‘Holiday Dance!’ national tour opens Saturday in Poway

With a mix of lighthearted and sentimental holiday songs, the cast of “Dance to the Holidays!” will have plenty of musical options to drag them onto the stage at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night.

Keo Motsepe and Anna Trebunskaya, famous professional dancers from “Dancing with the Stars”, headline the cast of 16 performers.

Dancers Brent Borbon, Ekaterina Fedosova, Anya Fuchs, Oksana Platero and Tony Pututau from the TV show “Dancing with the Stars” are scheduled to join them; Marcquet Hill, Jonathan Platero, Randi Strong and Magda Fialek of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance”; international professional dancer Carl James Bair; world dance champion Patricia Kaniowski and international B-Boy champion Johny D. Rounding out the cast are singers Rayvon Owen, finalist for season 14 of “American Idol”; and Juliette Goglia, who was heard on Post-modern Jukebox.

“We have a phenomenal cast,” Trebunskaya said.

The show – part of Poway OnStage’s 30th anniversary season – can be seen at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 4 at PCPA, 15498 Espola Road. Tickets cost between $45 and $75, with discounts for seniors (65 and older), active duty military, students (13 to 21), and youth (12 and under). Shop at powayonstage.org or call 858-748-0505.

Trebunskaya, whose last Poway appearance was in March 2019 on “Motown with a Twist,” said the show will feature a wide assortment of holiday music, not just Christmas music, so everyone can get into the holiday spirit.

“It’s like a holiday playlist extravaganza,” Trebunskaya said. “It’s good.”

While some song selections are “a bit more humorous and fun and a bit silly, others are dark tunes,” she said. “Holiday music isn’t just happy…it’s dark (too).”

The emotional range of the music means that dancers can express themselves in different ways through ballroom and Latin-style dancing ranging from an elegant waltz to a fast jive or cha-cha and a sexy tango or samba.

Trebunskaya and Motsepe will dance together in several numbers they choreographed and join the others in group numbers, she said.

“I was super excited when the offer came because I love dancing to Christmas songs and I love dancing with Anna,” Motsepe said.

“Dancing on vacation! debuts in Poway as the start of the show’s nationwide tour that will take the cast to the Midwest and East Coast in the coming weeks. Trebunskaya said that means Saturday night will be the first time she’s danced on stage in front of an in-person audience since the pandemic began.

“It’s the best (feeling),” she said. “I missed it so much and was looking forward to it. All the dancers are so happy to be there because there’s nothing like being on stage. The TV work is awesome , but my favorite thing is being in front of a live audience.

Want to see the show?

“Dance on vacation!” »

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, December 4

Or: Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road

Tickets: From $45 to $75, with discounts for seniors (65 and older), active duty military, students (13 to 21) and youth (12 and under).

Buy at: powayonstage.org or 858-748-0505

“I’m super excited and looking forward to it,” Motsepe said of his first return to the stage since the pandemic and his first appearance in Poway. “I love what I do as a professional dancer. I love performing on stage, seeing people having fun and having a good time. My job is to entertain and I couldn’t do that during the pandemic.

“I can’t wait to travel with the band and be on stage,” added Motsepe. “There is a joy when I let go, let go.”

He said the forced hiatus from the stage made him appreciate dancing more. “It’s interesting, because everything we do in life (is over). … I will never take it for granted, because it can quickly disappear from your life. Because of the pandemic, I have saw life without (dance).”

Therefore, Motsepe said those who have seen him dance before will see a different dancer due to his new perspective.

“I’m a different person now,” he said.

Trebunskaya said she found different ways to maintain her dance stamina when she couldn’t leave her house. She worked virtually with a trainer, created routines that would keep her physically and mentally active, taught Zoom classes six times a week, and danced on her own.

While ballroom dancing requires a partner, Trebunskaya said the responsibility to dance well rests with the individual.

“It starts with yourself, your posture and your balance so that it aligns with your partner,” she said. “You don’t rely on the other person to be good.”

Motsepe said when the pandemic started he decided to “let go of my body. I could eat and have fun with cookies and chocolate and let my body experience them. … But two months later I broke down and figured out how to train at home using my body as a weight and running down the street because I couldn’t go to the gym.

“So I would run miles and eat healthy. I love to cook and try different healthy meals and snacks,” he said. “Now I’m back in the gym training and working hard.”

Trebunskaya, 40, has been dancing since she was 6 years old. In her native Russia, her parents owned a dance studio and were professional ballroom dancers. She won her first competition at age 7, and at age 17 the family moved to the United States so she could pursue a career as a professional dancer.

She won her first U.S. Youth Standard Amateur Championship title at age 17 and became a professional competitor in 2000. The Los Angeles-area resident owns a dance studio with her mother in Hermosa Beach. She was the professional partner of “Dancing With the Stars” for 11 seasons, twice finishing second in partnerships with soccer star Jerry Rice and Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek.

While Trebunskaya said parents expected her to dance as a child, the appeal for her was her social aspect.

“It first started as a social thing, for me hanging out with other kids and wearing cute dresses,” she said. “I became more serious as a teenager. I realized that by dint of hard work, I could achieve a particular result… I can achieve what I want… a great lesson in life too. I was addicted to the learning process and I like to learn something all the time.Now I do a lot of coaching too, so I’m looking for ways to give information better…I’m evolving.

Trebunskaya said she also likes that what is created comes from her imagination of how to fill empty space with dance.

“It’s a creative process, where we create our own world every time,” she said.

Motsepe, 31, said he started dancing at the age of 5, inspired by Michael Jackson and “The Summit”, a ballroom dance performance in his native South Africa.

“It was cool to watch and…I fell in love when I was 7,” he said.

Her parents weren’t dancers and her sister dropped out at a young age, Motsepe added. He became a competitive dancer at age 11 and joined “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014. He competed as a professional partner for nine seasons and came third with actress Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies.

While Motsepe, who now lives in the Los Angeles area, said he studied contemporary, jazz and hip hop, he always focused on ballroom dancing.

“The ballroom is my baby,” he said. “It connects you to your partner, a man and a woman. There is a different element in a partnership, what you bring and what she can bring to grow. It’s so beautiful.”

Motsepe compared the different styles of ballroom and Latin to dating.

“Ballroom dancing is like a relationship, an encounter that brings out different elements of you,” he said.

A rumba is like the chemistry between two people, a jive is the fun in a relationship while the cha-cha is the flirty aspect, he said. “Each dance has differences and subtleties.”

Trebunskaya said she doesn’t have a favorite dance style, as it really comes down to her personal connection to music. She performed “incredible tangos”, was partial to some waltzes, and then there’s samba and jive which she says are “killer aerobics and so much fun”.

She added that dancing is “the perfect opportunity to get out and forget about your problems. You leave them at the door. I feel so rejuvenated and fresh, which keeps me going for a few days.

Motsepe said he was looking forward to “taking people on a journey” through the show.

“For so long they’ve been stuck at home, so it’s the perfect time of year – Christmas time – when we’re back and getting back to a new normal,” he said.

“Come (to the show)… celebrate and enjoy life,” Trebunskaya said. “December is vacation time, so enjoy it and have fun.”

A previous “Dance to the Holidays!” to throw.

(Courtesy of the Stander Group)

Colleen D. Ervin