entertaining and heartwarming show underscoring the importance of hard work. Not only did I come away with a greater understanding of the Chmerkovskiy brothers, but with inspiration to keep working toward my goals. As Maks and Val took their final bow to Justin Timberlake’s new song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Val remarked, “Thank you for supporting the arts.” Amen to that.

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Why ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is my guilty pleasure

Dancing with the Stars

Three simple words sum up why Dancing with the Stars is my guilty pleasure: Pure Entertainment Factor.

From start to finish the seasonal ballroom dancing television show places celebrities (of whatever list) with a professional partner to compete for the coveted “Mirror Ball Trophy.” 10 weeks of competition, multiple styles of dance and dozens of stories of hardship and heartbreak make for the most entertaining show on television.

Where else can you find Superbowl champions cha-cha-ing against 1980’s television stars? Nowhere. And to do it with such finesse and fun makes it totally worth watching. Every week is a new surprise. Jennifer Grey relives her time in Dirty Dancing. Kirstie Alley loses a shoe! Bristol Palin wears a monkey suit. The perfect meets the comical meets the absurd – and all live.

A true Hollywood production that harkens back to the golden days yet folds in reality television. A genius show. For the following reasons:

  1. Live – It is unpredictable what happens when the cameras roll.
  2. Lowbrow – This show is made for all Americans to enjoy. (Trust me, I watched Mira Quien Baila cuando vivía en España y el talento no es el mismo.)
  3. Glitz – The makeup, hair, spray tans, abs, costumes, sets, and live music create a heightened environment for the dancers to exceed expectations.
  4. Sportsmanship – At the end of the day, it is a competition and whether they are Olympic athletes or “reality tv” stars, these celebrities and professional dancers want to compete, want to grow their audience, and want to impress their agents with their versatility – all making for good sport.
  5. Proper judging – This ain’t America’s Best Dance Crew where Lil Mama is saying, “You danced. You danced!” as if she were merely stating a fact. This is educated professionals judging the performers on technique, choreography, and performance. Their thoughts are [for the most part] fleshed out and in keeping with their onscreen personas.
  6. Creativity – Every week there is a new surprise for the dancers and it is up to the professionals to bring something new to the audience who may or may have not been watching for the past 13 seasons. I know that Derek Hough, Cheryl Burke, and Mark Ballas Jr. always bring out new and exciting choreography as well as the best in their partners.
  7. Tom Bergeron – cracks me up. He is the king of ad-lib. Plus Brooke Burke-Charvet always looks glamorous and asks the hard-hitting questions.
  8. And last but certainly not least – Kirstie Alley – who can put on a show like no one else.

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Honorable mentions for the All-Star Season go to that clusterf*ck of a group dance known as Gangnam Style and to Carrie Ann Inaba for FALLING OFF HER CHAIR.

All in all, I appreciate Dancing with the Stars for continuing to entertain and being a classier and more fun version of Celebrity Rehab. Just kidding.

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Filed under Art, Dance, Pop Culture, TV