"They brought me in for one episode, and I stole the show"
Shane Sparks is a hip-hop choreographer and judge for So You Think You Can Dance.
Daniel: How did the son of two Cincinnati police officers start dancing?
Shane Sparks: [laughs] That's crazy. Well, dancing is something that was in my heart from day one. I remember doing, like, little stuff in the living room for my mother and, you know, my family, every time they had company. But I really started taking it a little more serious as a kid when I was like in about the seventh grade, and I put a little dance crew together, and hit the talent show. And after that, the response was so crazy, we started doing it like almost every year. And you know, as the years went by, we started doing different crews, more contests, and it just became a big part of my life. It was more like a weekend-type thing, you know what I mean? So, it just developed from there. We would rehearse, we would practise, we would watch videos, watch TV, and anything that we saw we would take it, mimic it, create, change it around and make it ours.
Daniel: Who were some of your early influences?
Sparks: The biggest influence, it was a movie called Breakin' that I saw, and it was a guy by the name of Pop'N Taco. And his style of dance was so me -- the way he moved, and the conviction behind every move, it was so me, that I just mimicked everything he did. And so, whenever I do anything, it's like, basically a tribute to him. And I actually got to meet him when I moved to California, too, so we became pretty good friends. He was one, Michael Jackson was one. Michael Jackson wasn't my inspiration for his movement, but it was more from this: for his conviction and his energy and his confidence behind what he did.
Daniel: How did you get into the teaching aspect of it?
Sparks: In Cincinnati, you know, we didn't have hip-hop classes. So I never even thought about it in a million years. But once I moved out here to California -- I came out here in a group. The group broke up. I needed to make money, so a friend of mine took me to this studio called Moro Landis, and she was like, "Why don't you just go up here, take some classes, you know, get to know some of the dancers." But I never took classes; that was dumb to me. So I walked in, I would just watch classes. And one day a teacher was late, and the students were like, "Why don't you come in and teach us some choreography, teach us some dance. You look like you know how to dance." I was like, "Okay." So I walk up in there, I start teaching 'em and…I don't know how to count, I don't know how to do anything. All I know is, I just know how to do it in beats, like sound effects, you know. So I was doing choreography to sound effects, and the kids were kind of like, "What is he doing?" But then they were kind of picking it up. And then the teacher came in, and he was like, "Thank you so much." Made me his assistant, and then, like a month later, he'd moved away. Never came back. I took over his class, and I learned how to count. I learned how to teach classes. I went from one class, to two classes, to like five classes a week, and now I still have the title of having the biggest class in California, and…I'm one of the top choreographers in the world. Ahh! [laughs] Hate to be so blunt, but I don't know what else to say!