It is one thing to "think" you can dance. It is another to have your name synonymous with the term "dance" itself. Meet Shane Sparks, a young and fresh member of the dance world who is meeting success through his commitment to hip-hop and marriage to dance. Seems like a potential love story at first glance, but it is only a man with dreams, now in reality. Those unfamiliar with Shane and his accomplishments are beginning to peek out from the rock they have been sleeping under, and they can give huge credit to Sparks’ passion, raw ability, and innovation for their (ok, I’ll be honest…OUR) escape from darkness, gradually seeing the art of dance for what is really is – the light that shines the entire entertainment industry.
Shane Sparks, the Dance Synonym, is taking Hollywood by storm, significantly through his vital role in Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance contest. Sparks is back again for a third season with the hit television show, and as it did last season, his level of involvement has increased, as Sparks is serving as one of this year’s judges, in addition to doing the choreography for the competition. Artists such as Marques Houston, Aksent, Lindsay Lohan, and Omarion have sought out Shane’s "choreographic consultation" as well, with Houston doing the most recent seeking, for his newest music video "Circle."
Sparks’ resume includes awards for his efforts, as he received the industry’s prestigious “Best Choreography in a Feature Film” award for "You Got Served" at the 2004 American Choreography Awards as well as a 2005 BET Award for co-choreographing with Omarion. In the So You Think You Can Dance off-season, Shane was also part of an all-star line up of the nation’s leading choreographers in a seven-city national tour, THE PULSE, hosted by Broadway Dance Center NY. The two-day jazz and hip hop dance workshop line-up of choreographers included: Shane Sparks, Brian Friedman, Mia Michaels, Cris Judd, Laurie Ann Gibson and Wade Robson.
In June of this year, Shane will be honored yet again, by Dance Camera West, for his accomplishments during the 2006 year, particularly for his "Tranjie" choreography in So You Think You Can Dance‘s second season.
My Sprint cell phone was graced with a call from Shane on a hot and L.A.- like Tuesday (finally, a familiar Tuesday). I talked with him about the upcoming third season of So You Think You Can Dance, his thoughts about hip-hop, and I got the name of one of his "favorites" for the competition. I also got some info about Shane’s current delving into the movie producing spectrum. Sneak a peek…
Marvin Mills: Shane, man, how’s it going? How’s everything in your world right now?
Shane Sparks: Aww, man, everything is rush rush, but at the same time it’s all beautiful. I’ve been trying to manipulate time to make all the projects happen, and bring good quality. There is a lot going on right now.
MM: Speaking of projects, what are some of the projects you are working on?
SS: Well, as you know, there’s So You Think You Can Dance. That’s going real well. I’m working with Chris Stokes on a movie, called Backdown. Oh, and also, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but I worked with Wade Robinson, Nia Michaels to name a few…We worked on a big dance for The Pulse this summer.
MM: Pretty busy I see. How are the auditions going for "So You Think You Can Dance?"?
SS: The auditions are going really well. We just got done with Vegas, where we got 20 dancers. This year is amazing. We’ve got way better dancers this year. They are much better going into the competition. The show is going to have even more hip-hop this year, and the excitement has been enhanced as a result.
MM: I feel that. Ok, so I assume you don’t want to tell, but do you have an idea of the best contestants thus far… people who you can see possibly making the finals, even winning the contest?
SS: Well actually, there’s this girl, Jessie. I call her ‘poppin Jessie’. She is incredible, and sets the standard for everybody. She’s not the best at lyrical [dancing], but she mixed lyrical and hip-hop and blew us away. She is
definitely in my top 5…top 3. I remember Nigel [Lythgoe] at the audition, he said he didn’t even want to watch anyone else. She did that well.
MM: Poppin Jessie? I will make sure to look for her. I can hear and feel you’re excitement through the phone. What does this third season of So You Think You Can Dance mean to you, and how interested were you in coming back for the third season?
SS: Marvin, I was extremely interested in coming back for this third season. The show, to me, means hope. I grew up in Cincinatti, OH, where we only had a backyard to dance in. The show means that all the kids growing up can gain some inspiration and hope. If I would’ve had a show such as So You Think You Can Dance when I was growing up, I would’ve felt like I could conquer the world. The competition shows those growing up that they can take dancing far…their dreams far.
MM: So the basis of what you do dance-wise is Hip-hop.
SS: Pretty much. I mean, I can do a lyrical just as quick as I can do a hip-hop dance. It’s the expressing yourself through Hip-hop that draws me to it.
MM: Well Shane, answer me this: What is your take on Hip-hop now, as a music, as a culture?
SS: From a music point of view?
SS: Well honestly, I love where a lot of people come from. A lot of the music is really, really good. What bothers me is the lyrical content. When I get ready to choose a song, a lot of the songs I can’t use because of the content. I don’t want to knock anyone. I just feel they are in a position where they have a large impact, and can teach the youth. A good number of artists are teaching us how to stay in poverty.
MM: I most definitely feel that. What do you feel So You Think You Can Dance does for the youth? What keeps viewers engaged every year…every episode?
SS: Again, the first thing is hope. It lets people see there is a way to get out of the situation that they are in. It lets people see their competition, thinking that next year it will be them. This show is the best thing since ice cream, you feel me? The dancer life is real short nowadays, and it’s not respected yet. My goal in the next five years is to have dancers looked at as real artists. We as dancers are at the meat of everything. Concerts, movies, TV shows, commercials, plays. Dancers are real artists. The show shows that.
MM: Ok, so how do you come up with these choreographies and dance moves? Do you just break out and do the dances as soon as they come to your mind?
SS: Marvin, that basically is what happens. I just draw energy from the music. I’ve never in my life taken classes for dancing. I’ve always just watched, practiced, and learned. Most of the time the song guides me. I come up with a concept, but that concept comes from the energy. As far as So You Think You Can Dance goes, I find a song, see how everyone else loves it, and I mix that with what I love about it. I use that to create the choreography.
MM: So what new dances do you have for me? I know about the FreakNasty from Marques Houston’s video. What are some new ones and talk a little about the FreakNasty for those unfamiliar. The FreakNasty stuff is real hot, by the way.
SS: Hahaha. Well, I’ve got this new dance. We call it warping. You know if you go into a warp zone, everything slows down. Well, warping is basically when you’re moving, you stop moving, and then you start to move slowly, gradually speeding back up. For the FreakNasty, that’s something I’ve always been doing, since I was 12. I just updated it. FreakNasty is all about being sexy.
MM: What are some other forms of music besides hip-hop that inspire both you and your dancing?
SS: Well, 9 times out of 10, my dancing is inspired from Hip-hop. I like country music. Rascal Flats has a beautiful song out right now. Broken Bridges is the name, I believe. I’m an R & B man, though. When I’m in my car, I’m listening to R & B. New and Old R & B, stuff that tells stories.
MM: So what’s up with you as far as doing things outside the U.S. with dance?
SS: Well, I’m going to Australia in October. I’m really excited about that. I’ve been to Australia before, but this will be the first time I’m going as Shane Sparks . I’m always asked to go to different places, but a lot of the time the dates conflict with the show. I’ll be going to Japan this summer.
MM: Cool. Real cool. Ok, so you’re dominating the dance scene. That’s established. Tell me more about this movie you and Chris Stokes are doing?
SS: Well without giving too much away, the movie is called Backdown, and it’s basically You Got Served Part 2 from a girl’s point of view. It’s real sexy, with a dope plot, as well as some good leading actors and actresses. We’re trying to cover all points. We are trying to create a movie where people will love both the dancing and the plot.
MM: Bigger than You Got Served perhaps?
SS: It has the potential to be bigger than You Got Served. It’s coming from two sides. It’s about a rich girl going to the hood, meeting Omarion and MH. It mixes two worlds
MM: You mentioned Omarion. You two worked together on You Got Served. Tell me, where in your home do you keep your awards, your American Choreography Award and BET Award to be exact, for collaborating with O?
SS: Hahaha. They’re sitting on the stands, looking very shiny. I’m very proud of those. Hopefully we can get an MTV award for Backdown. That would be great. I’m looking to dominate the dance world. I just hope I can dominate in dance, do my part, so that people understand that dance is really art. This is people’s lives. Pay backup dancers what they deserve.
MM: You’ve got another award coming up in June, right?
SS: Oh, yea, that’s right. Well actually, that’s just an honoring. That’s Dance Camera West honoring me for the things I have done this year. I’m glad you mentioned that, though. I forgot all about that. It’s so much going on right now.
MM: Well I’m now interested in knowing your keys to your climb to success? How is it you came from Cincy, OH to having so many things on your plate?
SS: Well I’ll say this. I’ve been given a gift. This isn’t something somebody showed me. I say that because, whenever I am put in a situation, if I can sit down and focus on it, I can turn nothing into something everytime. I can usually do things that will blow people’s minds. I look at it like this: If you only read one book, you only know how to do a certain thing that one way. If you get that experience, it’s a lot different. That’s when your creativity comes into play. I am very creative.
MM: Ok. Ok. I like it. Alright Shane, last thing I got for you…I just want to know what’s the Shane Sparks look, both fashion and dance wise?
SS: Well, I like the NIKE high tops. You know, the Air Force One’s, but these are higher than those. The all white ones with the straps. It’s my favorite shoe in the world. Maybe me and NIKE can work something out regarding them. I’ve also got the high white socks with the cut off army shorts, the silver chain, for the rocker look. That’s my vibe right now. Studded belt. I wear T-shirts, t-shirts with positive messages. I usually have the hat on real low, too. I’m shy sometimes. Black leather bracelets. Black leather gloves.
MM: Sounds good, my man. Well, that’s all I have for you. I wish you much success with So You Think You Can Dance, with Backdown, and with everything else you’ve got going. Good talk.
SS: Thanks a lot, Marvin. Much Love.
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Written by Marvin Mills