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Thursday, August 9, 2007

All it takes is a Spark

As some of you know, I love to dance. I started taking lessons at a small studio in Northern CA when I was 6 and stayed with it til I left for college at 18. I was definitely a big fish in a small pond though, so when I got to college I took a couple of classes, but for the most part I didn't keep it up. Great dancers are a dime a dozen in LA and competition is fierce, even in small laid back classes. Fast-forward several years and I was missing the fact that I wasn't dancing regularly anymore. I started taking the odd class here and there and have been dancing somewhat consistently ever since. I've lucked out in finding instructors and classes that are challenging, but also welcoming to newcomers and those that aren't professional dancers, but who are just there to have fun.

Three years ago, So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) debuted over the summer and I couldn't have been more excited! Being able to watch great dancers and choreographers each week was such a treat and it's been the highlight of my summer TV watching for the past 3 seasons. Shane Sparks has been one of my favorite choreographers from the get go and I always look forward to seeing what he comes up with each week. Late last month, I stumbled across an announcement that he was teaching hip hop twice a week in LA at a large, well-known studio and started toying with the idea of taking one of his classes. Crazy, right? I mean, this is a man that draws upwards of 100 folks per class he teaches and is so good that celebs like JT and Missy Elliot will just drop in to work on their moves. After much hemming and hawing and a good pep talk from another dance instructor, last night I finally made the drive out to Millenium to take his class. Eeek!

I was really nervous yesterday leading up to the class, but once I actually got there I was suprisingly calm. I paid and signed in and then watched the 17 and under class Shane was teaching to scope out the choreography and judge how in over my head I was going to be. About 20 minutes later, the kids were finished and it was a mad dash by the adults to get into the room and get a good spot on the floor. To say it was a packed class would be an understatement. If there was one person, there had to be 80, easy. But instead of being nervous, I started to get excited. This was going to be fun!

His assistant put us through a quick 5 minute warm-up and then it was time to start dancing. The rules were laid down quickly: this is an adult class, it's going to move fast, so keep up. We learned the first 4-eight counts of choreography (to a remix of Ciara's 'Get Up'), drilled it a couple times and then were asked to assemble ourselves into groups of 5. I thankfully found myself paired with 2 talented young guys and girls (yes, I was the old married hag of the group) and we were then taught the opening 6-eight counts that included formation changes and a lot of freestyling. So far so good.

From there, 2 groups at a time were asked to come to the middle of the floor to perform. I was shocked at how supportive the group was --- hootin' and hollerin' for each other, totally into watching each other dance. It was amazing that a group this size could feel so intimate, but it did. And then it was our turn. I think we did well and went full out and overall I was pleased with our performance.

After everyone had a turn, Shane announced that it was getting late and that we couldn't get through everyone again, so he was going to ask 2 groups to come back and perform one more time and then he was going to call it a night. The first group called back was spectacular the first time around and everyone was excited to see them again. Talk about totally playing with the choreography and making it their own. Awesome!

Then there was a pause, he looked around and next thing I know... my group is headed back to the dance floor!!! No freaking way!!! I only had a second for it to register and my first thought was "O. M. G! I am going to be dancing in front of f'ing Shane Sparks with only 4 other people on the floor with me!!!" And instead of getting nervous, my next thought was "Okay, let's do this!"

That 1 minute on the dance floor was so beyond exhilirating, I can't even try to describe it. I think it is basically what people would describe as a natural high. After we finished, he thanked everyone for coming and then the class disbursed. A lot of the students had come in from all over the US for a dance intensive workshop with Millenium, so a line of girls was forming around him to take a picture with him before they left. I, on the other hand, just wanted to go say thank you. I managed to get up to him before the line of girls started getting antsy and was able to make eye contact.

I think I had a grin on my face from ear to ear as I thanked him for an amazing class and told him that I had an awesome time. He must have said thanks or maybe good job or something... my mind is a little fuzzy on that part because at the same time he leaned in and gave me a big hug! [thud] O. M. G. Even just remembering it puts that silly grin back on my face! My feet were literally not touching the floor as I walked out of the studio and back to my car. The whole experience could not have been more perfect if I had planned it all out myself.

It took me over 25 years to get to a point where I would go and try something new without wondering what people would think of me; of being so fearful of doing it poorly that I wouldn't try it in the first place. That stops here though. The whole class was fun, but beyond that, it was such a boost to my self-confidence. I might now have been the best in the class, but I was definitely able to keep up. I can't wait til I can go back and take his class again. And who knows, I might just start sampling other classes there as well!


  1. Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience!

  2. You just lived out my dream!

    Okay, I'm not actually a dancer but its always been a secret wish of mine and why I will pay money to watch "Center Stage", "Save the Last Dance", etc. And I *love* So You Think You Can Dance.

    Congrats on your job well done!!

  3. I can feel your excitement and you had me smiling while I read about it. I am so happy you got to do something like this!

  4. Words cannot describe how awesomely cool and bad-ass this is.

  5. thats so exciting! Congrats!

  6. i love this post. every. word. of. it. go amber!!

  7. I just got all kinds of choked up reading this. Right. On.

    I feel like I'm in similar shoes as you. Danced most of my life but haven't taken a class since college and have been noodling the idea of getting back to it, for my soul's sake, not for a career. I'm in LA also and would be eternally grateful if you'd share which classes you found challenging/supportive. Thanks for this post. Made my day.

  8. That's incredible! Shane's choreography *is* amazing and intricate...congrats on taking the class and doing well. :D I have to say, I'm a little jealous :P

  9. OMG, I haven't had a chance to read this until now! How awesome! What a great night for you, m'dear. Of course you kicked ass - you're totally passionate about it!