I’m writing this letter to let you know that I have decided to end my competitive dance career. It truly has been an amazing journey for me. I have been so very blessed with the incredible partners that I had the pleasure of growing and competing with. To them I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Endless gratitude to the coaches that have given me so much, I am forever in debt. The knowledge that was shared with me, throughout the years, is worth more than any trophy I have ever won. The experience I gained from the countless hours of practice and performances, the character I built from the disappointments and failure, alongside with the love I gained for movement, music, and self-expression is something that has shaped me into the man I am today.
I was a 7 year old child when I was dragged against my will into a world of high heels, tight pants, and shiny shirts. I was a 12 year old boy when I went to my first oversees competition (German Open), and was one of only 2 US couples there (my brother being the second). I was a 15 year old adolescent when I won my first IDSF World Championship, and became the first and last American to ever do it… I was a 19 year old “young man” when I had the privilege of lifting the Blackpool trophy, which was an honor I only dreamed about. But as a 23 year old man I was told I couldn’t compete at the Dutch Open. Then as a 24 year old man I was told that I couldn’t compete against some of the best dancers in the world, because of reasons I had no power of influencing. The world I believed in, loved, and was willing to give up my last penny for was changing… and changing for the worse.
I was a 25 year old man when I realized I was powerless. I held on to my love for dance to steer me through the lack of motivation, my disbelief in everything that was happening, and the sheer loneliness. I am so lucky that I got to witness the “Golden Years” of the 90s early 00’s, when dancers danced. When you had brilliant innovators performing for themselves, for the audience, and most importantly to influence and motivate the younger generation. The incentives were clear, and dancers gave up EVERYTHING to reach them. Well things aren’t so clear any more.
I don’t know everything, if anything at all. But what I do know is there are young dancers out there that are confused, betrayed, and ultimately discouraged by these changes. I hope that things will resolve themselves, but as of right now the changes have divided competitors, separated friends, alienated coaches, and sanctioned competitions. However the biggest casualty of it all is INSPIRATION. Inspiration comes from our surroundings. Every dancer in the world knows the huge challenges that come with pursuing the career of ballroom dancing. Why make it even more difficult? When we are surrounded by regulations that tell us what WE CANNOT DO instead of all the things WE CAN, that is when individuals lose inspiration. I unfortunately lost mine.
I am who I am because of dance, music, and self-expression. I will continue on my journey of self-enlightenment through dance, music and self-expression, but it will be through different avenues. I will forever champion the principles I acquired through the world of Ballroom Dancing. I will forever be grateful for the memories I was so fortunate to have. I walk away from competition a humbled man, a grateful man, but most importantly an inspired man. I am inspired to reach new heights and pinnacles in my future endeavors; however, I will never forget the world that raised me, and shaped me into the man I am today.
With the utmost sincerity, Valentin Chmerkovskiy