So the Super Bowl was good last night and all, but in our (not so humble) opinion, Justin Timberlake's backup dancers are who REALLY stole the show. They were crisp, lively, sultry and the perfect supplement to Timberlake's greatest hits.
We caught up with JT backup dancer and NYCDA convention teacher Dana Wilson on the morning after the big game, to get all the details on what it takes to dance in a show this massive. Her answers didn't disappoint. Check 'em out here! 👇
Dance Teacher: Was this your first Super Bowl?
Dana Wilson: Yes! This was my maiden super-voyage.
DT: That's quite the bucket-list item to check off.
DW: It absolutely was a bucket-list item for me, and it felt incredible. The [U.S. Bank Stadium] in Minneapolis holds 66,200 people, but the viewing audience at home is in the millions. It's the most eyeballs I've ever had on me. That is a powerful feeling.
DT: When did the rehearsal process begin?
DW: Given that we don't have a ton of time between now and when Justin heads out on tour, we were prepping for the Super Bowl and his tour simultaneously. The choreography was 13 minutes of his greatest hits, so we had danced a lot of the choreography previously.
DT: Do you have any pre-show rituals that you applied to this performance?
DW: There's so much going on in preparation for a show like this. Not just in the moments before, but in the weeks before. Trying to stay healthy and not overtax yourself so your body is prepared is important. I practice yoga as often as I can and have taken to meditation practices as well. I lay in Shavasana for 10 minutes daily, and to get grounded before a show. The most difficult thing to do is keep calm. The hooting and hollering and roaring makes it hard to quiet the mind. So I focus on my breath and imagery.
DT: What was it like to perform in that stadium?
DW: I don't spend a lot of time in sports facilities, and the first time we walked onto the field for rehearsal I was taken aback at how beautiful the space was, and what an honor it is to even try to fill it with my movement. The sound is incredible. You can't decipher one person from the next, you just hear this collective roar. Between the visuals and the sound, it was just about enough to tip me over the scale.
DT: How do you fill that much space?
DW: There were moments during that show where I was performing to the top risers—not just by reaching my arms 'til they split, but by emitting light from my eyes, my chest and my fingers to the back row. That being said, I also knew that there were cameras there, so if I were to dance that big all the time, it would be too much. From rehearsal, I knew where the cameras would be, and if I were at a certain spot, I couldn't be seen by them. But, I still had the side of the stadium looking at me so I needed to play to the back row. My advice is to choose your moments [to project] wisely.
DT: We love that Justin utilizes his backup dancers. How valuable is it to work with someone like that?
DW: It's an absolute treasure and a rarity to work with people who really utilize the majesty of movement to the highest possibility. The thing I like about Justin though, is that he doesn't abuse it. He and his choreographer Marty Kudelka choose movement that compliments music rather than movement that just shows off movement. It's nice to be led by a team that values style.
DT: What advice do you have for teachers training dancers who aspire to opportunities like this?
DW: I would say, so much of what we do as dancers is about physical mastery, but one thing that's a little more difficult to train is the psychological strength to endure the long rehearsal processes, last-minute changes and tremendously high-pressure situations. Dancers need to know how to bounce back if something goes wrong. Train dancers to be confident in the moment and work through less-than-desirable circumstances.