This Wednesday, superstar Justin Timberlake is "bringing sexy back" to Montréal's Bell Centre as he croons and gyrates as part of his "FutureSex/LoveShow" concert tour. And some hardworking young dancers from Williston's Urban Dance Complex will be in the front row.
"We're psyched," says Alison Bayerle, a 16-year-old who attends Harwood Union High School. But Bayerle and the nine other young women in her hip-hop dance troupe, the Vermont Elements, are excited about more than a close-up view of the ex-boy-band heartthrob. Their director, Sarah Cover, has arranged for them to take a two-hour master class with Marty Kudelka, Timberlake's choreographer. The dancers, who range in age from 14 to 23, will bust their moves for Kudelka in a rented studio before the concert.
Cover, 33, says a semi-private class with Kudelka is a rare opportunity: "You can't take from that man without at least 50 people in the class." Besides choreographing most of Timberlake's solo videos, Kudelka was responsible for the dance party in the award-winning video for Pink's "Get the Party Started." He earned some small-screen fame as the friend who helped prank Timberlake on an episode of the MTV show "Punk'd."
Cover, who opened the Urban Dance Complex last September met Kudelka a few years ago at a dance conference in New Jersey. He advised the native Vermonter, who's been dancing since age 4, that a trip to L.A. would be a good career move. She returned from a summer on the West Coast with new moves and a friendship. "I gained [Kudelka's] respect for actually taking his advice to do something different," Cover says. "He has a sort of open line of communication with me that is amazing. I can't say I don't get nervous when I talk to him."
For the past two Januarys, Cover has organized the Urban Reach Convention, a conference at Burlington's Wyndham Hotel that gathers dancers from all over New England for classes with hip-hop pros, including backup dancers for Timberlake and Sean Paul. After she invited Kudelka, he "kept joking, 'When do I get to go to Vermont?'" Cover says. Given the packed schedule of Timberlake's tour, which kicked off in January, the answer was "not this year."
But, knowing he'd be passing close to the border, Kudelka offered Cover's troupe "a special deal." In addition to teaching the class, "he said, 'I'll give you my seats, which are, like, front row,'" she says. "The kids are bouncing off the walls. I am, too - I'm not gonna lie."
The experience isn't coming cheap, though. The troupe needs to raise $3000, which includes Kudelka's teaching fee plus $100 for each ticket. Cover challenged her students to come up with their own fundraising ideas. "As a businesswoman, I wanted it to be that the girls were doing it themselves," she says. "To empower them to make those choices is important."
So the Vermont Elements performed twice at Burlington's University Mall, soliciting donations. They did a bottle drive. Last Saturday they taught a beginners' class at the studio for $10 a head. "We advertised all over the place," says Bayerle, who notes that the effort raised about $200. "It was a lot of fun." Add some individual donations, and the dancers currently have about $1200 - they plan to make up the difference with personal contributions. Cover is providing the van and studio rental.
In the class, she says, Kudelka may teach the young women some moves from Timberlake's hit "My Love" video. Some of "JT"'s backup dancers will be in attendance, and Cover's students hope to meet the curly-haired, honey-voiced star himself. "I tell them, 'Not only will you be dancing and learning from these people, you'll get to watch them do what they do,'" says Cover. "It's a one-time opportunity to be close to their idol. It's a very dream-like sort of scenario. We're trying to keep ourselves grounded right now."
Bayerle puts it more succinctly. "He's my hero," she says of Timberlake. "He's awesome!"