BWW Interview: DANCING WITH THE STARS' Val Brings Ballroom Dance to Atlanta Through Dance with Me
"Our priority isn't to teach the next ballroom dance champion of the world. It's to bring out the best of every single person that walks through those doors." -Val Chmerkovskiy
Next week when DANCING WITH THE STARS LIVE rolls into the Fox Theatre, Atlanta audiences will get a taste of the elegant show for one night, but fortunately for us, one of the dancers is leaving a "microcosm of that experience" for us to engage with all year round.
Two-time mirror ball champion Val Chmerkovskiy has opened Dance with Me, a ballroom dance studio for adults of all talent levels. Now open in Phipps Plaza, this is Dance with Me USA's fourteenth location and first in Georgia. Below, check out BroadwayWorld Atlanta's conversation with him in which he reveals why he sees ballroom dance as vital for society, what Dance with Me means to him, and what the studio's ribbon-cutting party on February 12 will be like.
Can you tell me a little bit about Dance with Me and where the idea came from?
With Dance with Me, because the world is so familiar with DANCING WITH THE STARS, I like to piggy-back off of that and say we kind of create a little microcosm of that experience. It's the easiest way to describe the magic that happens in our ballroom dance studio because everyone sees it happen on television all the time.
We wanted to create a social dance scene where anybody, no matter what your background is, whether you're pursuing dance seriously as a lifestyle or if you're pursuing dance as an extra-curricular to treat yourself and get physical therapy or mental therapy. Honestly there's nothing soothing, nothing consoling like being part of a collective, dancing to music.
The company actually was founded in 2005 by my father who was a parent of two kids dancing, my brother and myself, and another parent of kid dancers who were training at our kid dance studio at the time, so my brother and my dad actually opened up a kids dance studio in '97. And then they had an idea, like, "Well what about all these parents who are sitting here in their seats watching the kids? What if we offer dance for them?" We wanted to combine the charm of the local dance studio with a high-end experience, an experience with chandeliers and a beautiful ambiance and a beautiful service where you feel like you're literally at a ball somewhere, and almost fifteen years later, we have 14 locations.
And how did you choose Buckhead as your next location?
Why Buckhead? Because it's a community that loves to celebrate, and in its essence, at its core, dance is a celebration. We opened in Atlanta because there is a dance community there. People love to dance, people love to move, people love to celebrate. Why not Atlanta? It's a growing city, and we'd love to contribute to its growth, to its beauty any way we can.
I love that! And I love what you said about the transition from dance studios being for kids to being for adults. I feel like there are so many activities for kids, and their needs get met in a lot of ways, but it's so awesome to open that up and include the parents.
It's true, it's true. And what are parents? What are adults? Adults are just kids who have spent a little more time on this earth. They too need to be motivated and excited. A lot of our clientele are people who dreamed about dance at a time when it was absolutely unacceptable or unattainable for them, and they've pursued a career in finance, for instance. So now they find themselves at a place in their life where they have the time, they have the resources, and they want to treat themselves again.
What ends up happening is that it ends up being more rewarding than it would have been when they were kids because of their perspective. You grow up, you prioritize, and you appreciate on a different level, and I think that appreciation for this little community that we've created is what drives us to continue to grow. We have so many stories, where, in a nutshell, students will say, "My significant other passed away a couple years ago. I literally didn't get out of the house, and now this has given me a whole new life and a whole new energy."
Dance has now evolved into something that has so many proven medical benefits. It's not just to watch. Dance is also to take part in. And we try to bring that into your city, into communities, and to encourage. We have competitions among studios, we have private lessons, group lessons, so there's something for everybody. It's not a major commitment to walk in and take an introductory lesson, and again, the transformations are incredible. People are changing physically, and they're finding their happiness- who would have thought?- through ballroom dance.
Yes! I feel like that's so true. It sounds like it serves so many different needs at the same time.
Yeah, it's true. My fiancée is also a dancer, and she needs to go and find the nearest treadmill and spend at least an hour on it meditating her way into the beginning of her day. We're different. You can't pay me to stand on a treadmill for more than five minutes, but I love being physically active. So I think social dance is an activity where you get in there, and you're having so much fun moving and interacting, and so many triggers are being ignited in your body and your mind that you don't even notice that you're drenched in sweat literally ten minutes into it, and you can dance for a long time.
At the end of the day, dancing is just a vehicle to better other people's lives. That's kind of the mission statement of Dance with Me that yes, we are a dance company, but we are more than that. We are a community of like-minded people who have goals, who are driven, who are in need of feeling a part of something and we create that something as a beautiful, fun, loving, inclusive. That's another thing- dance is a very inclusive space, and our studios reflect that. In a world that's constantly being divided, we are a place that inspires people to come together, regardless of how much money someone makes or what they look like or where they're from or what disabilities they have.
And what is that like for you to be a part of that process?
It's really special. I grew up dancing, I grew up competing in dance, being on television, and I pursued dance for my own self-reflection and fulfillment, and now as I'm getting older, I see that everybody seeks a greater purpose. For me to be part of a company that provides for others that love affair that I've experienced, it's a beautiful thing. It's like a superpower.
Not a lot of people get to do what they love, but I get to do what I love with people I love and continue to spread that love to others. I never thought that's what this whole thing would evolve into, I never thought dance would give me this much purpose in life. I was just doing it to hang out with girls, but I'm glad that it turned out to be less superficial than that.
We're all equal on that dance floor and all build each other up. I couldn't ask for anything better for me to be a part of than something like that. I lead the way in the moral focus of what we're trying to accomplish, and that is our number one priority. It isn't to teach the next ballroom dance champion of the world. It's to bring out the best of every single person that walks through those doors.
That sounds like something that's amazing to be a part of on every level! And we are so excited about the event on the 12th. Do you know what that's gonna look like from your standpoint?
It'll look like an awesome party. At the end of the day, the space is gonna be incredibly extravagant, gorgeous, and high-end, but the spirit is always very welcoming and warm. My thing is, things that are upscale tend to sometimes be exclusive. Exclusive is a word that's synonymous with high quality but not always synonymous with hospitality and warmth. So what I love about us is you come into a five-star event, and you're gonna be treated like a five-star individual. That's the thing- it's gonna be one big party, one big celebration, and at that point the space ceases to be ours and becomes part of the community.
Dance With Me is one of the nation's leading chain of dance studios. Founded by champion and celebrity dancers, Dance With Me dance studios offer the ultimate dance experience blending fun, ease, and comfort with quality instruction in the most beautiful dance studios. The first-rate services include private dance lessons, group dance classes, social practice parties and memorable events guaranteed to intrigue beginners and inspire over-achievers.
Whether you are a looking for a new hobby or take your skills to the next level, Dance With Me's unique approach to personalized dance instruction ensures that your needs and desires are met every step of the way. It's not just about learning to dance, it's about feeling healthier and happier, while expressing yourself in an incredible community of like-minded people.
Dance With Me hosts showcases, competitions, provides event entertainment, corporate and team building services, and does local and national charitable work. The studio offers an array of services, including private dance lessons, group classes, dance showcases and competitions, social dance parties, corporate events and entertainment and employee wellness and team building. Dance With Me covers various dance styles, including ballroom/smooth, Latin/rhythm, hip hop, contemporary, functional and correctional movement and dance aerobics.
Now numbering 14 locations, the Dance With Me chain was launched by founding partners Sasha Chmerkovskiy, Jhanna Volynets, and Maks Chmerkovskiy in 2005. They have been joined by Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Eugene Livshits; Alex Samusevich is the Director of Marketing.
For further information about Dance With Me Dance Studios visit dancewithmeusa.com or call (404) 400-1121.