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'Dancing With the Stars' hoofers let their feet tell the stories

Chicago Tribune

The last time brothers Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy went on tour, in 2016, both men were unmarried. Their stage show was autobiographical, tracing their lives from their boyhoods in Ukraine to their eventual rise to superstardom: The Chmerkovskiys are two of the most famous competitive dancers on the planet, appearing on Broadway (Maks), and winning numerous prestigious dance competitions, most notably “Dancing With the Stars” (Val has won twice, Maks once).

Their newest tour, which hits the Chicago Theatre Sunday, co-stars Maks’ wife, Peta Murgatroyd, also a Broadway dancer and multiple DWTS champ. The “Confidential” tour is similarly autobiographical, charting the couple’s courtship, wrenching early ’10s breakup, and eventual marriage and parenthood (they now have a 15-month-old son, Shai).

The dancers won’t rule out a return to “Dancing With the Stars,” but they’re already preparing for life without it: Peta, who initially moved from Australia to Los Angeles with hopes of becoming an actress, will star in the upcoming film “Faith, Hope & Love.” Val just released a memoir, “I’ll Never Change My Name.”

In separate interviews, Murgatroyd and the Chmerkovskiy brothers talked about breakups, dance as “free therapy” (Maks), and the peculiar nature of life as reality stars.

The following are excerpts from that conversation:

On their painful break up

Peta Murgatroyd: I feel like it happened so drastically. Within three, two days, he had made up his mind, and he just did it. One minute he said that he loved me and couldn’t wait to see me, and the next minute he broke up with me. Going through those emotions (onstage) was very hard. We’ve definitely been onstage in tears before, and they were dripping out of my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

Maks Chmerkovskiy: Big … deal, everybody breaks up. But because everybody goes through heartache, (our show explores), here’s the way we did it, here’s what happened, here’s why it happened, here’s both sides of the story. When we go home, this chapter in our life has been put to rest. It’s not something that’s hanging over us. Maybe it would have. We talked about it so much in 51 shows, when the shows are over, it’s done. We’re going to put this back in the vault and say, “Here. This is our history.”

On how their stage show parallels their lives

Maks: Val and I did a show called “Our Way,” and that’s where it all started. We thought of this hybrid stage production that isn’t just, “Let’s do another cha cha, let’s do another waltz.” We decided to give it a little more depth. We talked about some personal things — immigration, growing up in Ukraine, going to Brooklyn. This show is a continuation of that. We bring in Peta not because she’s Peta, but because that’s my wife.

Val Chmerkovskiy: We draw a lot of inspiration from our daily life. We’re at our best when we can connect to the story.

On how they separate work and family (or not)

Peta: It is hard sometimes to shut things off, because dancing filters throughout our whole day. We get on the bus at the end of the night, (and) we sometimes still watch the show on our laptop, or talk about it over eating food on the bus. It’s always kind of there.

Maks: I’m a husband now, I’m a father, the responsibility is crazy. Life is completely different. This show is (about) that. It’s: How different is your life since the last time we saw you? Because of that, you don’t have to separate work and family. We don’t have that separation. It’s all family and it’s all work and it’s all dance and it’s kind of smushed together. It’s an interesting life.

On the closeness between Maks and Val

Peta: I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a third wheel. They’re very close siblings, and that’s a very beautiful thing to be a part of. Maks is six years older, he was always looking out for Val his entire life. They’ve got this friendship that is like no other. I feel like they love having a bit of female personality among them. Two guys can have a lot of testosterone between them, and it’s nice to break it up with a feminine touch.

Val: My brother and I shared everything together for a very long time. We’ve done everything together. Recently, in the past couple years, he’s created a family of his own, and that’s changed our dynamic, changed our relationship. Not for worse, and this show reflects this as well. You can see that onstage. He’s got more, bigger responsibilities now. It’s not like, “What’s Val doing? Let’s go hang out.” It’s an adjustment for everybody, but it’s a healthy adjustment. It’s just different.

On grappling with the peculiar celebrity that comes from reality TV

Maks: Until you meet me, you don’t know me, you know the character. My job on the show was to put my best foot forward as a dance teacher and as a partner to my celebrity. I never cared about what I looked like to you or to anybody else. This was before social media.

Val: I don’t think of myself as a celebrity. My time here is limited. I just want to do my best in making this world a better place. That’s really what I’m about. I’m not trying to be the most famous dancer in the world, or have the most likes on Facebook. i just want to do what I love, and hopefully make other people happy.

Maks: To me, a big deal is when (fans) grab my hands, or you grab my kid. When Peta was pregnant, everybody was trying to touch her belly. Those things are weird. I’m not somebody with you every Monday, I’m somebody who’s on your TV Monday night. I’m not literally in your living room. I don’t know you.

Allison Stewart is a freelance writer.

onthetown@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @chitribent


When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.

Price: $29.99-$49.99; 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com


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