Dancer to Dancer

What It's Like to Dance at the Super Bowl

Dancer Tony Bellissimo on the field at Super Bowl LII (via Instagram)

The Super Bowl is America's most-watched television event. Last year, when the incomparable Justin Timberlake took center field for the halftime show, more than 106 million viewers were watching his every move—and that's not even a record!

What's it like to perform for such an incredibly huge audience? Dancer Tony Bellissimo has plenty of experience with high-pressure dance gigs, having worked with artists including Rihanna, Britney Spears, John Legend, and Chris Brown. But stepping out alongside Timberlake during last year's halftime show was a next-level experience. We talked to Bellissimo about how he scored such a coveted job—and how he handled the pressure.


Getting the Gig

Timberlake is a true dancer, and his dancers are extensions of his signature style. The crew has become a kind of family: You'll see the same core group of dancers alongside Timberlake at all his performances. (Fun fact: Timberlake was the first major recording artist to protect his dancers under a SAG-AFTRA touring agreement, a major stepping stone toward improving the working conditions of professional dancers.) "The respect for his camp is remarkable," says Bellissimo of Timberlake.

The leader of that camp is Marty Kudelka, head choreographer for Timberlake, who has a close working relationship with Bellissimo. "I didn't audition for the Super Bowl, but I did audition for Justin's 'Filthy' video," Bellissimo says. "I had to freestyle for Marty after hearing the song for the first time, although it didn't take long to fall in love with the layered waves of music in that track." Being part of Timberlake's pack and working with Kudelka on previous projects helped Bellissimo secure a spot on the biggest stage (ahem, field) in the nation.

Timberlake with his camp of dancers at Super Bowl LII (courtesy Bellissimo)

Focus and Hard Work

The Super Bowl LII dancers worked every day for nearly three weeks to prepare for the halftime performance. Bellissimo compares Timberlake's work ethic to that of Michael Jackson, who was famously engaged in rehearsals. "Justin came into rehearsal and put in the work with us. He'd be in the mirror working to get what was already amazing to be outstanding," says Bellissimo. "He'd chime in on certain moves or musical accents that work for him."


Once the Red Light is On

You can imagine how the dancers felt moments before "Filthy" blared through the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. "Right before we walked on the field, JT gave the most amazing speech to motivate the dancers and the band," Bellissimo says. "We all yelled and screamed. I could've run through a wall, I was so hype!"

The key to surviving the routine's demanding choreography, Bellissimo says, was to channel that energy. He was required to run constantly from stage to stage, with countless cameras following the action. And then there was the knowledge that hundreds of millions of viewers were following his every step.

"The Super Bowl brings an added pressure, because it's a different crowd that you'd get at an award show or go to a concert," says Bellissimo. "Most people are tuned in because they're watching the game. You have to give them what they didn't know they wanted."

Bellissimo (right) feeling hype with fellow dancer David Moore at Super Bowl LII (courtesy Bellissimo)

Dancing with Your Idol

Bellissimo is clearly a huge fan of Timberlake. (He admits that the first time he saw Timberlake, practicing with Kudelka on the set of "Suit and Tie," he blurted out, "THERE'S JUSTIN!" To which Timberlake replied, "HERE I AM!") Still, when you're dancing alongside your idol, it's best to not lose your cool. When working with celebrities and role models, Bellissimo's advice is to remain professional.

"I've heard stories about dancers saying the wrong thing, getting too hands-on, or overstepping their position," Bellissimo says. "That will get you fired, replaced, and shipped out before you can tie your shoes! Remember that it's a job, so if you want to keep it, find the right time to have fun in between the work."

The Conversation
Health & Body
Getty Images

Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.

Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their "do's" for dressing to audition.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via YouTube

Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.

Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.

Keep reading... Show less
See photo credits below

What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.

In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

Keep reading... Show less
Body Buzz
Getty Images

If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
"SYTYCD" hopefuls at The Academy (Adam Rose/FOX)

"So You Think You Can Dance" just kicked off Season 15 with a fabulous audition episode. Unfortunately, as always, some of the gifted dancers we just met won't make it to the live shows. In fact, so many talented artists have tried out for "SYT," it can be hard to remember standout auditionees from the past who didn't reach the Top 20. But many of them have gone on to have fantastic careers. Here are five amazing dancers who you probably don't remember auditioning for "SYTYCD."

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
State Ballet of Siberia dancer Yury Kudriavtsev wearing Siberian Swan shoes (courtesy Siberian Swan)

As ballet's gender roles grow increasingly blurred, more men than ever are reaching new heights: the tips of their toes.

It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).

The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!

We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at mfuhrer@dancemedia.com. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.

We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.

We can't wait to meet you!

Dance on TV
CBS

Need more evidence that K-pop is taking over the universe, one infectiously catchy song and impeccably choreographed dance routine at a time? Look no further than BLACKPINK's fabulous appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance on TV
GET IT, Janelle. (Getty Images)

Yes, yes, it's a music awards show, but for us, it's *always* all about the dancing. And last night, the Grammy performers—especially the ladies—gave us everything our little dancer hearts desired. Happy early Valentine's Day to us! 😍

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Stars
Images by Norelle, courtesy Jennifer Falcione

When we asked what her proudest accomplishment so far is, Kiarra Waidelich paused for a moment. That's because she has so many to choose from: In the past two years, Kiarra's earned Mini and Junior Female Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, snagged Youth America Grand Prix's Hope Award, and made it to the divisional finals on Season 2 of "World of Dance." Equally gifted in ballet ("I love the mental and physical challenge") and contemporary, it's the latter that made Kiarra realize dance was her passion. "If something bad or stressful happens in my day, I use contemporary as a way to express and release what I'm feeling," she says. "Dance is a way for me to emote and let things go."

Keep reading... Show less
Branch Out
Adrienne Gregorek working on physical therapy exercises with a patient (courtesy Gregorek)

When Adrienne Gregorek was 14, she injured her hamstring and was sent to physical therapy. "I was super frustrated," she remembers. "I went to a clinic where there were mostly older people being treated and felt like the staff didn't understand the needs of a dancer. When they were re-testing me at the end, they said, 'You're good,' even though I really wasn't where I needed to be for optimal strength and flexibility."

For many dancers looking for their next step beyond the stage, a career that continues to connect them to the art is a no-brainer. In Gregorek's case, her interest in the human body, coupled with her passion for dance, led her to a career in physical therapy and landed her a job at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, where she treats dancers, including members of New York City Ballet and students at the School of American Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways