Val and Tristan: The New Men of ‘Dancing With the Stars’

By Suzan Clarke

Sep 26, 2011 8:22am

abc tristan macmanus val dm 110926 wblog Val and Tristan: The New Men of Dancing With the Stars

Season 13 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” has had people buzzing, and not just because of the controversial cast.  The two new male dance pros are setting viewers’ hearts all aflutter with their good looks and great moves on the dance floor.

Meet Val Chmerkovskiy and Tristan MacManus.

Chmerkovskiy, 25, hails from Ukraine. He’s the little brother of Maks Chmerkovskiy, the longtime “Dancing” pro who is considered the bad boy of the ballroom.

MacManus, 29, is Irish, and although lots of people love his lilting accent, it sometimes confuses his partner, attorney and TV host Nancy Grace.

MacManus started dancing when he was 9. His other passion was soccer (known as “football” in the rest of the world), and he pursued them both.

“People never knew I danced until I was like maybe 16 or 17 …,” he told “Good Morning America” contributor and former “Dancing With the Stars” competitor Melissa Rycroft. “I used to go play football matches in the morning and I’d go straight from me football game to a dance competition.”

A dancer all his life, he’s performed around the world. MacManus has battled a knee injury and had knee surgery and come back better than ever. He came to the United States as part of Simply Ballroom, and stayed to appear in Burn the Floor.

The first time “Dancing With the Stars” approached him, he actually turned the show down because he’d already made a commitment to another show.

But, he said philosophically, “it all happens for a reason, like you know what I mean? You kind of have to take them chances.  And again … it wouldn’t have been right for me to kind of jump ship a week after telling someone I’d stay, like, you know what I mean?  So I’m glad I did.  I’m glad I did stay there, and like I said, I was lucky enough, then … that’s when “Dancing with the Stars” came back to me for the next season.”

He comes from a family of dancers who’ve been supportive of him and he’s grateful for that.

“You don’t realize that there’s a lot of money that goes into that.  Yeah, so you kind of take it for granted a bit, and I think I did that for a long time, and  it’s nice now to kind of have, for it to pay off a little bit,” he said. “I put a lot of hard work in, and it’s … I can be proud of myself, for the work that I put in, but … I think it’s nice to be able to give something, as well. ”

Grace considers her dance partner a dancing purist.

“You are not going to see him — even though I’ve asked him to — rip off his shirt or do a stunt,” she said.

That’s probably a good thing.  Judge Len Goodman is well-known for his dislike of non-dance dance floor antics.

The younger Chmerkovskiy brother started dancing when he was 6 in Odessa, Ukraine. That was before his family moved to Brooklyn.

In addition to being a world-class competitive dancer, Chmerkovskiy also is an accomplished pianist and violinist.

“Yeah, it was tough, you know, going to school with dance shoes in one hand and a violin case in the other,” he admitted to Rycroft.

He’s a self-described renaissance man who’s looking forward to the new opportunities that being on the show could present.

“That’s the most exciting thing about my position right now is that everything’s been so calculated my entire life, there’s a schedule since I was 8 years old.  There’s a high-speed treadmill that I’ve been on for the majority of my life, and this is the first time that I … have the freedom to say I’m up for anything, you know.  And tomorrow, if I get an opportunity to make a record or, you know, pursue music, I’ll do that.  I’m a poet.  I write lyrics. I write music. And if … something that comes up in music, I would love to pursue that.  Uh, acting, very curious in that.  Am I good at it? … Yeah, maybe not.  Maybe not at the moment, but I’m willing to learn, and I’m willing to, you know, pursue anything that comes up.  I’m very open to any new opportunities.”

And Chmerkovskiy isn’t ashamed to say he’s excited to be working with his older brother on the show.

“One of the reasons why I even started dancing was because my brother was dancing. … You know, I look up to my brother, I have a lot of respect for him.  Uh, growing up he was my, I guess role model and … my teacher,” he said.

And if there’s just a hint of sibling rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

He’s determined to win the mirror ball trophy that has eluded his big brother for so many years. That means partner Elisabetta Canalis has her work cut out for her.

“He’s a very nice guy, you know, tough when he’s teaching, of course, but he’s a very nice guy,” she said.

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