A chat with the stars performing at this weekend's "Dance TV" closing show.
By Melanie Wong
This weekend, Vail Valley locals can see some of their favorite TV stars up close – but it will require getting off the couch.
It won’t be a long trip, though. Hosted at Vail’s Ford Amphitheater, the small screen will come alive on the big stage at the Vail International Dance Festival’s closing performance, “Dance TV,” beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. For ticket information, see www.vaildance.org.
The show, back for its second year due to popular demand, features stars from the hit dance-contest reality shows “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.” Performers include: Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts, professional dancers and instructors on “Dancing with the Stars”; Alex Wong and Allison Holker from “So You Think You Can Dance”; Funkdation and Poreotics of “America’s Next Dance Crew” fame; and ballet stars Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild.
“The crowd can expect something that is super high energy,” says TV8 producer and host Tricia Swenson, who will be emceeing the show alongside fellow TV host Erik Williams. “The acts range from dance crews to traditional ballet, featuring ballet stars and solo performances. It’s quick paced and you can feel the energy of the crowd. I still have people come up to me and say it was their favorite part of the festival.”
SneakPEAK caught up with a few of the dancers bringing their talents to “Dance TV” to hear about what it’s like to shake it in front of millions of viewers and get their thoughts on coming to Vail’s stage.
Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya
You might have seen this husband-wife duo on multiple seasons of “Dancing with the Stars,” coaching and dancing with celebrities such as football player Jerry Rice and singer/actress Marie Osmond.
Roberts has been on seven seasons of “Dancing with the Stars” as a partner and instructor, and coached and choreographed for “So You Think You Can Dance.” Trebunskaya is also a “Stars” veteran and is currently filming for the show’s ninth season. The couple specializes in ballroom dance, and at the Vail show, they will perform a waltz routine they performed on television.
While Trebunskaya began dancing at the age of 6 in her native Russia at her parents’ dance studio, and won her first dance competition at the age of 7, Roberts had a less conventional start.
He had an athletic background as a basketball player, but had never taken a formal dance lesson until the age of 20. He saw “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino, and was impressed by the film’s tango scene. On the way out of the theater, he spotted a flyer advertising a free dance lesson if you brought in your movie ticket stub. Needless to say, Roberts had found his calling.
“I started teaching dance in 1996,” he says. “All my family was very surprised, but for me it was the perfect combination of working with people, the mental component and the athletic stuff.”
On “Dancing with the Stars,” Roberts has partnered with Marie Osmond, Heather Mills McCartney, singer Macy Gray, tennis star Monica Seles and Belinda Carlile from the GoGos. Partnering with an amateur, inexperienced dancer can be an interesting experience, he admits.
“It’s a lot of work. You find out how to give them the flashiest steps possible and the easiest way to execute it. You’re coach, performer, partner and psychologist all in one,” Roberts says. “It’s very intense. Some people aren’t used to working eight or nine hours dancing. That’s why athletes do so well on the show – they’re used to being pushed.”
Allison Holker, of “So You Think You Can Dance” fame, has lived and breathed dance since she was in elementary school. As a kid in ballet class, she’d always found the moves boring, until she watched her older sister, a professional dancer, perform.
“I saw them dance and knew that was what I wanted to do with my life,” Holker says. “Seeing those powerful dance moves was amazing for me.”
After working as an assistant at a dance festival in New York City, Holker landed a series of gigs, including her biggest one as a contestant on season two of “So You Think You Can Dance” at age 18. Her spirited, contemporary style impressed judges, and she was a top-eight finalist on the show. She later returned for seasons seven and eight as an “all-star,” the former contestants who coach and dance with current competitors.
At the time of her first season on the show, Holker was just out of high school and remembers the intensity of the three-month filming period.
“You stay in an apartment with other teammates, and all you’re doing is eating and breathing with other teammates. You work on numbers all day long, perfect it and do interviews,” Holker says. “Being a contestant, it teaches you a lot about yourself. At 18 years old, I had to figure out who I was, as far as looks, personality, dancing. Now coming back, I’m helping the new contestants be themselves.”
At “Dance TV” this weekend, Holker will be performing with Alex Wong, another “So You Think You Can Dance” alumnus, as well as a contemporary solo piece. Regardless, audiences can expect an intense performance from Holker.
“Most people know me as a dramatic dancer – I’m always crying,” she laughs. “I’m not trying to be dramatic, that’s just me expressing myself. I love putting my heart out on the dance floor.”
Holker has been featured in various dance movies and music videos, including the “Jar of Hearts” video by Christina Perri, and the “High School Musical” movies. These days, she’s also moving from being strictly a performer and instructor to an artistic director and choreographer. She’s currently featured in several TV dance shows, and is working on a series of dance videos called “The X” for her You Tube channel (search “allisonholker”).