The Dancing with the Stars pro opened up about the lack of diversity in the ballroom community while also reflecting on his positive experience working alongside Normani

By Dory Jackson
May 22, 2021 11:15 AM
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VALENTIN CHMERKOVSKIY, NORMANI KORDEI
Credit: Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty

Val Chmerkovskiy is calling for more representation in the ballroom dance community.

In a candid Instagram post, the Dancing with the Stars pro opened up about ballroom's diversity issue while reflecting on his positive experience working alongside Normani on the ABC competition series.

"Four years ago to the day, @normani and I danced our freestyle to wrap up what was one of the best seasons I've ever had on @dancingabc as well as creatively in my career in general. For those unfamiliar with the show, it all kind of culminates in the freestyle, fortunately or unfortunately. Regardless of what kind of season you may have had, it comes down to this last impression," Chmerkovskiy, 35, recalled on Thursday.

"At the time & all season in general, I felt so strongly about this incredible opportunity to partner Ms. Normani Kordei. Uber talented obviously, humble, hard working, perfect teammate, and on top of that an amazing dancer/performer," he continued. "But all those wonderful qualities aside, I couldn't be blind to the fact that I was dancing with a black girl from New Orleans. What a special opportunity I thought."

The dancer and choreographer explained that it's rare to see people of color compete within the ballroom dance world. Additionally, there's "not nearly as much representation" at there should be, especially considering how "so much of the style not just musically but in movement came from some sort of Afro inspired culture."

Normani, Valentin Chmerkovskiy
Credit: David Livingston/Getty

"I was so inspired by the visual, by the opportunity, by the fact that maybe a Black girl somewhere would see someone that looked like her do a style they might of never considered," Chmerkovskiy said. "Now I'm not saying her skin color entitled her to anything more than anyone else, or should have given her a bigger stage or better treatment, never. But representation matters."

"Same way it was important to see a man dance for young boys watching, to see a Russian immigrant express his patriotism for all Americans watching, it was important to see a beautiful young woman of color do the waltz," he added.

Reflecting on his finale freestyle with the 24-year-old "Motivation" singer, Chmerkovskiy said that he believed the "perfect way to finish this season" was to perform a waltz to "What the World Needs Now Is Love" by Jackie DeShannon.

"I went with my heart and not strategy. We lost. I regretted that choice for a long time. I thought how selfish I was," he said of the experience. "But in hindsight, I can't help but be proud of us and the moment we created, for the world & each other. Also, my ugly cry at the end was totally worth it."

Val Chmerkovskiy, Normani
Credit: Val Chmerkovskiy/Instagram
Val Chmerkovskiy, Normani
Credit: Val Chmerkovskiy/Instagram

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Chmerkovskiy's statement attracted a heartfelt reply from Normani, who said her time working alongside him was "one of the most pivotal moments of my entire life."

"We gave our hearts every opportunity we set foot on that floor. This was so so so much deeper than the show," she wrote. "Thank you for being careful with me, protecting me, pushing me to my fullest and always being intentional. Beyond the many faces that we saw in the audience were many young black girls watching and seeing themselves in me and you knew that this was important."

"What we presented the world were real experiences. I get emotional watching 'freedom' because I desperately needed that moment in order to move past pain and trauma that I had been carrying. I don't think you'll ever understand that impact that you've had on me. I'm eternally grateful," she added.

TOM BERGERON, NORMANI KORDEI, VALENTIN CHMERKOVSKIY
Credit: Adam Rose/Walt Disney Television via Getty

While the "Dancing with a Stranger" singer admitted that she "can only imagine" the lack of representation in the ballroom setting, she believes that people of color "can take on many styles, as proven on the show."

"You really helped me recognize that I was always fully equipped. I just needed the right partner to help navigate me," she continued, noting that his belief in her "granted me access to it and exposed me to many many more possibilities brother. I love you forever. I miss you and can't believe it's been four years."

The former Fifth Harmony member concluded the post by calling Chmerkovskiy the "best partner."

Chmerkovskiy and Normani paired up during Dancing with the Stars' 24th season in 2017. They ended the competition in third place, losing to winners Rashad Jennings and Emma Slater and runner-ups David Ross and Lindsay Arnold.