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Pros from ‘Dancing With the Stars’ dropped by their new Austin studio, and here’s what happened

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com

I’m much better at wiping out on water skis, crashing my mountain bike into cactus and taking tumbles while trail running then I am at ballroom dancing, but the stars behind the new Austin location of Dance With Me say that’s not a problem.

Maks Chmerkovskiy, Tony Dovolani and Val Chmerkovskiy, three popular pro dancers from the television show “Dancing with the Stars,” popped into Austin last night to celebrate the grand opening of their newest dance studio in the Domain Northside. I managed to squeeze in a quick interview before hordes of women in sequined dresses mobbed them.

The stars assured me that they can teach just about anybody – even people like me – to dance, regardless of skill and coordination. The studio offers private lessons, group classes, lessons for couples getting ready for their weddings and people who use wheelchairs. It caters to all ages.

“If anybody’s got two left feet, don’t worry – we’ve got a closet full of right feet,” Dovolani said.

Point taken.

The Austin location of Dance With Me marks the 11th to open in the United States, and the fourth in Texas. Why Austin?

“We have fans from all over country, and obviously Austin has such an incredible dance community and they kept requesting us to open a studio,” Dovolani said. “We wish we had opened up earlier, because we didn’t realize how cool everybody was.”

Yes, that Austin cool factor. But can we dance? And if we do, will we drop pounds like the celebrities that go on the show to compete?

“This isn’t a fitness destination, this is more a fun destination with a side effect of fitness,” Val Chmerkovskiy said.

I like that side effect. But still, can we dance?

“Like we’ve been saying all day, it’s really designed for people who don’t know how to dance or aren’t comfortable or confident on their feet or in high heels,” Maks Chmerkovskiy said. “This is the place that helps ease your way into the world of dance and also the world of self expression and physically feeling good, expanding your range, doing something outside your comfort zone.”

The studio teaches all types of partner dancing, with a focus on ballroom.

“That’s our background,” Dovolani said. “(But we teach) whatever’s trendy, whatever makes the masses feel good. We tailor this experience to the individual. It’s more about expanding your range of movement in general.”

And yes, we’re in Texas, so two-stepping’s on the menu.

No partners needed, either. “You don’t need a partner, just the spirit, the courage to make the first step and we take care of the rest,” Maks Chmerkovskiy said.

“All you need is curiosity,” Dovolani said. “If you’re curious, come in and try it out. I’ve yet to come across anybody we couldn’t teach.”

Before we left the pro dancers to their fans, we had one more question. That whole Rick Perry thing – our former governor showed lots of enthusiasm when he appeared on “Dancing With the Stars,” but he didn’t make it too far in the competition.

“The moral of the story is, if Rick Perry can dance, anybody can dance,” Maks Chmerkovskiy said.