Go Away With ... Maks Chmerkovskiy

Dance pro Maks Chmerkovskiy fondly recalls teaching dance in Hong Kong, which he describes as having an amazing dance culture.
(Benjo Arwas)
Celebrity Travel by Jae-Ha Kim

Maks Chmerkovskiy is well-known to “Dancing with the Stars” fans for his innovative choreography and dance skills. But even as a charismatic teen, he had fans, who would line up to get his autograph after dance competitions. “One of the things I love about dance is that it has given me the opportunity to see the world,” says Chmerkovskiy, who grew up in Odessa, Ukraine, and New York. “It gave me the opportunity to see things I never could have dreamed about as a little boy.” Chmerkovskiy currently is on tour with his wife, Peta Murgatroyd, and his brother, Val Chmerkovskiy. “Maks, Val & Peta” will take them across the United States. To check out local tour dates, head to their website at Fans may stay in touch with him via Twitter (, Facebook ( and Instagram (

Q. When did you start traveling for dance competitions?

A. I was young. I was watching the Olympics with Peta and our son, Shai, and these amazing athletes were the age of college students. I saw their faces after they won their medals and saw them enjoying the camaraderie with each other and it reminded me of what it was like competing in dance competitions when I was their age. It’s amazing. I remember competing in Moscow where there were so many competitors. I remember being 18 competing in Germany and having people ask me for my autograph afterward, because they thought I did well. It was so much fun getting to explore the world with my friends like that. I was just a kid.

Q. Of the places you have been, has there been a place that stood out for its dance culture?


A. I grew up in Eastern Europe and the United States, which both are very strong in dance. Many Asian countries have a really wonderful dance culture, too. I remember that at the end of the calendar year, we had this whole Asian tour. The first time I got to Hong Kong, it blew my mind. Everybody seemed to dance there. It was truly a social dancing community. That’s where we made most of our off-season money, teaching and doing shows in China, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. ... We were everywhere. It is amazing to teach people to dance.

Q. Pick one: Tokyo or Paris?

A. I’m not saying one’s better than the other. I love Paris and there’s nothing like it, but there’s also nothing like landing in Tokyo. It seems like you’re on a different planet! The first time I saw Shibuya and went around that neighborhood was so much fun. I saw Sapporo. Then we went to Hong Kong, which was insane with all its history and culture ... so much fun. Mind you, a lot of this was in my early 20s, so it was an incredible experience for a young adult. We were these kids competing in the Asian Open and were treated so well by people who really knew dance.

Q. How adventurous are you with eating local cuisine?

A. If I’m on vacation, I love to eat. But when we’re traveling for a reason other than tourism, I can’t risk getting sick on something that looked good at the time. We have to watch what we eat, because it’s not exactly convenient to be throwing up 15 minutes before we perform. Also, when I was younger and competing, I didn’t have any money and could afford only modest things. So I stayed within my budget.

Q. So it’s not all luxurious resorts and Michelin-starred restaurants?

A. (Laughs) No, not at all. Peta and I work every day, all the time, and our lives are not like what people think. I am not complaining, because the lives we lead are ones that our parents couldn’t even dream of. We have a wonderful life and we love to travel, but we travel modestly and within our budget.

Q. When you do treat yourself, where do you go?

A. We really love St. Martin. We like to go there with family and enjoy each other’s company. It’s such a beautiful place. The food is wonderful and the culture is amazing. We were so sad for all the people there who were affected by the hurricane.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at You may also follow “Go Away With...” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)