Maksim Chmerkovskiy

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Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Chmerkovskiy in 2007
Native name Russian: Максим Александрович Чмерковский
Born (1980-01-17) January 17, 1980 (age 36)
Odessa, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Citizenship United States
Occupation Dancer, choreographer, instructor
Known for Dancing with the Stars (2005-2016)
Partner(s) Peta Murgatroyd (fiancée)
Relatives Valentin Chmerkovskiy (brother)

Maksim "Maks" Aleksandrovich Chmerkovskiy (Ukrainian: Максим Олекса́ндрович Чмерковський, Russian: Максим Александрович Чмерковский, pronounced [mɑkˈsɪm olɛkˈsɑndroβ̞ɪtʃ ˈtʃmɛrkou̯sʲkɪj]; born January 17, 1980) is a Ukrainian-American[1] Latin-ballroom dance champion, choreographer, and instructor. He is widely known as one of the professional dancers on the American television series Dancing with the Stars, on which he first appeared in season two. In his first 15 appearances as a competing pro on the show, Chmerkovskiy made it to the final round five times, with two runner-up and two third-place finishes. Then on May 20, 2014, Chmerkovskiy, paired with Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis, won his first Dancing with the Stars title.[2] Chmerkovskiy has also starred in the Broadway productions of dance shows Burn the Floor and Forever Tango.

Early life[edit]

Chmerkovskiy was born January 17, 1980, in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR to parents Aleksandr "Sasha" Chmerkovskiy and Larisa Chmerkovskaya.[3][4] He has a younger brother, Valentin Chmerkovskiy (born 1986), who is also a professional dancer.[5] His father is Jewish and his mother is Christian, and he has described himself as Jewish.[6][7][8]

He began dancing at age 4 when Chmerkovskiy's parents enrolled him a school of aesthetic education.[4] The aim of the school was to train children to become young gentlemen or ladies, and the education included manners and ballroom dance. He eventually began competing in ten-dance, which includes both ballroom and Latin dances. As a child Chmerkovskiy also participated in tennis, soccer, and swimming.[9]

At age 13, he broke his right leg in a skiing accident and had a titanium rod put in to stabilize his leg. Doctors foresaw long-term difficulties and little possibility of a dancing career; however, he recovered and was dancing again six months later.[4][10]

The family immigrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1994.[11] The challenges of immigration for Chmerkovskiy and his family included financial and language barriers.[12] On his second day in the United States, Cherkovskiy had a new pair of roller blades stolen.[13] Moving to the United States also gave Chmerkovskiy the opportunity to rededicate himself to dance. At 15 he began working at a local Russian restaurant, dancing as entertainment. Working at the restaurant, Chmerkovskiy decided winning competitions as a dancer would be a way to argue for higher pay.[14]

Competitive Dancing[edit]

As a dancer, Chmerkovskiy competed as under the professional level in the International Latin category.[15] With partner Elena Grinenko, whom Chmerkovskiy competed with from 2002-2005, Chmerkovskiy achieved the rank of 2nd in the United States and 7th in the world among professional international Latin couples.[16][17]

Dancing titles[edit]

  • 2005 Yankee Classic Professional Latin Champion[18]
  • 2005 Blackpool Dance Festival Semi-Finalist
  • 2004 Manhattan Dancesport Professional Latin Champion
  • 2004 Nevada Star Ball Champion
  • 2004 World Masters Finalist
  • 2004 Moscow Kremlin Cup Finalist
  • 2004 Philadelphia Dancesport Festival Champion
  • 2003 All England Champion
  • 2003 Ohio Star Ball Latin Champion
  • 2003 La Classique du Quebec Champion

Opening Dance Studios[edit]

At age 16, Chmerkovskiy and his father opened a youth-oriented competitive dance studio, Rising Stars Dance Academy, on the second floor of a building his father owned in Ridgewood, New Jersey.[11] Chmerkovskiy said he chose New Jersey because there was a plethora of dance studios that he disliked already established in Brooklyn. The studio relocated a few times until it ended up in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He said in 2011 of choosing a New Jersey location, "I didn't want to open a studio that would become just one of the studios in the area. I wanted to open my studio somewhere where there was nothing like it and where people would look at it with no preconceived notions."[3]

In 2001, Chmerkovskiy had his first major success as an instructor when he helped his brother, Valentin, then 16, and Diana Olonetskaya, 15—became the first U.S. dance pair to win a world junior championship.[11] Chmerkovskiy also taught Serge Onik, a dancer who appeared on the eleventh season of So You Think You Can Dance in 2014, where Onik was eliminated just outside the top 10.[19]

In addition to Rising Stars, Chmerkovskiy owns several social and competitive dance studios under the brand "Dance With Me."[20] Most are in the New York metropolitan area.

Dancing with the Stars[edit]

Pro dancer[edit]

Chmerkovskiy competed as a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars for fifteen seasons.[21] He was often referred to as "the bad boy of the ballroom."[21][22][23]

Seasons 2—6[edit]

Chmerkovskiy first appeared in the second season of the ABC series Dancing with the Stars partnered with actress Tia Carrere.[24] The pair's most successful dance was their tango.[25] They finished in sixth place.[26] The following season, he and partner singer Willa Ford came in seventh place.[17] Chmerkovskiy returned to Dancing with the Stars in March 2007 for Season 4, his time partnered with boxer Laila Ali. They made it to the finals and finished in third place.[27] In Season 5 of Dancing with the Stars, he was partnered with Melanie Brown and the couple received second place. Following the season 5 finale, Chmerkovskiy reportedly told TV Guide Magazine he would not be returning to the show, something he later told People Magazine he had announced his departure because of stress.[28][29] Chmerkovskiy did not compete in Season 6, although he and former partner Melanie Brown made an appearance for the 100th episode.

Seasons 7—9[edit]

He returned for the show's seventh season, this time paired with two-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist, Misty May-Treanor. Chmerkovskiy and May-Treanor were forced to withdraw from the competition in Week 3. During a practice for their jive, May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon and required surgery. Her withdrawal gave them a finish in 10th place.[30]

On February 9, 2009, Good Morning America announced that he would be paired with Denise Richards for the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars. They were eliminated second in the competition, giving the pair a finish of 12th place. In the ninth season, he was paired with actress Debi Mazar, during which they were eliminated fourth. Halfway through season 9, Chmerkovskiy partnered Joanna Krupa for one week while Derek Hough was ill.[31] Krupa and Chmerkovskiy danced an Argentine Tango and participated in the 70's themed group dance.[31]

Seasons 10—13[edit]

In season 10, Chmerkovskiy, returning for his eighth season, was partnered with Erin Andrews.[32] Andrews and Chmerkovskiy's partnership was notable for their good rapport and Chmerkovskiy was protective of Andrews as she coped with threats.[33][34] They ended up coming in third place during the two-hour finale on May 25, 2010.

For season 11, Chmerkovskiy partnered with singer and actress, Brandy. They made it to the semi-finals but were eliminated with a fourth-place finish.[35] Their elimination was viewed as shocking because they were consistently among the highest scoring couples each week.[36][37]

For Season 12, he was paired with actress Kirstie Alley. On week 3, his leg gave out causing her to fall heavily on him, earning 21 points (out of 30).[38] The next week, Alley's shoe fell off during their routine. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba called Alley "The Queen of the Unexpected Mishap." In April the show aired a rehearsal outtake of Chmerkovskiy giving a monologue which resulted in him often being referred to as "sex on a stick."[39][40][41] For season 13, he was partnered with Hope Solo and they finished in fourth place. In Solo's book, A Memoir of Hope, she wrote that Chmerkovskiy treated her roughly, once slapping her during a rehearsal.[42] Solo's claims were never corroborated.

Seasons 14—18[edit]

For season 14, he was partnered with actress Melissa Gilbert. In week 4, while performing the paso doble, Gilbert hit her head on the dance floor and suffered a mild concussion. She was rushed to the hospital and was unable to be at the results show the following night. The couple was called safe. Chmerkovskiy also suffered an injury, pulling a muscle in his shoulder. The couple was eliminated four weeks later, finishing in fifth place.

For season 15, an All-Stars season, Maksim returned to the dance floor with previous partner, Kirstie Alley. In week 1, they received the second-lowest score, 19. In week 3, Alley and Chmerkovskiy danced a Cha-Cha-Cha, they scored 17 . Alley and Chmerkovskiy earned 24. Alley and Chmerkovskiy were eliminated in week 8 alongside Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd in a double elimination.[43]

In February 2013, Chmerkovskiy announced his departure from Dancing with the Stars for Season 16.[44] Chmerkovskiy returned on the fifth week of Season 16 for "Len's Side-By-Side Challenge", where he danced with Anna Trebunskaya in an Argentine Tango with brother Val and his partner Zendaya and in a Jive with Jacoby Jones and his partner Karina Smirnoff.

Prior to the full cast announcement, US Weekly reported Chmerkovskiy would return to Dancing for season 18 after a two-season break.[45][46] Chmerkovskiy was paired with Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis. They were announced the winners on May 20, 2014, marking Chmerkovskiy's first win.[citation needed] At the end of Season 18, they had the highest average of any dancers of the show with a 28.4 average, and were tied for the most amount of perfect scores, earning a total of 6.[citation needed]

Season 23[edit]

On August 25, 2016, following the circulation of a reportedly new photo of Chmerkovskiy in costume for DWTS, Chmerkovskiy confirmed his return to the show in an appearance on Good Morning America.[47] Season 23 is Chmerkovskiy's first as a competing pro since winning the competition in season 18.[48] The full cast was officially announced on August 30, at which point ABC confirmed Chmerkovskiy will partner model Amber Rose, they were eliminated on the 6th week of competition, finishing in 9th place.[49]


Season Partner Place
2 Tia Carrere 6th
3 Willa Ford 7th
4 Laila Ali 3rd
5 Melanie Brown 2nd
7 Misty May-Treanor 10th
8 Denise Richards 12th
9 Debi Mazar 12th
10 Erin Andrews 3rd
11 Brandy Norwood 4th
12 Kirstie Alley 2nd
13 Hope Solo 4th
14 Melissa Gilbert 5th
15 Kirstie Alley 7th
18 Meryl Davis 1st
23 Amber Rose 9th

Guest judge[edit]

For season 17, he was a guest judge during the semifinals in Week 10. Chmerkovskiy returned to the ballroom as a guest judge during Week 5 of Season 21.[50] Chmerkovskiy again returned to the judge's desk in Week 5 of Season 22, switch-up week. Chmerkovskiy's fiancee, Peta Murgatroyd, was among the competing pros that week.[51]


His professional work includes choreographing for the Wynn Las Vegas's water-based show Le Rêve.[52] By 2008, Chmerkovskiy's contribution to Le Rêve included choreographing three numbers: “Tango”, “Paso Doble” and “Piece Montèe”.[53][54] In 2014 Chmerkovskiy returned to Le Rêve to choreograph for a new scene as part of a $3 million upgrade to the production.[55]

Chmerkovskiy choreographed and performed in the Dancing with the Stars Tour 2008-2009 winter tour.[56][57] The tour kicked off on December 17, 2008 and was scheduled to stop in 34 cities.[56]

In the summer of 2014, Chmerkovskiy appeared in multiple performances of the touring dance show "Ballroom with a Twist."[58]


Chmerkovskiy was a dancer in the Broadway production Burn the Floor when it opened on July 25, 2009.[59] Chmerkovskiy was partnered with Karina Smirnoff for the first three weeks of the show's Broadway run, leaving to return to Dancing with the Stars. The pair learned their choreography for the production in just two days.[60] Chmerkovskiy returned to Burn the Floor in November 2009 through January 2010, this time he partnered with Kym Johnson.[59]

From July 9 to August 18, 2013, he starred in "Forever Tango", a Broadway musical, dancing and performing onstage with former dance colleague Karina Smirnoff.[61][62]

Sway: A Dance Trilogy[edit]

2014 was also the year when Chmerkovskiy started performing in Sway: A Dance Trilogy in Westbury, New York.[63] Chmerkovskiy credits his father Sasha with the idea for Sway. Sway is a live ballroom dance show starring Maksim, his brother Valentin, and Tony Dovolani. The show also features other professional dancers from Dancing with the Stars, So You think You Can Dance, and dance instructors from Chmerkovskiy's Dance with Me studios. A few celebrities from Dancing with the Stars have appeared in the production as well.[64] Sway is primarily broken into three distinct sections: a smooth, 40's nightclub inspired section featuring Dovolani, an urban and hip-hop influenced section featuring Val, and finally a more Latin and Miami oriented section featuring Maksim.[65]

Maks and Val on Tour[edit]

On February 12, 2016, Maksim announced plans for a 45 city live tour with his younger brother, Valentin. The tour, titled Maks & Val Live On Tour: Our Way, began on June 15, 2016.[66] The show is autobiographical and tells the story of the brothers' lives through dance.[41]

Other work as choreographer[edit]

In addition to his choreography on Dancing with the Stars and La Reve,[53] Chmerkovskiy has worked as a cheorographer on other projects. Chmerkovskiy choreographed a commercial for Propel water.[67] Chmerkovskiy provided choreography for Zendaya's music video for the song "Neverland" from Broadway's Finding Neverland.[68]

Other activities[edit]

Chmerkovskiy is one of the creators and directors of Dance Team USA, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization dedicated to recruiting, supporting, and training future DanceSport participants.


In the United States[edit]

In 2009, he participated in the ABC sport show called "The Superstars" and was paired with Freestyle Skier Kristi Leskinen. They won the competition.[69] Chmerkovskiy also appeared as himself in a 2011 episode of the short-lived CW reality show H8R.[70] He appeared as an actor on a 2012 episode of the TV Land series The Exes.[71] Chmerkovskiy appeared on three episodes of General Hospital in March 2013 playing the role of Anton Ivanov, who dances with Kelly Monaco's character Sam Morgan during the Nurses' Ball.[72] In 2016, Chmerkovskiy and his brother, Valentin, both made cameo appearances in the Netflix series Fuller House, a reboot of the sitcom Full House.[73]

Around the world[edit]

In 2011, Chmerkovskiy starred as "The Bachelor" in the Ukrainian version of the dating reality series.[74] He later told a Ukrainian newspaper that he regretted doing the show, saying, "This kind of project is not for me."[75] The show made Chmerkovskiy the second most searched person on Google in the Ukraine for 2011, behind only Steve Jobs.[76] As of 2012, he hosted the Ukrainian version of the game show The Cube.[77]

Chmerkovskiy has also appeared as a judge on "Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa", the India's version of Dancing with the Stars.[78]

Personal life[edit]

Chmerkovskiy's native language is Russian, but he can understand a little Ukrainian.[75] Chmerkovskiy did not speak English when he moved to the United States.[79] He says he learned English from reading street signs in Brooklyn.[79] Chmerkovskiy primarily lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey.[3] Chmerkovskiy and his brother Val adopted an English bulldog in 2010.[80]

He was engaged to fellow DWTS pro and Ukrainian Karina Smirnoff for nine months in 2009.[81] In 2012 Chmerkovskiy began dating another DWTS pro, Peta Murgatroyd, but the relationship ended in 2013 after 10 months.[82] He was also in a "serious" relationship with model Kate Upton later that year.[83] Chmerkovskiy and Murgatroyd reunited in October 2014.[84][85] Murgatroyd also publicly confirmed the couple's reunion telling Radar Online, "[Maks is] the most generous man I have ever met and I’m very happy." [86] Chmerkovskiy and Murgatroyd became engaged on December 5, 2015, when he proposed while onstage for a performance of Sway: A Dance Trilogy in Miami, Florida.[87]

On June 29, 2016, Chmerkovskiy and Murgatroyd confirmed they are expecting their first child in January 2017. The couple learned Murgatroyd was pregnant during Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars, which she would go on to win. Chmerkovskiy and Murgatroyd plan to marry in July 2017.[88]


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