Anthony Gonzalez Lives To Dance
BY SYDNEY ALTMAN
In the profound words of famed dancer Paula Abdul, “You can admire people all you want, and that’s lovely, but when you can inspire people, that is the ultimate gift.” One dancer in particular proved to be an inspiration to many, as well as to Abdul herself. Coming from the small town of Cooper City, senior Anthony Gonzalez used his immense talent to propel himself and his dancing group forward on the nationally televised series Live to Dance. His hard work and dedication paid off, as this small town guy lived the big city dream.
Gonzalez began his path to dancing stardom at the age of three after watching his older sister perform her own routines. For years, dancing was a hobby and playing sports was his passion. But, as reality set in and as his athletic journey ended, Gonzalez focused all of his attention on his true, marketable talent.
In order to fully immerse himself into dance, Gonzalez joined the prestigious company, Dance Attack, about ten years ago. At Dance Attack, heconnected with fellow dancers and gained opportunities to explore the field. The professional instructors helped mold his talent, challenging him to try every style of dance, from ballet to contemporary to his favorite, hip-hop. Once he learned all styles of dance, his routines improved tremendously, as he was able to incorporate many styles into one that is imaginative and fresh.
“Don’t stick to one style of dance; change it up all the time,” Gonzalez said. “It’s better to be a well-rounded dancer than just have one style.”
The constant experimentation caused Gonzalez to develop into an expert dancer, ultimately earning him a spot on the Miami Heat Junior Jam. The Junior Jam consisted of 8 to 12 year olds who aspired to be hip-hop dancers. Beginning in 2003 and concluding in 2006, the year the Heat won the NBA championship, Gonzalez participated in the program, earning recognition from fellow students in the process. The program helped him narrow his focus on hip-hop dancing and helped him acclimate to performing in front of large crowds.
“It was a really great experience,” Gonzalez said. “It helped me out with the whole crowd. We would perform during the games. It was very demanding but in the end it was worth it.”
Upon completion of the Heat program, Gonzalez continued with Dance Attack. He and the other dancers performed in local, state, and national competitions, many times dominating their competition. Since their practice schedule was extremely time intensive, Gonzalez and his fellow dancers became very close, forming a strong bond.
This close-knit team consisted of Gonzalez and eight girls who called their group Twitch. The name was derived from the “twitchy” nature of their dance moves. Gonzalez was hand selected to join the almost all-girl group because his original flair meshed well with their style. Though any guy would be lucky to be surrounded by eight girls, challenges did arise along the way.
“That style [of dance] was perfect for me, which was why I was picked for the group,” Gonzalez said. “There is A LOT of pressure because the spotlight is always on you. Even if you do the same steps [as the group], you still have the spotlight on you because you stand out.”
Twitch performed in many competitions and always received high praise for their original work. Their innovative dance style infuses all techniques into a brand new genre that only Twitch has perfected. Due to their outstanding talent, the head instructors and choreographers at Dance Attack specifically chose Twitch to audition for a brand new competitive reality show series, Live to Dance.
The new series, with Paula Abdul as the lead judge, provided a unique opportunity for aspiring dancers. The show allowed any and all dancers to try out, no matter their age or the number of people in the act. Ultimately, the winning act would get a $500,000 grand prize and instant public recognition.
The once in a lifetime audition was not taken lightly by the talented group. They practiced their award-winning routine non-stop, vowing to make the performance flawless. By the time the audition came to Miami, Twitch was ready to wow everyone. The preliminary audition was solely in front of the producer and a camera; if they like you, then you move on to the interview room, and if you pass the interview, then you make it to the Dome auditions in front of the expert judges.
Gonzalez auditioned twice, the first time as a solo act and the second with Twitch. He passed both auditions with flying colors, ultimately making it through the interview process. However, the producers decided that Gonzalez’s solo act was good, but the group was better and more unique. He was not disappointed that Twitch made it to the Dome auditions in New York.
“I was challenging myself going from a group to a soloist,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m SO glad that the group made it because I don’t know if I could have done it by myself.”
While at the Dome auditions, Twitch performed in front of Abdul and the other two judges, Travis Payne and Kimberly Wyatt. In order to ensure that their final and most important audition would be a huge success, the group came out onto the stage ready to dance as if it was their last time to ever perform. The performance flew by and their audition was a hit. Abdul loved Gonzalez and the group so much that tears came to her eyes.
“The first time performing in front of Paula was very intimidating,” Gonzalez said. “Your adrenaline is rushing. Before you know it, it is over; that minute and a half goes by so fast. It was awesome.”
Making it to Los Angeles was a dream come true for the aspiring professionals. They were in the bustling city for about a month and cherished every moment of their experience. However, their days were not filled with the glitz and glamour that Hollywood is known for. They woke up early to meet up with their hometown choreographer to learn their new routine and would practice all day, working long hours to make their performances perfect. The Monday and Tuesday before the live performance were most difficult since they had to stay focused at all times and nail their routine. Their only free moments were on the weekends, when they would explore Hollywood’s sights.
Abdul was hands on with each of the competitors, making sure their routines were creative, unique, and the best that they could possibly be. Since she began her famous career in the 1980s as a top-notch dancer, her insight was vital for Twitch. Though her dance style was a bit old-fashioned and out-dated, Twitch was able to mesh elements of the 80s into their futuristic style. The most challenging aspect of creating routines is ensuring that their robotic type moves look fluid and graceful.
“It was great working with Paula,” Gonzalez said. “She helped us, but she challenged us a lot too, which was probably better for us because we don’t want to go out there having it easy; we want to go out there having a challenge. That’s what we got.”
Their hard work prepared them for the live performances, where they fought for their place in the finals. Even though they constantly rehearsed their routines and performed in front of audiences, the livetelevised round was completely different than anything they ever experienced before. The CBS studio was filled to capacity, putting pressure on the competitors. But, they were more worried about the audience at home than the studio audience. All of their positions and movements were changed to ensure that the camera had the perfect angle. After all, the viewers were the ones voting for each competitor.
“Being on stage is awesome,” Gonzalez said. “Your adrenaline is rushing and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now’.”
The last minute changes were constant battles for Twitch. During both Los Angeles rounds, their song choice was chosen by CBS. Their routines had to be quickly modified to fit the new beats, breakdowns, and timing of the new selection. But, as a dancer, Gonzalez was always prepared to adapt.
“The dance industry changes day by day,” Gonzalez said. “Everything is new and fresh.”
All of Twitch’s hard work paid off as they made it to the final round of competition along with five other groups. Gonzalez and Twitch never let their achievements get to their heads, understanding that at any moment, their luck could turn. They were surprised and humbled at making the finals, even though millions of Americans and thousands of home-town supporters knew they deserved it.
Although Twitch didn’t win the ultimate Live to Dance grand prize, they did win plenty of attention. Throughout Cooper City, local businesses and schools promoted Gonzalez and the rest of Twitch. When voting occurred, Cooper City High School students took to their Facebooks and Twitters to endorse Twitch’s television success. Now that Gonzalez has returned to school to finish up his senior year, he is frequently stopped by fellow students and is congratulated for his accomplishments. He has been elevated to a local celebrity.
“It was a fun experience that I will never forget,” Gonzalez said. “For now, this was definitely the biggest challenge and I’m glad it happened. It helped to prepare me for what’s to come.”
The whole experience affirmed Gonzalez’s desires to make it in the dancing industry. After he graduates from high school, Gonzalez plans on going to Las Vegas to perform in his last national competition with Dance Attack. Though he loves Dance Attack, he knows it is time to leave the company to pursue his professional career goals.
Since the dance industry is huge in Los Angeles, he wants to move to the west coast and hire an agent, taking advantage of his newfound stardom. His ultimate goal is to become a background dancer for famous celebrities, emulating the power that Justin Timberlake’s dancers used to exude. Due to his current notoriety, opportunities are sure to be available for this inspirational rising star.