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Casinos: ‘DWTS’ favorite Val Chmerkovskiy at Cache Creek

On Season 16 of “Dancing With the Stars,” Val Chmerkovskiy came close to hoisting the mirror-ball trophy with his partner, Zendaya, but they ran into the Derek Hough/Kelli Pickler juggernaut and came in second.

In the show’s most recent season, which ended May 20, Chmerkovskiy and his partner, Danika McKellar, came in sixth; his brother Maks, on the other hand, won with Meryl Davis.

His older sibling’s win did little to salve his loss or dampen his desire for victory.

“I always try to be my very best,” Val Chmerkovskiy said recently. “My brother’s got his and it’s time for me to win.”

Chmerkovskiy does not know who his partner will be for the show’s next go-around, which kicks off this fall. “What you see on TV is exactly how it goes down,” he said. “It is always a genuine surprise.”

His partner for his performance Saturday at Cache Creek, however, is no big secret. He’s paired with fellow dancer Anna Trebunskaya in a show called “Ballroom With a Twist.”

“This show is a fusion of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ alumni and finalists from ‘American Idol,’ ” Chmerkovskiy explained. “It’s hip-hop with a bit of a twist, bringing in some ballroom dancing. Somewhat into the show, we invite the audience to come on stage and it turns into a big dance party.

“Nobody feels intimidated,” he continued. “We don’t grab people and throw them on stage. We’ve never had a problem, believe me, getting people to participate. The group that comes on stage is clearly dominated by women, but there’s a mix. The audience is so comfortable by that time because we work hard to build a relationship.”

But the show is more than just dancing, Chmerkovskiy said.

“Another twist is a Q and A we have at the end of the show,” he said. “I am enjoying these shows immensely and the venues in which I’ve performed. I’ve never had such a privilege before.”

Chmerkovskiy has been with “Dancing With the Stars” through many changes, a significant one last year being the dropping of the live orchestra, which stirred a controversy among loyalists.

“I was sad, of course,” Chmerkovskiy said of the change. “There’s a beauty in live music that can never be substituted by electronics. But there’s also another side. Pop music changes so much there are sounds that can’t be replicated by live musicians, and last year, I think, was the best season we had music-wise.”

Chmerkovskiy knows more about music than just how to dance to it. He’s also a violinist, which he describes as his “first passion.” He took up the instrument when he was 5 years old in Odessa, Ukraine.

“I took it very seriously until I became a concert master of a youth orchestra when I was 17 or 18,” he said. “Then my teacher moved to San Francisco, and once he was gone, I lost it. Without practice, my skill level fell. I don’t play it with any seriousness now.”

He pauses.

“Well, do I pick it up and play it from time to time to make my grandmother happy?” he asked. “Yes.” (8 p.m. Saturday; $55, $65, $75;