By Rebecca J. Ritzel
Friday, November 20, 2009
Some kids grow up dreaming of a life in showbiz. Not Italo Elgueta. In a classic case of sibling rivalry, Elgueta started studying dance because his older brother was taking classes. As far as this family of Chilean immigrants knew, ballroom dance was what the cool kids in America did, or at least those in Orem, Utah.
"I didn't have any goals. It was just fun," says Elgueta, 21. "It was never my plan to be a professional dancer."
But then came the television dance revolution of 2005. Just up the highway in Salt Lake City, Disney began filming "High School Musical." On ABC, Louis van Amstel, Elgueta's longtime ballroom dance instructor, was twirling around on "Dancing With the Stars." And on Fox, dancers of every stripe were competing for the title of America's favorite dancer on "So You Think You Can Dance."
Auditioning for television dance roles became the thing to do. Elgueta was cast in "High School Musical 2," where he played a baseball player, and met Allison Holker, another Utah teen, on the set (she played a cheerleader). She went on to compete on "So You Think You Can Dance," finishing eighth in 2006, while he became a professional dancer on the Oxygen Network's "Dance Your Mark Off."
Now, Elgueta and Holker are all grown up and ready to rumba. They'll be onstage this weekend at Strathmore, performing with 12 other dancers in a variety dance show called "Ballroom With a Twist." Unlike the "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars" tours, which usually set up shop in sports arenas, "Ballroom" hits more formal venues.
"There's a more personal feel in theaters," says Holker, 21.
The high-energy, two-act show opens with a Bob Fosse Broadway medley, and from there, the music runs the genre gamut. "There are some really intimate moments, with slower dances and rumbas," Holker says. "But there's also jive and hip-hop, a little bit of everything." The music is canned but the singing is live, with vocals provided by "American Idol" singers David Hernandez and Trenyce Cobbins. The host is "Cheetah Girls" actress Sabrina Bryan, a former "Dancing With the Stars" contestant.
No matter what reality dance show the networks think of next, the dancers say performing on a big stage before an audience is much more rewarding than dancing for a camera.
"Most dancers dance because they love to dance," says Elgueta, "not because they want to be on TV."