In the world of ballroom dance, are two urban island dancers who have become top tier performers in this specific style of dance. Being able to work behind the scenes as choreographers for ABC’s hit tv show Dancing With The Stars, Tony Pututau and CJ Bair love what they do and The WhatItDo was able to catch up with them.
How did you get into dance?
CJ Bair: I started dancing when I was in middle school. I took a social dance class like 7th grade and I just kind of fell in love with it. I decided to take it further and take a dance class at a dance studio and that’s when I joined Center Stage.
Tony Pututau: I started dancing when I was 12. My mom bribed me. She said if I took a social dance class in junior high, I wouldn’t have to do boys scouts. I didn’t like boys scouts. She bribed me and I took my first dance competition. I just fell in love with it.
How old were you guys at Center Stage?
Tony Pututau: I started Center Stage when I was 13 years old. Right when I started dancing, a friend who was in a dance competition with introduced me to Center Stage.
CJ Bair: I started a little bit later… when I was 17 years old. I really just started training and taking it very seriously.
What kind of dance do you guys specialize in?
CJ Bair: The latin american style dancing like cha cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive. All that kind of stuff. Salsa, mambo…
Tony Pututau: Anything ballroom dance. The stuff you see on “Dancing With The Stars”. The latin dances are my favorite ones to perform. They are the most exciting.
What’s your favorite ballroom dance to perform and why?
CJ Bair: I’ve always been drawn to the latin styles of dance rather than foxtrot and waltz. I’ve always enjoyed partner style dancing because maybe I couldn’t pick up the hip hop.
The kind of connection you have to have with your partner and being so aware with each other. It’s totally different from anything else I’ve seen before.
My mom was a polynesian dancer. I was around it as a child. But, ballroom dance was totally different.
Tony Pututau: I love partner dancing too, but latin for sure is my favorite style of dancing. The traditional styles of ballroom dances are a little too uptight for me. I like to be able to get down and move with my partner.
How was it like when you first started dancing?
Tony Pututau: When I first started dancing, the actual steps were hard for me to pick up, but once I started dancing to the music, I always had a natural rhythm in my body which made it a little bit easier for me than some of the other people in my class. The hard part I was just a teenager going through puberty when you have to dance with a girl. It’s just awkward and you have to be really close and you have to move your hips. It’s a dance style that’s geared more towards adults.
CJ Bair: Times are changing. You see these little kids now and there’s no intimidation whatsoever. They are like 14 years old in real life and 25 years old out on the dance floor. I wish I would’ve started earlier. I didn’t get introduced to it until a little bit later in high school.
Going through the training and stuff, people that I was training and dancing with were more advanced. I was trying to take it more seriously and really get into it. And, so, just learning this new style was hard. Getting my groove and learning the mechanics of ballroom dance made me fall in love with it more and more. I can’t get enough. You really enjoy it and you work hard for it. You can spend hours in the studio going over the same steps.
How many hours would you put into ballroom dancing?
Tony Pututau: When I started at Center Stage, it was everyday. I actually had a special deal with my high school that I didn’t have to take any electives because I had an internship and it allowed me to leave school early. All my dancing counted as my electives.
I was travelling so much competing and I was always at the dance studio. I would leave school at 1pm or 2pm in the afternoon and would be at the dance studio until 10pm at night Monday through Friday. It was definitely like a full time job for me.
When you’re a kid dancing, we were required to learn every form of dancing. You would have two hours of ballet, two hours of jazz and an hour of tap. They really wanted to train everyone at Center Stage to be well rounded. I’m glad it was that strict because we wouldn’t be where we are now. Now, I can make a living off of dancing and that’s what I love to do. It’s amazing.
What’s the best part of being a dancer?
CJ Bair: I think for me I love the training and the practicing, but performing is rewarding for me. When you can perform and see the audience response and they are into it. It is gratifying for me.
Tony Pututau: I love to travel and perform. I’ve been all over the world dancing. When I was younger, I was a shy kid. So, dancing is a way for me to express myself. I could dance in front of thousands of people but if I had to talk, I would get introverted and shy and it would be very difficult for me to do that.
What kind of advice would you give others in the pursuit of doing what you love?
Tony Pututau: If you find something that you really have a passion for or something that you love, you just try your hardest and do your best and always work for that. If you don’t, you’ll regret it if you didn’t try. If you do, anything can happen. You work hard enough and you have a goal to reach, you can acheive.
CJ Bair: I would say to never give up. If you have a passion, whatever it might be to become the master of your talent. If you want to be a great dancer, then get all of the information that you possibly can to get into it. It will only benefit you when you get older and start your career in it. When you have that knowledge and backing, it will open up so many doors. Learn as much as you can.
They are young and talented. Their passion for ballroom dance has allowed them to perform across country and around the world. Both Tony and CJ have mastered their craft and both continue to dominate in their field. With a bright future ahead of these gentlemen, they have shown us to work hard for what you love to do and it will turn into your career of choice.
Article Written By: Elizabeth Lavulo