Angela Elgani: Celebrity Back-Up-Dancer

Angela has danced with The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, N’ SYNC, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Pink, George Michael, Step Up Revolution, and Dance Monsters on Netflix. Oh yes! You read that correctly. To hear more about her dance journey, click read more and then click here: Angela Elgani: Celebrity Back-Up Dancer

Dance teachers appear in our lives when we need them; they offer a certain energy or perspective that is timely.  I’ve learned to appreciate the dance teacher in front of me and enjoy every song, each choreographed dance and the time spent together. I’ve learned countless lessons from each and every one. And I want to thank each dance teacher I’ve ever danced with. All of our dancing and energy has stayed with me.

For me, right now, I am beyond happy that Angela Elgani appeared, and we connected.

As a frustrated dancer-want-to-be, I have found freedom and peace in Angela’s Danze Jam class. I love how she teaches, how she empowers each of us and her incredible smile.

Though I had been dancing in the real world every chance I got, it had been a while since I had participated in a dance class. Finding Angela’s Dance Jam class at Life Time in West County was a timely gift.

Returning to dance class, complete with amazing music and moves-including the Barbie song, choreography from Angela’s experience in videos, tours, and movies, I was getting my groove back. One dance step at a time.

One of the songs we dance to is Meghan Trainor – Me Too. This is Angela’s theme music. When Meghan sings, “I thank G-d every day….” Angela’s entire face lights up. You can actually FEEL her thanking the Universe. Which in turn, has made me LOVE the song even more.

Angela’s energy is light, empowering, inclusive and fun.

As she is having fun dancing, Angela shares her energy with everyone in the room. And we share back!

She often announces that the choreography we are dancing is the choreography “from the real videos and tours” she has been on. For regular people-it’s our chance to feel like we are on tour with The Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears!

Angela’s journey as a dancer began in St. Louis where she grew up and started dancing at 2 ½; her mom put her in dance for an activity-she was moving around and a busy-body. Most kids start dance class at 3, however, after class, the instructor said to Angela’s mom, Martha Randle, “I’ll keep her!”

It was in this small home studio that Angela’s dance education began.

She didn’t get serious until she was about 8 years old, and her mom took her to a St. Louis Cardinals cheerleaders’ professional line audition. Making the team, she started in the “Little Line.” She continued dancing with the Cardinals through high school as well as for soccer teams and the St. Louis Blues team.

By high school, she was in the studio every day of the week. Between classes, master classes, competitions, cheerleading rehearsals, and Broadway performance workshops she lived a life consumed by dance.

When she was a teen, Ted Koplar of KPLR TV created Team 11, a group of singers and dancers who performed around St. Louis. Team 11 was also given spots on Channel 11. Angela was a part of this, too.

In addition to keeping up with her schoolwork her parents required her to get good grades to continue in dance. She rose to the challenge.

Recently Angela spoke to her mom about her dance history. Her mom told her, “You were always into dance. You went to school, and you went to dance. You weren’t doing all the social things other teens were doing.”

This is a change for her own 9-year-old daughter, who also dances, and is involved with Girl Scouts, sports, and has a vibrant, fun social life. Angela is enjoying every minute of this along with her daughter. Her mom followed her lead and now, Angela is following her daughter’s lead.

After graduating from Villa, Angela found a school out west and attended Loyola Marymount University in California. Her parents suggested she study business as a “back-up” (how many creatives heard that?!).

Immersed in dance growing up, Angela learned the business of dance, even in college. I feel  like I earned a Masters in Dance!” She decided to put that knowledge to good use.

Going to college in LA, Angela says, “I did what I knew how to do,” finding the dance scene, and going to all the most well-known dance studios. She also took classes, met friends, networked, and became part of a giant supportive dance community. She also found out which agencies took dancers. Through friends, she found an agent. “It’s a matter of getting yourself in the door.”

While in college, she began working right away.

Her first job was the George Michael video Let’s Go Outside. (hello?!!!! My first job was at Swensen’s Ice Cream.)

Angela was one of two special dancers with red, curly hair. The video sent the message that George Michael was here to stay. Talking about the experience, Angela says, “He was really nice!” (for more on this, listen to the audio interview) NOTE: these pictures are from when film was still being developed.

How exactly do these videos work? Can anyone get in?

“For my first job, it went very quickly. By the time my agent sent my headshot I was on set. The choreographer approved me, they put us in costumes and make-up, and we learned the dance immediately. We filmed within two hours. It was learning on-set.”

This isn’t how it usually happened.

“Usually, auditions happen in giant dance studios. You get called into an audition. The dancers learn the choreography and we go out and are called back in to audition. We are notified then and there or via our agents if we made it in.”

Angela networked. She had the skills, talent, ability, and dream to do this. She also wanted to make a living as a dancer. And feels fortunate she was able to do this.

As she continued dancing, she found opportunities to dance in videos and tours, taking every chance she could.

And then….

She auditioned for the first Backstreet Boys ‘Into the Millennium tour.’

“I catch these artists when they are at their highest! They appear on scene, and they become a big hit! Then their second album is a mega hit! That’s when I dance with them.”

I asked how this works.

“The Audition process for big tours/big name artists are huge. It was very nerve-wracking. For the Backstreet Boys, it was the biggest audition I had ever seen. But I had the drive and told myself, “I’m going to get it!”

“I waited days to hear. Sometimes they might bring you back to do the same dance and ask for free style. Often, they match up dancers to see visually what it looks like. It takes you 2-3 days. I heard through my agent.”

What exactly was the job title?

Tour Dancer.

Rehearsals started in LA, and the team rehearsed for 18-hour days-all day. Angela remembers this time as fun and tiring. She also remembers needing to sustain her energy because it’s also working out. The choreographer is staging, moving, and blocking. It is a process of building something: a show and a production. This includes costumes, too. The staff is constantly asking, “How are we going to make this?” incorporating the director’s vision, too. After rehearsals, the show is ready to go on the road. They pack their bags and head out on tour.

“This show had a 360-degree audience. It wasn’t common at that time. And a very big deal. In addition, the band themselves were a big deal! The Backstreet Boys flew in, jumping in here, there, and everywhere. And there were pyrotechnics, too. The entire show was HUGE.”

Angela traveled and danced on this tour for an entire year. It was their biggest tour.

What does that look like for a year? Travel. Sleep. Perform. Travel. Sleep. Perform.

I wondered about creating community in a world that was so bright and shiny.

“On tour, dancers are your family. We’re stuck together for the next year day in and day out. And we were all supportive of one another.”

Angela worked hard and created a reputation for herself.

“After a year, people know you and know about you. Other dancers and choreographers want to work with you. It was rewarding to hear: “That’s Angela, she was on tour with The Backstreet Boys!” I became even busier and was being booked directly. Sometimes I heard, “We need Angela, put her on the job,” with other dancers.”

Angela danced on all the BIG tours of the early 2000’s. The bands we heard and saw all the time including Britney Spears, Maya, Pink, NSYNC, Christina Aguilera. “That was a good era with good energy,” she says.

 

“I knew Pink when she entered the scene. She was even more urban at the time: hip hop and R& B. She became more pop rock/pop alternative. Which is good for her and her voice. And yes, I know Britney: the Queen Bee.”

When her daughter was a baby, she returned to St. Louis about nine years ago.

Besides being a mom, Angela now teaches Danze Jam at Life Time, an adult group fitness cardio style dance class. (With fun choreography.)

She also teaches hip hop at two dance schools: St. Louis Ballet Academy and Renee Johnson Dance Studio. Often teaching an entire evening, she instructs students at all levels from 4- and 5-year-olds to teens. She often substitutes and teaches ballet, tap, and jazz.

In 2021 Angela was the dancer behind Jellifer on Dance Monsters.

I can imagine that her energy is perfect for kids and young women, and they love her! The dance jam dancers love her, too. For me, I can tell Angela trusts herself and her instincts which support us trusting her. And, of course, she tells us that we are diva’s, which helps tremendously! Who among us doesn’t want to feel like a diva?!

Her empowering and freeing energy while she dances is a connection between Angela and her dancers. “I receive so much “fullness” from teaching these classes. I don’t ever want to give this up this! I love it, I really do.” She is doing what she LOVES, and she LOVES what she is doing…a gift that she brings to this world.

“I’m happy that you say you can see I enjoy myself. I want you to enjoy it. It’s about you. We feed off one another’s energy. And… my feeling is “Let’s have fun.”

It’s about more than the way her body moves and poses that are inspiring. It’s her encouragement and permission for us to feel amazing about ourselves and our dancing.

“I always think… “let it go!” at least for this hour-we all have lives and expectations about ourselves-and can get a little weighed down by life. Let’s be free, let’s let our bodies move. And ask ourselves: Do I feel good? Do I feel empowered? Do I feel sassy?” (my answer is yes)

“I want this to be fun, empowering and freeing. If we all feel this way, then let’s do it together! I encourage dancers to leave it all at the door-I’m not just coming in teaching. I’m coming in dancing, too.”

I admit it…. I’m a fan girl. Dancing with Angela in Dance Jam class and feeling this good is a gift. From my dance girl-thank you for the music…thank you for the dance and thank you for YOU.

Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free….

Thank you to Angela Elgani for her time and encouragement to find my inner Dance Girl. There’s no stopping me now…

To reach Angela:

https://www.realtor.com/realestateagents

angela@experience-re.com

For more StoryCorps interviews, personal narratives, travel blogs and information about Whole Brain Thinking, you can find me on FB and LinkedIn and visit my website: https://wilsonmentoringwriting.com/

 

 

 

 

About Pam Wilson

I've been writing since I can remember. At heart, I am a story-teller; making sense of my world, finding humor and light through writing. Now I help clients to write their own stories. As I continue my own writing journey, my passion is to help clients write their own stories.