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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.

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And you thought you’d never see ballet to Celtic punk music...

PNB artistic director Peter Boal

As we’ve discussed, one of the things we enjoy most about Super Bowl Sunday is watching the teams’ hometown dance companies get in on the competition. This year, before the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots faced off in Super Bowl XLIX, Pacific Northwest Ballet posed a challenge to Boston Ballet on social media: the losing team’s resident ballet company had to perform a dance to an iconic song of the winning city.

Showing off his dancers' athleticism...

The results are better than we could have hoped, especially considering Boston Ballet’s social media fans chose “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys (a very loud, very non-ballet Massachusetts-based Celtic punk band, if you are not familiar). PNB dancers rose to the occasion, however, donning Seahawks gear (minus one rogue Packers fan) and showing off their skills—plus a little smack talk—to fulfill their end of the bargain. The football score may have said otherwise, but this definitely makes Seattle winners in our eyes.

Even if you aren’t a sports fan, there’s a good chance you’ll head to a Super Bowl party this weekend for a celebration of food, friends and maybe even a little football. You might not care who wins or which penalties get called, but you can still enjoy the evening if you know what to focus on. As a dancer, here are a few things you’ll want to know to get excited for The Big Game.

1. The teams’ hometown dance companies get involved.Thanks to social media, ballet companies in the competing teams’ cities can engage in a little friendly head butting of their own. A couple seasons ago, Ballet Theatre of Maryland lost a bet to Boston Ballet over a Ravens/Patriots championship game, and Maryland dancers had to declare their love for the Patriots on video. This year, Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet got the trash-talking started early with a little on-pointe wink at rumors that the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl because they used deflated footballs. We’ll have to see how Boston responds. And please check out principal Lindsi Dec’s gorgeous foot, below. (Update: PNB just posted a challenge to Boston Ballet.)

From PNB's Facebook page, with the caption, "We checked, our balls are full. #GOHAWKS!"


2. There are some dance-y commercials. During the broadcast, keep an eye out for the Toyota ad featuring Amy Purdy, the double-amputee snowboarder who competed on “Dancing With the Stars.” She dances and boards in the video. And speaking of strong female athletes, there’s also a Victoria’s Secret commercial where the models play football. We’re not entirely sure what to think of it, but we hope their Ballet Beautiful training helped them (or maybe their stunt doubles) during their dives and tackles.


3. You don't want to miss the touchdown dances. We’ve said it before—there’s nothing funnier than watching these huge dudes get down with their bad selves. Sometimes they even choreograph a group celebration. Check out the NFL’s official Top 10 here. It includes salsa and the funky chicken.

4. Football can be beautiful to watch. Just imagine launching into a grand jeté while wearing protective padding all over your body (and, unfortunately, not being too concerned about injury). You’d give it a lot more height and speed, right? That’s basically what these guys do. Plus, the aerial view of players' complex formations and patterns might offer a little choreographic inspiration for your next group number.

Great lines. Energy from fingertips to toes...


5. There are snacks. Who doesn't love snacks? There’s nothing wrong with indulging now and then. If you’re like us, you try to keep your celery-to-chicken-wing ratio skewing slightly in the veggie direction and call it a day. But there are also simple ways to make even game-time snacking healthier. At DT, one of our new favorites is roasted chickpeas—drain a few cans of garbanzos, toss with olive oil and spices (try garlic salt and cayenne), spread on a baking pan and roast at 425˚ for 30 minutes. Also, check out this yogurt-based bleu cheese dressing for a lighter dipping option.

Did you know people are building "snack stadiums"? Cause they are.


6. The halftime show. If you aren’t flipping over to Animal Planet to catch the Kitty Halftime Show, you’re in for the always extravagant, high-energy performance that’s over in a quarter of the time it takes to set up. While you watch those poor people construct an entire stage, complete with pyrotechnics and confetti launchers in under 10 minutes, enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing you don’t have to do that when you travel with sets to competitions. Or maybe you’ll feel a kind of dreadful camaraderie and quietly repeat the vow to yourself to never again travel with that spiral staircase or fireman’s pole for your production number.

Katy Perry is taking the stage this year, and she’s rumored to be including live lions and sharks in the performance (which PETA will love). This probably goes without saying, but don’t get any ideas.

Go sports!

Photos from top: by Lindsay Thomas, by Matt Stone/Boston Herald, Neatorama, Rex/Rex USA

There’s something so entertaining about watching huge, professional football players bust a move. You’ve probably seen Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ signature “squirrel dance” by now. It’s just a little get-pumped breakdown he does before every game to fire up his teammates. Stars at the SAG Awards tried it, the mayor of Denver recently performed it as part of a bet following the Denver Broncos’ playoff loss to the Ravens, and you, too, can learn the squirrel dance, with this simple step-by-step video series. Step one? Find some grass and slam it against your chest, of course.

But the Niners have some pretty sweet moves up their sleeves, too. If agility is any indicator of success on the football field (and rumor has it it is), Ray Lewis’ Ravens may have something to worry about come Sunday. In the video below, three of San Francisco’s offensive linemen work up a sweat learning choreography from the video game Just Dance 4. (The best part is their surprisingly coordinated finale in unison to “What Makes You Beautiful” by boy band One Direction.) Who do you think will win the big game this weekend? That is, who will come in second to Beyoncé?


Photo by Mitch Stringer/US PRESSWIRE

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