Our guest blogger today is Deborah Meijer, who spoke to Maks about his upcoming birthday celebration and first bridal dances.
A regular dance pro on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, co-owner of the successful Dance With Me USA dance studios, founder of Rising Star Dance Academy, board member of Dance Team USA (a non-profit, charitable organization focused on the promoting of DanceSport), co-choreographer of Las Vegas show Le Rêve, and with a recent jewelry collection just launched, known to his friends simply as Maks, and now…Birthday Boy.
Why the public celebration?
“This is actually a great gift from my family and my studios. Lots of fans were confused. No, I am not throwing my own public party. This is going to be a spectacular dance showcase, which is something our dance studios are well known for. The unique part of it is that the showcase theme is centered around my life and a celebration of what is in it. It is also a pretty creative interpretation of storytelling through dance.
“What I think inspired my family, business partners and my creative team is that they wanted to give me a really memorable birthday gift. And they know that being able to finally bring all the things that I love together, for once, is something I have always wanted to do.
“Like for instance, I enjoy choreographing major productions, to push creative envelopes. I am proud that Le Rêve had its 3000th show recently and to know that I helped produce something that is appreciated by so many others. That feels amazing. Also, I’m blessed to have made all of the friends that I did through the years of Dancing with the Stars. And to me my family is everything. I love them more than anything.
“Through the years, my family and friends at the studio, they know that it has been hard at times to live life on both coasts. And, this year, I was lucky to have my brother Val on DWTS, my best friend and business partner Tony Dovolani in LA too, and DWTS Dance Troupe members Teddy, Nicole, Kiki, and Dasha also as part of my west coast world. But honestly, I’ve never really brought all ‘my worlds’ together. So to be able to choreograph a show that entertains fans and brings my friends and family together, is the best gift they could have given me.
“So, I can’t take credit for coming up with it. But I appreciate all the thought and effort my friends, family and teams are putting into it. I’m honored to have so many good people around me, who care enough to have put so much together on my behalf. So I’m very excited. Maybe that seems odd to some fans but that’s just me.
“I mean, how many people get to have a birthday celebration, tribute, showcase, spectacular, crazy and amazing production—whatever you want to call it–in the amazing and huge Hammerstein Ballroom and in the greatest city on earth: New York City. Wouldn’t you be excited?”
We definitely would, Maks. But what is interesting is that the showcase will supposedly have some surprises for Maks. His family won’t tell him all that they have planned for the bash, although Maks says, “I know at least 85% of everything in the show. Maybe more. Maybe less. I definitely am involved in the dancing parts. But they keep telling me there are surprises. So I’ll have to wait and see. I can tell you this much. My brother, Val, is taking the lead as a creative director for the show. He is pulling out all the stops. I know he is putting together a multi-sensory, multi-media production. I heard about some special performances, never-seen-before photos and video footage of my life. And I also know that Tony has been roping in all sorts of friends from back in the day as well as to people we practically live with when we are in LA, and everyone in between. But they have kept some details pretty tightly under wraps. So, I’m looking forward to the show”.
But fans do know that celeb friends are sure to show up to help celebrate this ballroom superstar’s special day. Past Dance With Me Showcase events included guests such as Kirstie Alley, Sherri Shepherd, and Petra Nemcova.
Maks is best known for Dancing with the Stars and has been paired with celebs such as Tia Carrere, Laila Ali, Denise Richards, Erin Andrews, and Brandy. He was Runner Up with both Kirstie Alley and Spice Girl Mel B, as well as semi-finalist Hope Solo from the most recent DWTS season. Fans are hoping to see some of his past partners attend the event.
When asked if they might be showing up, Maks wouldn’t disclose the guest list.
“That seems to be the million dollar question. Listen, I have made some amazing friends through the years both on and off the show and in the dance world. That some of them will make it for my birthday will be amazing for me personally. The more the merrier, as the saying goes. I’m personally excited to see them and party in NYC with them. But that isn’t the point of the Ballroom Bash Showcase. Dance With Me dance studios have been putting on dance shows for years. This one is going to be our absolute biggest yet. And we are working very hard, myself included, to make it special and to entertain our audience with storytelling through dance. So I hope my fans, friends and family enjoy it.”
Dance has been Mak’s livelihood since he began dancing at the age of four. With the support of his family and the foundation of a strong work ethic, Maks has excelled in the dance world. His talent and dedication have led him to become an accomplished choreographer, coach and pro ballroom dancer.
During our interview, we could not help but want to learn more about what drives Maks. He has accomplished a lot in just a few years. It may be because Maks seems to make every hour, minute and second count.
This past December, Maks attended the Dance With Me New Jersey studio Holiday Party on a Thursday night in Bergen, New Jersey. The party was attended by students, Tony Dovolani, Dasha Chesnokova, Kiki Nyemchek, brother Val, and half the media in the Tri-State area. Maks left that Holiday Party in the wee hours of Friday morning.
The following Saturday afternoon, Maks, along with brother Val, taught a dance seminar at the Dance With Me Soho location.
And in the few hours between those two events, we found out that Maks flew to Los Angeles to shoot a Propel spot. No one taking the class would have guessed he’d just stepped off the red-eye.
We had to ask Maks: Where does he get his energy?
“I have to admit, this past year has been intense,” says Maks. “Between choreographing, performing on Dancing With the Stars, launching my jewelry line, writing my blog, teaching dance seminars, planning our June Summer Invitational Showcase, working abroad and now planning the upcoming Birthday Showcase, I really haven’t had much time to relax. It was a very action packed year. But there’s two really important things to keep in mind. One, I have amazing business partners and teams around me. I really couldn’t do it all by myself. Two, I was taught to give your all to what you do and to make the most of what opportunities the world gives you. So I do my best to try to do that. Most people who know me know that I work hard and play hard. I always try to fit it all in. But I won’t lie, it felt really good to get away over the holiday break. I closed out 2011 by letting things slow down just a little bit—but not too much,” he laughs.
One thing he will not cut out of his schedule, however, is teaching.
What is it about teaching that Maks seems to enjoy?
“Teaching has always just been a part of who I am,” says Maks. “Even as we were developing the Birthday Ballroom Bash story, it really hit home how much teaching is such a huge part of my life. Starting with the Rising Stars Dance Academy, I guess I’ve always enjoyed helping shape and grow others. I taught Val since he was half my size, maybe even smaller. And I have always taken pride in his success because I know just how hard he worked to succeed. I’d been there with Val each step of the way. Don’t get me wrong, Val is successful in his own right. He earned everything he has worked hard for. We’re all proud of him. But it just feels good for me knowing that maybe I helped him become a little stronger. I’ve done the same for Teddy and Nicole Volynets as well as Kiki Nyemchek and about 20 others, who are all like my own little brothers and sisters, my own family. There’s something amazing about helping others and watching them grow up. It feels good to say in some way maybe big or maybe small, that you helped someone else. Through dance, I’ve been able to do that.”
Teaching, designing, dancing, party planning: Maks’s life might be non-stop action, but he does have a warm “friend” to come home to.
Eclipsing the celeb dance partners and friends in Maks’s life is his canine companion, Sir Sleepalot, aka Sir Sleep. Sir Sleep is an English Bulldog who boasts almost 3,000 twitter followers. Sir Sleep’s Twitter bio reads: “I tweet…what does your dog do?” He is ultra choosy in his own Twitter topics. Only Sir Sleep’s owners Maks, Val and Teddy are worthy of this animal-star’s own attention.
In the midst of the New Jersey Holiday Party, Sir Sleep made his way slowly across the dance floor, barely missing collisions with the revelers performing the Waka Waka. Possibly more guests showered Sir Sleep with affection than posed for pictures with the celeb stars of the party.
What is the appeal of this lumbering, pint-sized pet with the big eyes, whose tweets include the location of his bones, whether or not DWTS Dance Troupe member Teddy Volynets walked him or not, or taking credit for “Maksgate” (“I told @MaksimC to say that to the judges…they’ve been pissing me off for weeks.”)? And on New Year’s Eve 2011, Sir Sleep tweeted “#Happy New Year to all my dogs.”
“Sir Sleep is our baby,” says Maks, “Sleep is truly a character on his own. He’s so lovable. Having him around lightens up all of our moods. The thing about Sir Sleep is that he just is—when he’s not asleep, that is. He always reminds us all that no matter how fast the rest of life is moving, some things will never change. You know, it’s funny but we talk a lot about fairy tales. When you’re in the dance world, from the costuming and the embellishments and drama, it’s almost like we live fairy tales on the dance floor. We romanticize and accentuate every move, each step. Well, the theme of the Birthday Ballroom Bash is also fairy tales. But what’s ironic and kind of funny is that my ideal fairy tale ending isn’t this grand story of my life. In my fairy tale, there is a just a big house with a backyard, tons of family and friends, smiles, kids running around, and there is Sir Sleep right there next to me too.”
Speaking of fairy tales, we also spoke to the birthday boy and his talented staff at the Dance With Me dance studios about fairy-tale wedding first dances. DWM dance studios is one of the nation’s leading Latin and Ballroom dance studios. With some of the best instructors from all over the world who are champions in the Ballroom Dance industry, their professionals guide students in the proper techniques of International Standard, American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Latin Ballroom Dancing and many more dance styles. They also have extensive expertise in teaching the Bridal First Dance (look out for more from us on this soon).
We asked Maks what makes the first dance so important? What tips would you tell our readers?
“We love to see bridal couples in our studios taking lessons,” says Maks. “Dance is about passion and expression. It’s why a couple dancing together and expressing their passion through movement is amazing to watch. But I admit that it does take practice and patience to learn a dance together as a couple. We recommend that couples give themselves plenty of time to learn the choreography, so that the process can be a fun one. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience. The first bridal dance is about the couple’s love for each other. So learning moves together, getting their own unique rhythm right, and just flowing with each other, it’s an intimate experience. And it should be very personal and also enjoyable to them both from start to finish.”
What are the trends in first wedding dances?
“Today, there are couples that want to be more ambitious and creative in their first dance. There are some that still prefer the beautiful, elegant traditional dances like a Waltz or a Tango. But I think as we have seen wedding themes get more unique, and music mixes that give modern interpretation to classic songs, we also have also seen first dances take on very contemporary and creative interpretations, too. Some first dance routines are a mix of dance styles from traditional to contemporary. Some are designed to reflect the personalities of the couple. Some even have a bit of pop or hip hop theme.
“For myself and the Dance With Me dance studio staff, we have to ensure we listen to our couples as well as educate them to the possibilities. When we develop a routine for a couple, it’s always very customized. So our approach is not to simply produce a routine. Our focus is, first and foremost, collaborating with the couple and crafting their first dance, the beginning of their love story, together.”
For more information on Maks, Dance With Me dance studios, the Maks Birthday Ballroom Bash Showcase, and fairy tales, please go to www.dancewithmeusa.com