"Destiny, it’s a trip - you can’t just flip around and smack your gift in the face, walk away from it," Says Sparks. (Photo By: Chris Polk/Polk Imaging)
Through one outlet or another we’ve all heard of, or witnessed the work of choreographer, creative genius Shane Sparks. This talented soul works hard and his star will only continue to rise. From America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV to prime time for Fox On So You Think You Can Dance. He’s also made his imprint working with chart topping recording artists on dance routines and acclaimed performances worldwide; along with successful box office films and not to mention his Emmy nomination!
Today is his day off and I got to catch up with Shane during a photo shoot. My goal? To find out a little more about him.
With success and a great career on his plate, he chats with us about creating a difference, following your dream, and having what it takes to make it in Hollywood. Shane’s come a long way, and built a path with his focused energy & drive. The minute I sit down with him, it’s easy to see why he’s made it to where he is!
Next on the list?
Get ready baby cause his moves, skills, craft and technique or as he would tell you his “S style” is coming to Broadway this Fall (2009). Sparks, along with Director Robert Longbottom, have recreated the immensely popular musical Dreamgirls.
“I wanted to enhance it, put a lil more stank on it!” he says.
Arriving at his photo shoot for the interview, plays as if I’m meeting an old friend, for he’s super open about his journey and how it wasn’t the smoothest ride trying to get ahead.
Over 10 years ago Shane drove out to California from Ohio in an effort to “save” a recording contract he had at the time; long story short- the music group fell through but Mr. Sparks prevailed...
“Give me your secrets to success” I think to myself, and by the end of the interview he sort of does...
Veronica Barriga: Among the glitz and glamour, what’s your take on being in the public eye?
Shane Sparks: I work really hard as long as you respect me for my work, for what I do, I can accept everything else that comes along with it, there’s nothing worse than (being) a celebrity and people have no respect for you.
V: Being famous for being famous, I won’t say any names ha.
Shane: Right. When you do something that people respect and love, celebrity can be really beautiful. Take advantage of it enjoy it, and realize you are a very special person to have the opportunity to express yourself.
V: After a little hiatus, you’re back on SYTYCD. Give us the scoop on upcoming episodes, and what to expect from this season.
Shane: Let me give you the scoop on something that’s already happening (at press time). I already did two episodes, they’ll be in the top twenty, which is a Black Eyed Peas number and a “Save the dancers, save the world” concept, which blew everyone away; it was incredible!
I also worked with two different couples in the top twenty and I got bad reviews on the two couples.
I got criticized for having a routine that wasn’t challenging enough, but nobody’s back there when I’m working with them for the three hours, that I have with them, trying to turn a lyrical dancer into a hip hop dancer.
V: You based it on what you thought they could pull off?
Shane: Exactly, I thought they did a good job. I think they (the judges) were a little too hard on the dancers. They (the judges) said it could have been better, from some aspect I get it I totally get it - if I was judging it, I would have said they could have hit a little bit harder, they could have put a lil' more stank on it.
I just don’t think they should have destroyed them; that’s not what this show is about – tearing dreams down, it’s about encouraging and building you up and giving you hope for success in what you love to do. It’s not there to kill the dance industry or make a dancer feel like they are incompetent.
V: Any favorites?
Shane: No- No
He pauses then gives in.
Shane: I mean Phillip Chbeeb is my favorite, from day one when he auditioned last year.
V: I feel like you are a leader to the younger generation of dancers, the people’s choreographer in a sense. What do you feel separates you from others?
Shane: One of things is like this, Bruce Lee was a martial artist who mixed all different styles and came up with his own style. He wasn’t bound by boundaries. As a choreographer, I was never taught jazz, hip-hop, lyrical. I was never taught these things, I just did 'em; learned, watched, so I take everything over the years that I’ve been dancing and I blend it into one style. That’s “S Style,” Shane style. That’s what separates me, 'cause I come from the heart.
V: Your influence is not limited, it’s everywhere, it’s cool, makes for a better outcome.
Shane: I’ve done salsa, to hip-hop, ballroom, krump to break dancing. I could choreograph it all, to ganking….
V: What’s ganking?
Shane: It’s like a style, a girl style, when the girl is tipping, being really sexy, everything is snatchin' & jerkin'. Poppin' and throwing hair around… I could go right into that if I had to.....
V: Work it....
Laughter ensues. Ha.
V: Let’s talk about Broadway! Dreamgirls is going to New York in the Fall (2009). You’ve never done that before, right? Was that a challenge for you?
Shane: Well I’ve already done it in Korea. Korea had Dreamgirls. It was challenging to me in the beginning; I was intimated about the work. Taking Dreamgirls into another level, it’s already famous for the choreography it has. So can I take what I know and enhance it?
That was the question - I think I did a really good job.
It was very challenging in a way because I had to think out of the box, but not challenging because dance to me is just dance, it's just movement. I look at it, simply how I move my body, I just go with the flow of everything, and feel the music. It changes while I’m there listening to the music and vibing off the kids, but that’s what makes me so different and special, it’s not something that is premeditated.
V: A lot is on instinct.
Shane: Yeah, oh definitely.
V: Now in Korea for the Dreamgirls musical, did they let you run with it, or give you limits? As in: not too much hip-hop?
Shane: They let me go. I had Bobby Longbottom there with me. If something wasn’t appropriate or right, he would say, let’s flip, let’s change it but 90% of the time I was allowed to do what I do. I see Dreamgirls, I grew up watching all this type of stuff.
V: What will this version of Dreamgirls bring to audiences?
Shane: You will see innovative choreography, a stage show that has never really been seen before. The original has always been jazzy; this one is lil' jazz, mixed with hip-hop, ballroom, salsa.
A lot of things going on in there. Although, not salsa dancing but the energy of that, the footwork. It’s the different dance styles that make it what it is.
“It’s like this: what song are we doing now?”
He busts into song “We are Dreamgirls…” and proceeds to show me some dance moves.
Shane: It’s smooth, sexy, a lot of arms, a lot of hips, a lot of – y'all got a different word for it but, I call it a domino move.
V: A ripple...a ripple effect!
Shane: Yeah exactly. Now here, I’ll do this one; The Bad Side. “Step into the bad side, woo woo..woo." Now that’s more street, you got briefcases, the suits! It’s real crazy! It’s hot! The choreography is real aesthetics; they are flipping, they're on the ground, everywhere.
I love Bob Fosse, so we got sections in there with the briefcases flying across the floor & catching them, where at a top camera view it creates a kaleidoscope vibe.
I wanted to enhance it, put some stank on it! Ha ha.. I think I did that and right now it’s the number one show in Korea.
V: Congrats! Look at you! Is ABDC returning this season? We heard rumors it wasn’t; you want to squash those rumors?
Shane: Oh no, it’s definitely coming back. It’s gonna be hotter than ever! We are back, I’m excited and we’re getting ready for it.
V: What’s your favorite part of being involved with that show?
Shane: I get to see new talents from around the world I get to voice my opinion; I get to inspire dancers, help them and the dance world grow.
I love the dancing, but if I can take one crew and inspire them to be better and to keep going, then my job is done. I get to do it on TV, so when I speak, I’m speaking to the world.
V: You’ve come a long way...
Shane: Yeah Cincinnati, Ohio - dawg!
V: Hello, represent.
V: If you could give yourself some advice now, to a 19 year old Shane, what would you say?
Shane: Leave the girls alone, man... worst thing in the world.
His publicists’ laughs; we crack up.
Shane: Nah, I’m just playing...
He denies it, but I can tell he’s serious.
Shane: There aren’t too many things. I think I’ve chosen a lot of the right roads. Mentally, I was already focused and knew what I wanted.
I was never - like, I was never...damn, I can’t think right now!
He draws a blank and then...
Shane: I was never influenced by LA, and by the fame. My purpose was to do something bigger & better; to change the world. So me knowing that, thinking that way, I just followed my path, I prayed a lot, and I ended up here.
V: Did a lot of your buddies or friends fall into a bad path?
Shane: I came out here in a singing group, from Cincinnati; a lot of them went back home.
They don’t know that when you got a path and destiny, it’s a trip, you can’t just flip around and smack your gift in the face, walk away from it. You gotta look at your gifts and blessings, even if they are hard to deal with; you gotta mold it, understand it, and roll with it, 'cause right when you get past that one step, it moves you into another level in your life, and then you got another, and another.
I just kept taking all those lows, all the down times that I had...I always knew one day I was gonna look back because I knew “this” was waiting for me; that’s why I had enough heart, energy and faith to keep going.
V: That is the hardest part. People need to hold it out, the first bump in the road, people bail...
Shane: Exactly; people get nervous if it doesn’t happen within a year...
V: They move back! It’s like: come on people, careers take time to build! It’s tough; Now you’ve accomplished a lot, what are some new things you're eager to try?
Shane: Right now I’m working on producing/directing my own TV show. I have a whole other side of me who wants to do movies, comedies, and futuristic films. I have things in my head; so many concepts that I want to get out there.
V: What are some directors/filmmakers that inspire you?
Shane: I love Quentin Tarantino. I love the guys who do all the comedies like The Hangover. The movie Crash is a favorite; I’m inspired by people who change the game and do stuff that makes you think.
V: So your stuff is gonna have substance.
Shane: Oh my god, everything that I do! Right now a lot of stuff has no substance, and that’s what everyone is buying. If it’s too complicated, or it it’s gonna take a lot of money and time, they’ll probably pass, but they take a show with a guy walking down the street, jumping in the water eating alligators. I think I’m a lil' ahead of my time but my time will come.
V: What’s your ultimate goal, what would be your ideal situation? I know...it’s kinda of broad question.
Shane: No - no, it’s not a broad question. Michael Jackson died and his biggest accomplishment was inspiration! I’m not gonna say I wanna make the best movie, the biggest dance show, the most money. I wanna inspire the world to do what they love to do, give people hope!
If my journey takes me and I die, and people say when he was here I was 100 percent inspired: if it wasn’t for his voice, choreography or what he stood for, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. If I could leave that as my legacy then I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do. I want be the Spark that sets the tone for everyone trying to make it in their life.
There was nothing more to ask, I thought. And for the record, I left inspired.
The Nitty Gritty:
“So You Think You Can Dance” Now Airing! Performances Wednesdays 8pm/ Results show Thursday 9pm ONLY on FOX!
“America’s Best Dance Crew” Season 4, Coming Soon! On MTV!
“Dreamgirls” Reworked- with a lil more stank on it! Coming to Broadway & NYC this fall (2009).