Meeting your dance idol

So they say never to meet your idols, because they will disappoint you. But one idol who has certainly not disappointed me is Val Chmerkovskiy. If you aren’t familiar with him, he has won two WORLD championship titles in latin dancing and has been a pro on Dancing With the Stars since 2011. I’ve had the honor of meeting him 10 times, all in the past three years.

…Do I still call it “meeting”, or is it only “meeting” the first time and “seeing” the subsequent times? And how many times do you have to meet an idol before you become friends? Val, if you actually read this, DM me and lmk haha

I should probably divulge that he is an owner of the studio where I train, so that has played a big part in me getting to see Val so often. When I first picked up ballroom dancing in college, I would have NEVER imagined where it would take me – how many times I have gotten to dance with and be around pros from DWTS. Whether you’ve met Val multiple times yourself or never met him, I invite you to live vicariously through me as I recount some of my interactions with one of my dance idols (scroll to bottom for pix):

The first time I met Val was in August 2016 at the Our Way tour he did with his brother Maks. I was so nervous and excited all week! A bunch of us went to the show together from my studio and at the end Maks and Val came out for pictures with our group. Oh, and did I mention they were shirtless? HOLY COW. When it was my turn I literally ran to Val and gave him a big hug. I’m pretty sure he kissed the top of my head, but it’s all a blur. Only afterwards did I realize I didn’t say a single word!

The next time I saw Val was at the DWTS tour in February of 2017. I had been gifted meet and greet passes and Val and Laurie were both there. If you’ve been to a DWTS M&G before you know they really hurry you along, but I was able to give him a hug and tell him thank you for everything he does for my studio. I told him who my instructor is and said we can’t wait to have him come do coaching lessons. Hurray! I was actually able to talk! (But I did plan it out in advance to be sure I didn’t freeze up)

When I saw him again in July 2017 I was practically back to square one, because I was about to cross “Dance with Valentin Chmerkovskiy” off my bucket list!! I had a coaching lesson with him and then stayed for a seminar he taught. I literally had to meditate before my lesson to try and slow my breathing down to something semi normal. He asked me to dance my chacha routine with my partner to kick things off and I was SO nervous that he was watching me dance. Because I don’t want him to just see me as a fan, but a dancer too. Ever better – a good dancer, someone who works hard and has great potential. At one point we did samba voltas and he put my hand on his abs to feel how his abs contract during the move. I think I got a wee bit distracted. At the end I asked if he would sign my shoe bag and he did, writing “Use those hips…they never lie 🙂 Love, Val” and to the side wrote “You’re amazing” and underlined it three times. It’s now my lucky shoe bag and I always bring it with me to competitions. (We store ballroom dance shoes in a cloth bag because they have a suede bottom and you aren’t supposed to wear them outside)

Six months later our paths crossed again when I drove to the grand opening party he was hosting for a studio in Austin, TX. Maks, Val, and Tony were all there as well as about 200 dance students and fans. The place was packed! Later at the party as everyone was dancing I went up to Val and nodded back to the dance floor (silent code for “dance with me?”). He agreed and we ended up dancing a salsa together, some of which the event videographer caught on video! I was so grateful to be one of the few people at this crowed event that Val danced with. Proof that sometimes if you really want something to happen you need to be brave and ask! But also please be respectful to him and the other DWTS pros. They don’t OWE you anything. They are human too and will have times when are tired or in a hurry.

When Val’s book was released I tweeted out one of my favorite quotes from the book. Val not only retweeted me, but also took a screenshot and put it on his instagram. He did it during the night and I woke up to a bunch of messages from friends freaking out on my behalf. If you haven’t read his book yet, get on it!

In June 2018 Val (and Jenna!) came to a ballroom competition I was dancing at. They were pretty much there the whole 3 days. I attended a seminar they both taught the night before the competition – this was the first time I ever got to hug Jenna and get a picture with her. She is so talented, and I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her on SYTYCD. I didn’t dance with Val at all this weekend, but we did get a picture together during the fancy gala night and somehow I ended up doing shots (ok, a shot) with him late one night! It was maybe 1am and about 10 of us (students, instructors, and Val) were at the bar when the studio manager offered to buy a round of vodka shots for all of us. You better believe I clicked glasses with Val and said “cheers!”

Then we saw each other again just a few days after the competition when he came to my studio to teach. I did another coaching lesson with him and we worked on rumba together. With ballroom coaching lessons you never know how much the coach will just watch and give feedback (while you dance with your normal instructor/partner) versus actually grab you and dance with you. I got very lucky with this session because Val truly danced with me for the majority of the lesson and it was super helpful. I also attended his masterclass that evening where he taught jive (seems to be one of his favorite styles for groups). Afterwards a few of the more advanced students at my studio asked if we could video him dancing the combo with us, and he graciously agreed. To date the video has over 21,000 views on instagram and is without a doubt the most “viral” I’ve ever gone!

If you thought the previous interactions were pretty awesome (and they were!), the eighth time I saw Val tops the cake. I was one of his guests for the finale of DWTS Season 27. Pinch me. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget and am immensely grateful for. Here is my write up of that experience if you want to check it out.

In conclusion, sometimes people you idolize on tv are just as awesome in real life. Happy Birthday Val! You keep getting better with age. Thank you for all of the time and love you give to your fans.

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