Montana Efaw (center) performing with Lady Gaga (left) (Oliver James L'Eroe, courtesy Efaw)

Calling all Little Monsters! Fresh off her Oscar win for Best Original Song, Lady Gaga will head back to the Park Theater in Las Vegas this May. She'll perform her Enigma show, as well as her stripped-down Jazz & Piano show. Dancer Montana Efaw has worked with Gaga for a whole decade, and now joins her onstage in Enigma. We caught up with Efaw to get the inside scoop on the show, and what it's like dancing with a pop icon.

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"Bad Romance": possibly the best Gaga video of all time? (via YouTube)

How bonkers is it that it's been 10 years since we all first heard about a crazy/fabulous/uncategorizable musical artist known as Lady Gaga? Back in April 2008, her breakout hit "Just Dance" dropped, spawning the first of many generations of Gaga superfans. And one of the things that's kept her little monsters devoted over the past decade is her embrace of full-out, over-the-top choreography.

To celebrate 10 years of Gaga, we decided to round up some of her best (translation: danciest) music videos. Did we include your fave? Yell at us in the comments if not—because we know y'all are passionate about your Gaga.

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Instagram Via @lucia_evangilista

Last night marked the 60th annual Grammy Award ceremony, and the 3-and-a-half-hour event was beyond inspiring. The evening's performances were brimming with passionate pleas and political pronouncements. And though the Grammys are typically all about the music, last night proved that great music and great dancing go hand-in-hand. Check out our favorite dance-y moments:

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Photo by Miya Lew

No matter the style, 12-year-old Sean Lew attacks every movement with technique and flair. Sean landed his first professional gig dancing on “Glee" at age 8, and has since appeared on “The X Factor" and the Kids' Choice Awards. Last September, a video of Sean dancing a Miguel Zarate combination to Lady Gaga's “Applause" went viral, making him an overnight sensation. More recently, Sean has taken his talents to the road, touring the U.S. with The PULSE On Tour as an Elite Protégé.

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OK, there wasn’t as much dance as we would have liked to see at this year’s Grammy Awards. But the night still included a few awesome dance-y moments.

One word, guys: Hamilton! It’s always great when Broadway gets some love and recognition outside of the musical theater scene, so when the folks from Hamilton appeared via satellite to perform the opening number from the show, we did our own little happy dance. And then sat transfixed. Minutes later, to pretty much no one's surprise, the show scored the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

Then there was Kendrick Lamar’s amazingly poetic performance of “Alright” and “The Blacker the Berry,” featuring glow-in-the-dark costumes, a giant bonfire and virtuosic dancers. Choreographed by Fatima Robinson with Charmaine Jordan and Adrian Wiltshire, it was one of the night's most powerful—and beautiful—moments.

Target and Gwen Stefani made history with the first-ever live music video, in which Stefani channeled Marilyn Monroe as she gamely lip-synced along to her single “Make Me Like You” throughout various sets and costume changes. The dancing was fabulous and full of fun moments—choreo on salon chairs and Vespas, a chorus of cheerleaders decked out in Gwen masks, even a roller-rink scene complete with impressive moves on skates.

Lady Gaga’s David Bowie tribute was, naturally, epic, and complete with jumpsuit-clad dancers (we see you, Marquis Cunningham!) who pulled out everything from perfect pirouettes to sassy struts and flawless tilts.

And last but not least was Pitbull's finale performance, which featured a surprise appearance from "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara during his song "Taxi." We loved Rhapsody James' fierce, Latin-inspired choreography, and dancers Sophia Aguiar and Amandy Fernandez slayed as per usual.

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They say opposites attract—and that’s certainly the case for best friends Sloan-Taylor Rabinor and Montana Efaw. Rabinor, a brunette contemporary dancer from Arizona, and Efaw, a blonde hip-hopper from Oregon, first met at The PULSE on Tour almost a decade ago, and in 2007 they became the first ever Elite Protégés to travel with the PULSE faculty. That connected them with Laurieann Gibson, who hired them to perform with Lady Gaga at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Rabinor, now 26, and Efaw, 23, have been performing with Gaga ever since, under the direction of Richard Jackson. Want to know more about this dynamic duo? Read on for The Dirt. —JD

Sloan-Taylor Rabinor (left) and Montana Efaw on the streets of Sydney, Australia (photo courtesy Efaw and Rabinor)

Montana Efaw

What do you love about Sloan-Taylor’s dancing?

I love that she is such a unique mover and that although she is small, she can dance so big.

What are you listening to right now?

Ariana Grande's new album! I can't help it—I love pop music.

What TV show do you hate to miss?

"Real Housewives of"...anything.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Getting home at any hour of the day and putting on my robe.

What’s your hidden talent?

Well Sloan said—"The fact that I could ask you to perform the 2009 VMAs right now and you wouldn't miss a step." I have a good memory!

What’s your favorite city in the world?

I have so many! But there is something so special about Tokyo.

What’s your most embarrassing onstage moment?

You can't beat a fall. I fell one night on the Monster Ball Tour in 2010. I went down on all fours and had to do a Little Miss Sunshine crawl to get back up.

Sloan-Taylor Rabinor

What do you love about Montana’s dancing?

Even after all these years of watching that girl move, I'm still a crazed Montana fan. I always love her improv choices.

Who is your dance crush?

Brian Friedman.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's also my favorite book.

What TV show takes up the most room on your DVR?

"America's Next Top Model" (turning red because I am ashamed).

What can’t you live without?

Yoga, running, spin, weight training—anything that tests my physical strength.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Dark chocolate.

What are your pet peeves?

Bad extensions. Do 'em right or don't do 'em at all.

What’s the best part of being on tour?

The crowds. It never gets old. When the show starts and they scream, there is nothing like it.

You know that myth that dancers who go to college are wasting precious performance time? Karen Chuang proves otherwise. The Northern California native trained with Sonya Tayeh in San Francisco before heading to University of California, Los Angeles, in 2008—the same year she traveled with The PULSE on Tour as an assistant and demonstrator. Before graduating from UCLA with a degree in business economics in 2012, Chuang appeared on “Glee” and danced in Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” video as well as performing live with her. Today, Chuang teaches frequently at the Edge Performing Arts Center in L.A., and you can see her in Lady Gaga’s artRave: The ARTPOP Ball world tour through the end of the month. Want to know more about this professional smarty-pants? Read on for The Dirt.

(photo by Jino Abad, courtesy Karen Chuang)

What did you want to be when you were younger?

Taller! Just kidding. I wanted to be a lot of things: an author, a chef, a teacher—and even a senator at one point.

What don’t people know about you?

I'm fluent in Mandarin and Taiwanese. In fact, there are some things I think of only in Mandarin. For example, I rarely call my brother by his English name, Vincent. Instead, I refer to him as "哥哥" (ge ge) which is Chinese for older brother.

What are your pet peeves?

When socks slip under my heels and watching people take selfies.

Dance-wise, do you have any bad habits?

I've caught myself lip-synching a few times. It usually happens when I'm super zoned-in on performing.

What’s the strangest thing in your dance bag?

A strong collection of empty San Pellegrino bottles. I've got an insatiable thirst for bubbly water!

What’s the best part of being on tour?

The new sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I get to experience. I keep a blog and a journal to help me remember my travels, and I like looking back and reflecting on each city. (Follow Karen Chuang's journey on tour at karenchuang.blogspot.com!)

What’s your biggest piece of advice for DS readers?

Always strive to be your best, and don't ever feel like your place in a performance is unnoticed or unimportant.

 

**Correction: This article originally stated that Karen Chuang performed on Justin Bieber's My World Tour. Chuang danced with Willow Smith, who opened for Bieber on his tour.

Dance Spirit's May/June 2014 issue. Shot by Joe Toreno.

The day I found out Jeremy Hudson and Mark Kanemura were dating, I sprinted across the office and practically shouted to the rest of the Dance Spirit staff, "We have to put them on the cover!" You know Mark from Season 4 of "So You Think You Can Dance," and from his work on Season 10. (The couch piece he did for Jenna Johnson was my favorite of the entire season.) You know Jeremy from...well, everyone knows Jeremy. Commercial dance insiders regularly refer to him as "the most-booked dancer in L.A.," and during our cover shoot last September, Jeremy confessed to me that he hasn't had to audition for a job in years—people just hire him.

Jeremy and Mark have each found incredible successes in their dance careers so far, but put them on a stage together and they light it up. Case in point: just about every Lady Gaga video or tour you've ever seen. (And take a look at this album of outtakes from their shoot. There wasn't a less-than-perfect picture in the entire bunch!)

It's such an honor having these two oh-so-in-love superstars on the cover of our May/June issue. We're in love with their love story. Click here to read it, and enjoy this video from their photo shoot with photographer Joe Toreno in Hollywood.

Of course, Mark and Jeremy aren't the only crazy-hot pair making their mark on the Hollywood dance scene. Dancing power duos are all the rage right now. Once you're done reading about Mark and Jeremy's journey to coupledom, enjoy the sweet stories of Jaimie Goodwin and Bryan Tanaka, Chantel Aguirre and Michael Keefe, Keone and Mari Madrid, Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita and, of course, our September 2012 cover stars (and newlyweds!), Stephen "tWitch" Boss and Allison Holker.

Prepare to be awwwww-ed by all of it. We certainly were.

Dance News

When I was 11, the routine I did at my year-end dance recital was a lyrical-ballet hybrid thing to that weird and totally unknown song "Every Heart Needs a Home." It was awful.

These days, 11 year olds are way more talented. They're downright fierce.

Take, for example, 11-year-old Sean Lew. You've probably already heard of him since he's been dancing professionally since he was 8.

In this video, check out Sean dancing a Miguel Zarate-choreographed routine to Lady Gaga's "Applause."

Way cooler than "Every Heart Needs a Home."

Dance News

Oh, the MTV Video Music Awards.

So they happened last night—shout-out to Brooklyn!—and they were...you know.

Here's the thing: The VMAs have always been awesome and edgy and it's the awards show where the celebrities can really go crazy. There was that time in the late '90s when Gwen Stefani dyed her hair sky blue and wore a matching fur bikini top, and there's always madness happening onstage (think "Taylor, I'mma let you finish, but..." Kanye-style).

Of course, we here at Dance Spirit rarely tune into these awards shows—no matter how outrageous they plan to be—hoping to catch a great acceptance speech or groundbreaking presentation of some lifetime achievement award. We're in it for the dancing, and at last night's VMAs there was plenty of killer choreography to get us excited.

No. No. No. NOOOO!

First, though, let's address the evening's tragedies, because that's fun:

  • Miley Cyrus, everyone is talking about you today. And it's not because you were so cool and out there and youthful and fun. It's because your nude underwear was hanging out of your weird one-piece with the drugged-out-looking bear on it, and your tongue was hanging out the entire time and everything you did was so wildly inappropriate and crass. Hannah Montana would not approve, and neither did I. And twerking? I'm over it.

OK, so that's it for the tragedies! Way to hold it down, Miley!

And, in my opinion, the highlights:

  • Pop Quiz: Can you name the member of *NSYNC on the far right? It's OK if you can't. Focus on the gorgeous gentleman in the middle.

    Two words: Justin Timberlake. The man can do no wrong. He's talented, he's classy and yeah, he's gorgeous—he was also the real winner of the entire evening, and he also employs some darn good backup dancers! I was psyched to see so many familiar faces grooving onstage at The Barclays Center with J-Timbs, including Ivan Koumaev, Dana Wilson, Nick Bass and David Moore. The Timberlake Show lasted, what was it, 11 minutes? I was actually disappointed when they launched into the *NSYNC reunion portion of the performance because I wanted the dancers to keep going! Plus, it seems like they're having an absolute blast up there, which is a pleasure to watch. 

  • Lady Gaga. Well, Gaga's dancers at least. They're always awesome. I was sad not to see Mark Kanemura up there with her, but thrilled to see longtime favorite Gaga dancers Montana Efaw and Sloan Rabinor getting their "Applause" on. One of my other favorites, Karen Chuang, was there, too! Well done, dancers, and way to nail those costume changes for your leading lady!
  • Katy Perry. Honestly, I thought her "Roar" performance was kind of "meh," but I appreciated the hyper-choreographed routine and dug the Legally Blonde: The Musical-esque jump roping portion of it.

Everything else about the night was pretty forgettable, in my opinion. Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez looked pretty, the guys of One Direction looked like they were ready to battle the boys (OK, grown men) of *NSYNC and Will Smith's family looked completely terrified of Miss Miley.

We felt the saaaaaame way, Willow.

All in all a somewhat decent show.

Your thoughts?

Dance News

Choreographer Richy Jackson has worked on Lady Gaga’s most iconic videos—“Bad Romance” and “Telephone,” to name just two. He officially made his debut as lead choreographer for the Haus of Gaga with her “Marry the Night” video in 2011. In the past year, he’s come out from behind the scenes to be a judge on “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” alongside the infamous Abby Lee Miller, whom Jackson describes as a “non-stop critique shop.” Now that the show has wound down, Jackson is heading back to his day job: visual director for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball tour, which, after touring overseas, comes to the U.S. this month. Jackson spoke to DS about being the man behind Lady Gaga’s moves.

Dance Spirit: When did you start dancing? 

Richy Jackson: I grew up watching music videos, and when I was 16, my friends and I would sneak out to the clubs in San Francisco to go dancing. I went to Tuskegee University because I wanted to be a lawyer. While there, I saw a friend dancing in an Aaliyah video, and I basically left for L.A. that week. I called my mom to tell her, and she almost had a heart attack. At the time, I had no formal training. But I landed a job dancing for Will Smith.

DS: Did you know you ultimately wanted to be a choreographer?

RJ: Absolutely. My mother coached a cheerleading squad, and I started choreographing for them when I was 13. They even went to Nationals with some of my routines. But when I got to L.A., I wanted to take the time to learn the craft. The first person I assisted was Michael Rooney, and he changed my life. He showed me that “simple but effective” is the way to choreograph. It took time to get to the point where I could call myself a choreographer.

DS: When did you meet Lady Gaga? 

RJ: Six years ago. I watched her perform three songs in the studio, and I said, “Wow, you are going to be a problem in this industry.” At that time, pop music looked like Britney Spears—Barbie-doll perfect. But when I saw Gaga, I knew she was anything but. She was a live singer, she played instruments, she was vulnerable and expressive and she’d take chances no one else would.

DS: You’ve also worked with Katy Perry, Keri Hilson and Nicki Minaj. How is working with Lady Gaga different?

RJ: When Gaga’s learning a dance step, she works until she gets it exactly right. If it’s an eight-hour day, she’s there for the full eight hours to make sure she has it. She cares about what her dancers look like, what the aesthetic is and what artistic approach we’re taking for each song. She brought entertainment back to the music business.

Sad that your standby summer TV shows have ended? Don’t be, because there’s a new dance show on the block that’s blowing some of our old faves out of the water! “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” is like “Dance Moms” on steroids with a dash of “So You Think You Can Dance” thrown in. Twelve dancers ages 6 to 13 compete to win a $100,000 cash prize and a scholarship to the Young Dancer Program at the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC. Not too shabby, right? Say what you will about Abby Lee Miller, but showing kids with real talent rocking their dance moves every week to a packed audience is definitely my kind of television. Last night’s premiere got the ball rolling with some serious dancing drama. Here are my top ten moments:

1. Mom Yvette and 12-year-old Hadley. Yvette proves to be the know-it-all dance mom to reckon with right off the bat—she’s clearly going to cause trouble. A dance teacher herself, she has no problem stepping in during rehearsals to ask questions or make corrections. Yikes. Thankfully, Hadley doesn’t seem to embarrass easily and they get along like peanut butter and jelly. The best part? Their inspirational sayings to live by: “Go the extra mile because it’s never crowded.” “You’re either in or you’re in the way.” “You’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit!” (OK, I don’t really get that last one.)

2. The “technique” challenge. Anthony Burrel choreographs a routine for all the kids, and considering how many hip roles and sassy walks were involved, I'm a little confused about how it's supposed to show off their technique. But it's OK, because Abby's only judging based on what outfit they're wearing. Hadley’s headband is too big, and Elizabeth’s turquoise shirt is just perfect, so she wins! Yay Elizabeth! More on Elizabeth later…

3. Tua. Tua’s job is to make things dramatic when they aren’t really dramatic at all. She cries the first day while learning the “technique” challenge choreography, and then she cries again while learning tap. I get that you’re a little kid and all, but please stop, Tua! You’re making me sad!

4. Asia Monet Ray! This girl may be the new Mackenzie. OK, not the new Mackenzie, but a good replacement Mackenzie until “Dance Moms” comes back next season. This child has some serious sassy pants on. She rocks that hip-hop routine and completely steals the spotlight from the other two girls. Plus, she’s only 6. (6!) I'm in shock.

5. First official mom drama of the season. When Lexine misses her front walkover (and gets completely overshadowed by Asia), Mom Maria tells her that she’s definitely going home. The other moms flip out! Things get so crazy that some moms even yell at other people’s children. Definitely not a fan of the moms already.

6. The jazz routine. This trio is on a whole different level than the others. Yes, the dancers are older, but they also show off amazing tricks and turns without sacrificing technique. I see you, Hadley, Madison and Zack.

7. The tap routine. Seriously? This doesn’t even give these girls a chance. Tua, Tessa and Kyleigh Jai wear costumes with wigs so no one can tell them apart and do lackluster tap moves while making funny faces. Unfair.

8. Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth. It’s way too early in the season to play the “my parents are getting a divorce” card. She barely gets criticized, and completely breaks down. The moms think she may be using her parents divorce as an evil plot to win. Scandal already? Love it!

9. The decision. Tessa’s going home for apparently not portraying her character well enough. (Isn't this week’s challenge technique?) She handles it like a champ though, and I still blame the silly tap routine. So sad.

10. The previews for next week! There will be more mom fighting, the kids will dress up like fairies, and someone has a very scary fall (Ouch!). It’s official, I’m hooked.

 

Did you watch this week’s premiere? Don’t let me do all the talking. Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Dance News

Stealing the spotlight from one of the world’s biggest pop superstars is no easy task. Yet when Mark Kanemura is bending, twisting and contorting behind Lady Gaga, you can’t help but stare—at him. His movement is magnetic and his edgy look is completely captivating.

The Hawaii native first gained national fame as a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 4. Though he flew under the radar in the early weeks, Mark and partner Chelsie Hightower became top contenders after performing a Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo lyrical hip-hop routine to “Bleeding Love.” Mark’s convincing emotion and raw talent gained attention from both judges and audiences, and he remained in the competition until the Top 6.

After he toured with “SYTYCD,” Mark’s career took off almost immediately. He danced in Lil’ Mama’s “Truly in Love” video, followed by a 2009 MTV Video Music Awards performance with Lady Gaga. Now, Mark is a familiar face on the Gaga scene. He was a dancer on her Monster’s Ball tour and appears in her videos for “Telephone,” “Alejandro,” “Born This Way” and “Judas.” He’s featured in Janet Jackson’s “Make Me” music video, has performed with Katy Perry and was a lead dancer in the “Britney/Brittany” episode of “Glee.” Mark also returned to the “SYTYCD” stage as an All Star during Season 7.

Read on for The Dirt from Mark!

What did you want to be when you were a teen?

A dancer! I would dream of dancing with Janet Jackson and Madonna. Waking up was the worst!

Performer you would drop everything to go see:

Prince! That man and his music are something else...

Most-played song on your iPod:

It’s a tie: “Heavy Metal Lover” by Lady Gaga and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. YUM!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? Watching “Toddlers & Tiaras.” It’s brilliant, twisted, hilarious and sparkly.

If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?

Hmmm... Maybe a geisha, maybe a zoologist, maybe a pirate? So many fun things to be.

One thing you can’t live without:

SWEETS!!!!!!!!... and green tea... and my iPod... OK, that’s three...but they are equally important.

Favorite city in the world:

Honolulu. There’s no place like home.

Favorite dancer of all time:

I have two (sorry, I’m not following directions): Desmond Richardson (sigh) and Wade

Robson (double sigh).

What are your pet peeves?

Inconsiderate people, clutter and crayons that lose their sharpness.

Dance-wise, do you have any bad habits?

When I first started dancing, I used to pretend I was feeling sick to get out of ballet. I later realized how important ballet is.

Dancer to Dancer

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