Pop Culture

'DWTS' pro Val: It's great to have Maks back in the ballroom

“Dancing With the Stars” pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy is blogging about his experiences and thoughts on his sixth quest for the mirror ball trophy on TODAY.com throughout the season. The 14-time U.S. champion in dance is paired with Danica McKellar, who captured hearts with her performance as Winnie on “The Wonder Years.”  

Craig Sjodin / Today

I’m very happy that my brother Maks is back this season. It’s awesome. He’s having a lot of fun, and I’m glad that people are seeing that side of him. Everyone has an opinion on Maks! But he’s a product of the process. He’s a very positive, loving and loyal person. 

In my opinion, he should have won the mirror ball trophy with Mel B in season 5. Maybe that would have changed everything? Now, it’s like there’s this huge boulder on his shoulder. He’s done the show for 15 seasons and has never won. I’m not saying he deserved it every season, but I think that once you’ve won you’ve — in a sense — proved yourself. 

It’s easy to judge someone but you don’t know what they’ve gone through until you’ve put yourself in their shoes. I got to do that with Maks over the last few seasons. I think I have a little bit more composure in my reactions to certain things. But Maks and I are different people. I don’t want him to change. I want him to be just as honest and passionate about what he believes in as he’s always been. He’s been that way for as long as I remember.

It was very exciting the last few seasons to watch Maks venture into other things. But having him back on the show this year is amazing. It’s a privilege for me to spend time with him doing something as incredible as this. We’re very close. He came running into my bedroom after the earthquake hit on Monday morning and said, “Did you feel that?” 

It’s very hard for me to describe the feelings that our parents and grandma have when they watch the show. In an ideal world, you get to live near your family and maybe work in the same industry. I get to wake up and go to work every day with my brother. It’s a beautiful feeling.

For the first week on the show as a whole, I thought there were many couples that were scored low. Maks and Meryl did a great job. They got three 8s as well. I thought at the time that was a great score for them. You can have a great dance, but then it’s all relative to someone who goes after you. That’s why I try to eliminate the scores from my thinking. I focus on what we can change and how we can get better and enjoy the process.

Danica was very excited and nervous leading up to the first show, and those are two great emotions to have — as long as you’re prepared. You have to be prepared so that those feelings don’t overtake the performance. I grew up with my father saying, “When you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” It’s OK to be nervous and excited as long as you can keep your composure, and Danica did just that. I’m very proud of her.

This week, Danica and I are doing a samba. To be honest, the foxtrot is not my thing. I’m an old soul and I prefer dancing foxtrots to Frank Sinatra songs. I’m excited that I’m getting my genre back. I’m a Latin guy. Well, I’m a Russian guy, but I’m a Latin ballroom dancer.