Lady Gaga showed off some slick moves at the Grammys, but she didn't create all that choreography on her own. Britney Spears has skills for days, but she also was taught by a pro. Now, aspiring dancers all over are learning moves from world-class choreographers to the stars, with the help of teenage talents like 15-year-old Sarah Toups.
In its sixth year, The Pulse on Tour offers dance hopefuls a two-day workshop, where they can learn numbers from the likes of Cris Judd (Jennifer Lopez), LaurieAnn Gibson (Lady Gaga) and Gil Duldulao (Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson). Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio and Wade Robson, who you may remember as judges on 'So You Think You Can Dance,' are also teachers in the touring program.
But the extra cool part about The Pulse is that they select a group of exceptional dancers out of the attendees to be a part of their "protege" program, which allows teens like Sarah to "be the teachers' actual assistant and travel with them on tour."
"They pick you at nationals, and it's a very big deal," the Dallas native explains to JSYK. "It's been the biggest honor working with these amazing, incredible teachers, and there's no way of explaining how hard it is and how much training you get, and the opportunities that come with it. It's the most amazing feeling being a protege, and I love every minute of it."
So, you think you can dance? Find out exactly what it takes in our exclusive interview with Sarah below.
JSYK: Hi, Sarah! Tell me, how did you get into dancing?
Sarah Toups: My mom is a dance teacher. I was born dancing -- it just came naturally to me. I fell in love with it when I was two years old, and I couldn't stop. It's always been something that I couldn't live without.
JSYK: Do you work with one specific choreographer or a bunch of different ones?
ST: I work with them all, and we get to stay up on stage the whole time, except in Mia Michaels class. That's sort of our goal, to be up on stage with Mia, because she is just the biggest inspiration ever and she brings her own assistants, so we don't get to assist her. But if you can picked by her as an elite assistant, it's a really big deal. We get to work with them all, though, and they are all amazing.
JSYK: Do you think dancing helps teens develop a good self-esteem?
ST: I do, because dancers are kind. They will boost you up, and the proteges that I know are all very sweet, not that I know all of them, but they're very nice and very hard working. I think anybody who has never danced before should come and we'll help them out. The teachers are very nice, and they aren't rude. It's a really great environment because you can just be free and nobody's judging you. It's a really safe place to be -- it's all dancing.
JSYK: It sounds like your schedule is pretty busy. How do you find time for school?
ST: My parents and I have been having a problem with that actually lately. I go to a performing arts high school and it's really hard to keep up with your grades when you are gone every weekend, but I will never complain about it, because I want to do it and I love it. I do all of my homework on the airplane. I keep up with my grades and I've been an all-A student my whole life, but it's very hard, and there's not a lot of sleep involved, but that's ok, because that's the life of a dancer.
JSYK: What style of dance would you say is your expertise? Or do you practice different styles?
ST: I do every style of dancing. As a protege, that's something you have to be able to do because the teachers teach all different styles. There's Dave Scott who is pure hip-hop -- he is the hip-hop person. Then there's Brian Friedman who's just straight jazz, contemporary, everything. And Mia Michaels is very contemporary and modernish. They all have their own different styles, so you have to be able to do everything, and I practice them all. I would say my favorite is contemporary hip-hop, because I love being free.
JSYK: Who do you look up to in the dance world?
ST: There are so many. All of the teachers I work with, I look up to. All of them have something different, that spark about them, which makes you connect with them. But Brian Friedman is my all-time inspiration.
JSYK: What do you think of competitions shows like 'So You Think You Can Dance'?
ST: I think they're great, especially for young dancers that are wanting to be dancers or just dreaming about being a dancer. I think its great to see those dancers on TV and showing what they're made of.
JSYK: What kind of advice would you give to teens who may want to get into dance, but aren't sure of their talent or might be afraid?
ST: I would say give it a try. There is no way of explaining how amazing it is to dance and the feeling of dancing, because dancing is everything. I love it, and all the people I know that dance love it. It's something you can do and escape from everything else, the drama or anything else that's going on in your life. You can just dance and it will go away.
JSYK: What would be your suggestion to get into it?
ST: Ballet is the basis of everything. You have to do ballet. Everybody that is a dancer -- all of the teachers and all of the major choreographers that dance -- has to do ballet. They all have to have that as a basis, because it's the center of it all. I think if you wanted to start dancing, you should go to a dance studio and make sure you take ballet. It's the most important thing.
JSYK: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish in the next few years?
ST: I am a singer, too, so I would like to have my own tour in an arena one day. I want to have back-up dancers, and I want to be singing and dancing at the same time on stage. It's been my dream forever, and I really hope that it will come true in the next few years.
For more information on Sarah and the dance program, visit ThePulseOnTour.com or SarahToups.com. %Poll-60387%