BNTL Sisters x adidas: Dancers Wanted trip to LASeptember 20th, 2012 by @hnechr
A little while ago, we told you about adidas’ Dancers Wanted competition, a global search for talented dancers to upload a self-choreographed routine and get the public to vote for their submissions. After looking through hundreds of videos submitted by hopeful dancers around the world, adidas left the final decision in the able hands of celebrity choreographers Nick Florez and RJ Durrell, who finally picked five girls to be jetted off to Los Angeles for an exclusive city break and a session with some of the most successful dancers in the industry. BNTL Sisters had the privilege of coming with to share the experience.
After an 11-hour flight spent getting to know my travel companion Tahirah from Yinn & Yang, we arrived at LAX on a typically sunny Thursday afternoon. Shooting past gigantic billboards and endless rows of palm trees, we were escorted to the Andaz Hyatt in West Hollywood – the kind of chic boutique hotel where celebrities and others well off spend lazy days sipping cocktails by a rooftop pool overlooking the vast stretch of Los Angeles.
We were introduced to the competition winners – global winner Kayla, from Belgium; Tini, Male, Belen and Delfina from Buenos Aires (more on them in a separate post) – before being taken down to the adidas store in Santa Monica, where we were geared up for the big choreography session the following day. Escaping the imminent embarrassment of having to dance in front of other people without the comforting concealment of a big crowd and dimmed club lighting, we indulged in a luscious Thai dinner while getting to know the rest of the group. Kayla, who won Nick and RJ’s hearts with her energetic submission that showed her dancing in a number of locations around her hometown of Antwerp, told us how her boyfriend Michiel had insisted she enter the competition. “I never thought I could win this, yet here I am in LA about to go dance with RJ and Nick!” she exclaimed.
The session took place in the renown Centerstaging rehearsal studios in Burbank. RJ and Nick – currently Katy Perry’s choreographers and every inch what you expect a pair of fabulous Hollywood dancers to be like – looked like they were about to burst with excitement as we arrived at the studios in a casual convoy of Cadillac Escalades. As the girls warmed up with adidas dancers Leah and Tyne, it started to dawn on us that the session would actually involve us dancing too. Like many other girls in their mid-twenties, I took ballet classes as a teenager, and while I abandoned the hobby in favour of cute boys and house parties many years ago, I would like to think I am not a complete stranger to the world of dance. The nerves were creeping up on me, but I was determined to give it my best shot.
Unfortunately, it turns out I have developed two left feet since I last set foot in a dance studio, and now pick up choreography at a pace I fear my 86-year old nan could match. The guys were, however, patient and encouraging; as I stumbled along in the background, they repeatedly reassured us that routines like this take hours and hours to perfect. At one point, just as I was getting ready to give up, RJ unleashed the ultimate motivational speech on us: “As a dancer, you have to keep going, even when you feel like your body is about to give up on you. Dancing is all about finding your inner strength to projecting that energy to the audience. That’s why a great dancer can create the most powerful moment with just one stare!” He then proceeded to demonstrate a Blue Steel pose so perfect I couldn’t help but feel the Katy Perry in me awake, and for a few precious seconds I was all teenage dreams and spirit fingers. Then I obviously messed up my next steps and nearly knocked over one of the other girls, but it was fun while it lasted.
After lunch, Tahirah and I politely retreated to watch the girls do their thing, as they performed the final choreography with enough panache to put any So You Think You Can Dance contestant to shame, proving many times over why they were the rightful Dancers Wanted winners. Then the big surprise was revealed: Katy Perry’s whole dance troupe was in the studio next door. Watching the girls’ faces as they were told we would be allowed to watch them rehearse for their upcoming tour, I had a little reality show moment and nearly welled up. The dancers were equally excited to meet us, and took time to talk to us about their experiences as performers, surviving in a tough industry, and making their big breaks as stage dancers for one of the biggest stars in pop music. Finally, they rehearsed a couple of routines for us; their strength, coordination and energy was incredible, and our girls looked awestruck with admiration.
We spent the next few days coming off the dancers high with a VIP tour of Universal Studios, several encounters with the famously humongous American portion sizes and a lot of laughing. As if we hadn’t been spoilt rotten already, we were picked up at the hotel on the final day for a private helicopter tour of the city. This time, however, our modest Escalades had been replaced by a white Hummer limousine complete with mirrored ceilings, disco lights and Flo Rida blaring out of the speakers. It was 10am in the morning, and we were cruising down Sunset Boulevard feeling like the cast of the UK edition of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. To add to it all, we eventually pulled up at a heliport with a name no less fantabolous than Million Air. You read correctly. It was full-blown Hollywood in all its garish, glittering glory, and by now, we had obviously completely surrendered to our Beverly Hills alter egos: We were having, like, the most awesome time.
As we ascended higher and higher in the tiny helicopter, we saw the vast stretch of the San Fernando Valley shrinking beneath us and were reminded of how enormous Los Angeles actually is. We edged closer to a steep hillside, and suddenly, as in the intro of some glam MTV reality show, the whole of LA opened up in front of us – endlessly stretching into the sunny, smoggy horizon. Then, just to top off the moment, the pilot pointed down to our left, and we saw the gigantic white Hollywood letters directly beneath us. It was the perfect LA moment; OMFG doesn’t even begin to describe our excitement.
Our trip was rounded off with a visit to the late, great Jam Master Jay’s Scratch Academy for a lesson in scratching, a few drinks and, appropriately, some more dancing. The highlight of an already wonderful evening came when the DJs played us some demo tunes that saw the whole crew breaking into a serious dance-off. Even the cameraman joined in.
At one point during that evening, I sat down with Tini to talk about her experience. The founder of her own dance academy in Buenos Aires, she told me why the choreography session had been her favourite experience: “All this luxury, everything that we have done in the past couple of days – it has been amazing,” she said. “But to me, this is almost too much. I’m not this glamorous. To me, the dancing is all that really matters.”
It was a fitting summary of an amazing weekend, which was, in the end, much more about the joys of meeting new friends and sharing a mutual passion than the glitz and glamour of a star-studded city. Huge thanks to adidas, We Are Social, Element and the magnificent Dancers Wanted girls for the experience. It was, like, totally friggin’ awesome.