Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 'I Am an Incurable Romantic'

"I love my work and am very productive, yet I always find time to play," the pro dancer tells PEOPLE

Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty

This hoofer is kicking up his heels.

After winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars with Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis earlier this year, Maksim Chmerkovskiy knew it was time to move on professionally, if not personally.

“I am more than dancing,” Chmerkovskiy, 34, told PEOPLE on Saturday at the Alfalit International Global Literacy Dinner in Miami, where he donated a private dance lesson for four.

“I was a dancing pro on the show for about a decade, and I needed the trophy to show for it. But Meryl was part of that,” he said. “And while I am doing other things, Meryl is a close friend and has become very important in my life. We have new projects together.”

Now studying to become an actor, expanding his Dance With Me Dance Studios – he recently opened his sixth location in Los Angeles and has 25 more on the drawing board – and designing his bold and masculine MAKSIM line of jewelry, the dancer and choreographer still finds time for sexy, sporty women.

“I am a hopeless romantic who falls in lust and gets in trouble,” he said. “I love my work and am very productive, yet I always find time to play.”

Talk of his rumored relationship with superstar performer Jennifer Lopez makes him smile.

“Yes, she’s great, I have fun,” he said without elaborating. “And while other names are out there … I am not a scumbag.”

And though Chmerkovskiy is missed by female fans of DWTS, he says he’s been too busy to decide if he will hang up his Dancing shoes forever.

“I still watch the show, because it is part of me and will be 50 years from now,” he said. “Winning was a huge portion of a big chunk of my life. I am not sure if I will return or in what capacity. Time will tell.”

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