Season 18 Dancing with the Stars winner Maksim Chmerkovskiy talks former partners, dancing origins and becoming a first-time father
Although often referred to as the “bad boy of the ballroom,” Maksim Chmerkovskiy is surprisingly pleasant and talkative over the phone–a fact that this reporter attributes to the clear joy involved in becoming a first-time dad to newborn Shai, his son with fiancée and fellow pro-dancer Peta Murgatroyd.
Hopping on a phone call just a few days before announcing his and Murgatroyd’s official return on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, Chmerkovskiy opens up about his former dislike for dancing, the importance of partners and his biggest responsibility yet.
1. He Takes Being a First-Time Dad Very Seriously…
“It’s just very hard because, when it comes to yourself, sometimes you can let your guard down and say ‘I’m going to have a cheat meal today!,’” he explains. “With [a son], you can’t do that. It’s 100% all the time or you’re a shitty parent.”
2. …But Knows How Important Moms Are
Chmerkovskiy is quick to praise Murgatroyd’s mommy abilities: “She’s handling everything very well and I’m just kind of being the clown a little bit, trying to keep her happy,” he says. “For the most part I think we’re a good team with this whole thing. Literally, in the beginning the father is like a plus one.”
3. He Never Particularly Enjoyed Dancing
Born in the U.S.S.R., the 37-year-old was first introduced to dancing at a very young age when his parents sent him to a boarding school for the arts. “I got chosen for the ballroom [dancing] class and my parents said sure,” he recalls. “I really didn’t like it. True story, it wasn’t my thing.”
4. Feel Free to Call Him a Science Nerd
While discussing his initial reluctance to dance (“It wasn’t my thing,” he repeats over and over), Chmerkovskiy reveals his perennial interest in all sorts of sciences. “I was more of a scholar,” he explains. “I went to school for gifted and talented in academics and I was a chemistry and biology major.”
5. A Disastrous Childhood Accident Almost Prevented Him From Ever Dancing Again
While discussing his life as a 12-year-old, Chmerkovskiy brings up an accident that occurred right after he started working with a new dancing partner: “I had a massive accident, I blew up my leg. I was sledding down the hill, flew into a metal pole and I tried not to hit it with my head so I pushed off of my leg and my leg just got wrapped around the pole and I shattered my femur bone.”
6. He Has That 12-Year-Old Partner to Thank for His Eventual Career
Following a long hospital stay that was completely financed by the well-off parents of the girl he began dancing with, Chmerkovskiy returned to his day-to-day life with a new perspective. “When you come back from something like that [accident], it was already way passed what I wanted to do [or] what I didn’t want to do,” he says. “It was like now you’re doing it, this is it, you’re in it.”
7. He Initially Refused to be on Dancing With The Stars
After moving to the United States with his family, Chmerkovskiy opened a bunch of dancing schools all around New York. “I hung up the phone and said please don’t ever call me again,” he recalls doing after first receiving a call from the producers of Dancing with the Stars. Eventually representing the US in the British Open Championship and dropping out of Pace University because of the challenges involved in competing professionally while attending classes, Chmerkovskiy received another call by the show’s producers—and, this time, accepted their invitation.
“I joined the show because I was between partnerships, I decided to give myself a second to breathe and maybe step away from competitive ballroom dancing,” he says. “We always struggled financially and so the show became [the] sort of opportunity that you were waiting for.” He is quick to point out that “it wasn’t about the money, it was more about let me attempt this and see what I can do with this opportunity and the rest is literally history.”
8. He Shares True Friendships With Some of His Former DWTS Partners
When asked about his partners on the show that catapulted him to international fame, the dancer is surprisingly candid: “Not all were awesome,” he says. “Let’s be real.” Who did he really enjoy working with? “I love Amber, she’s amazing, I had a great time,” he says about his last partner, Amber Rose. “I won with Meryl Davis, so I have to mention her,” he utters while remembering his only win on the show. When talking about Erin Andrews, his partner on season 10, Chmerkovskiy is clearly passionate: “[That] season […] was very hard for both of us,” he remembers. “She was going through a lot and it was very public and I tried my best to help, I wasn’t [able] to help with a lot of things but I did my best and we’ve been very close.”
Photo Credit: Benjo Arwas