The scoop on the backup dance: dish of four dancers on tour

On tour with a major recording artist is at the top of most commercial dancers’ bucket lists. What could be more exciting than getting paid to dance, travel the world and work with famous musicians of immense talent? It sounds glamorous, but most dancers don’t really know what the job really entails until they’ve booked it. Is it as awesome as it looks? Is this the right solution for you? dance review got the inside scoop from four touring pros.

Sosa gets sparkled by JoJo Siwa. Photo by KC Siwa, courtesy of Sosa.

EZRA SOSA

VISITS: JoJo Siwa’s DREAM, Season 16 of “So You Think You Can Dance”

GET THE CONCERT: Ezra Sosa met Siwa on “Dancing with the Stars” in the fall of 2021 when he was a pro and she was a celebrity contestant. Siwa quickly asked him to join her tour. “She told me I didn’t need to audition, but I told her I wanted to earn it. I’m a tall, tall ballroom dancer; what I’m known for is different from what JoJo does,” he says. Shortly after the recall, Sosa heard the good news. “I walked past JoJo on the way to my ‘DWTS’ trailer and she said, ‘Did you ever get an email from your agent? You have the job if you want it! ”

THE DAILY: Like most touring artists, Sosa would often wake up in a different city than the one in which he had fallen asleep. “I was always so confused – I never knew what day or what time it was,” he says. Once Sosa put his things in his dressing room, he immediately went to Siwa’s dressing room to hang out and do silly TikToks before getting his hair and makeup done. Each show had a theme, and JoJo styled her male dancers (herself!) to coordinate. “If it was a Candyland theme, then she would put glitter and nuggets in our hair,” he says. “She’s so talented!” At 2 p.m., the artists take the stage for the technology. “JoJo was our dance captain, so she knew everyone’s dance floor,” he says. “She had a videographer who filmed the show every night and then she watched it and took notes for us. She is in charge of all aspects of her show. After lunch and meeting Siwa, the artists had dinner and then performed. A shower after the show was essential: “Removing make-up would take about an hour! he says. Then it was back on the bus to head to the next town.

SELF-ADMINISTERED CARE: “JoJo’s show is the hardest show I’ve ever done,” Sosa says. “There were 24 numbers, and she had us in 19 of them.” Although he relied on his Hypervolt massager and ibuprofen, he wished he had taken the time to warm up and cool down more intentionally. “I now pay for it with weekly chiropractic appointments,” he says.

Top Sosa Visitor Tips

GIVE IT TIME: “Richy Jackson’s choreography looks amazing on stage, but it’s hard to understand. The first 10-12 shows I was pretty stressed, constantly thinking about choreography and lineup changes. Eventually I got to a place where I felt good.

MANAGE SOCIAL MEDIA: “There were days when people on social media said I looked like a clown, and that really got to me. JoJo helped me deal with the hate. She taught me that what other people say has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them. She told me to be myself without shame.

Jeremy Hudson. Photo by David Odom, courtesy of Hudson.

JEREMY HUDSON

VISITS: Rose, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue

GET THE CONCERT: When Pink had to fill in for a dancer on her Beautiful Trauma tour in 2018, her choreographers Nick Florez and RJ Durell introduced Jeremy Hudson, with whom they had worked on a project for Katy Perry. “Pink saw my reel and asked me to answer a few questions, and I got the job,” Hudson says.

THE DAILY: A typical day would start with some downtime in her hotel room before heading to the venue around 2:30 p.m. to work on routines with the dance captain. “With repeat touring, you start to lose quality,” says Hudson. “We were always touching up the details.” Next, Pink would join the cast for a rig check – the opening number included rubber bands, which had to be secured before the first performance at each new venue – and a sound check, followed by group yoga. and a meal. “We had a catering company that traveled with us and worked with everyone’s dietary restrictions,” says Hudson. Then the artists had about 90 minutes to prepare. “Then we would have a group prayer with Pink and her children in her dressing room,” he says.

SELF-ADMINISTERED CARE: Touring is incredibly taxing, so Hudson works with artists who support wellness. “I started touring with Pink when I was 30 because she supports her village,” he says. “She knows what it takes to get through these shows and this schedule, and makes sure we’re all seen and taken care of.” Hudson travels with vitamins to boost his immunity. “I’ve never had a stunt double on tour,” he says. “There is no time to be sick, and if one person gets sick, everyone gets sick.” He does Sugarfoot therapy and regularly receives physiotherapy and massage provided by the tour. “You can get lonely on tour, so I face my family and friends and work with my therapist,” he says. “I also really like breathing and meditation.”

Hudson’s Top Visiting Tips

STANDING EQUIPMENT: “One of Burton Snowboards’ bags splits into two pieces, so you can easily distribute your stuff without worrying about being overweight at the airport.

ENJOY THE ADVENTURE: “It’s a really fun life. Connecting with so many different types of people around the world is absolutely thrilling!

Findlay McConnell backstage at McRae’s tour. Courtesy of McConnell.

FINDLAY McCONNELL

ROUND: Tate McRae

GET THE CONCERT: Findlay McConnell and McRae have been best friends since they met on the competitive circuit as kids, so when McRae was looking for tour dancers, McConnell was a no-brainer. “She FaceTimed me and asked how busy my school schedule was,” says McConnell, who studies at USC’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. “She said, ‘How would you feel about going on tour with me?’ McConnell responded with an “Absolutely love it!”

PRIME: USC Kaufman gives him academic credit to live his dream.

THE DAILY: McConnell spends most of his sleeping hours on the tour bus, then eats breakfast there before settling into his dressing room. He’ll relax, warm up and stretch before heading to the sound check, then do his hair and makeup before putting on his costume. After the performance, he showers there before getting back on the bus. During downtime, he’ll watch Netflix, FaceTime his family and friends, play card games, or create TikToks with other artists.

SELF-ADMINISTERED CARE: “You don’t want to risk getting sick from not taking care of yourself,” says McConnell, who uses the days off to relax. “Some days we relax all day in our hotel room because that’s what we need,” he says. “Other days we feel like exploring and shopping. One day we all rented electric scooters and went to Whole Foods and had lunch outside, and it was so nice to get some fresh air. and get out,” he says. He also makes sure to fuel his body before a performance.

McConnell’s Top Visiting Tips

BE READY: Rehearsals for McRae’s tour only lasted about a week. Choreographer Michelle Dawley provided footage of the choreography a month in advance, so by the time the dancers came together they already knew the move.

IT’S A MARATHON: McConnell says the technique classes, cross-training and intensive rehearsals prepared him for the stamina required by touring.

Shirline Quigley. Photo by Jayme Thornton.

SHIRLENE QUIGLEYes

VISITS: Lizzo, Rihanna, Beyonce

GET THE CONCERT: Shirlene Quigley’s most recent tour was with Lizzo, one of her famous “Big Grrrls”. She was introduced to the “Juice” singer while auditioning for a dance segment with Lizzo on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “I saw she was a big girl and I thought, okay, she’s going to like me,” Quigley says. “I walked into the audition and she commented on how much she liked my outfit.” Quigley booked the “Ellen” job, then joined Lizzo at Coachella. The next thing she knew, choreographer Jemel McWilliams asked her to join Lizzo on tour. “I’m 38 and this is the first time I’ve felt really good about myself,” she says. “I waited 20 years to have a job that gave me confidence, and I’m very grateful for that.”

THE DAILY: Most mornings start with waking up on the tourist bus of a new city. “Sleeping on a tour bus is comfortable for me,” she says. “Rihanna once asked me if I was mad at her for spending so much time in my bunk. I said no! I love it here!” Quigley walks towards the hotel, where Lizzo’s management provides her with a room to shower and do laundry before heading to the location for soundchecking and staging.“Then we do our hair, make up, and eat,” she says. “There’s always catering, which I love.” If they’re not staying the night, after a post-show shower, she packs up and heads back to the tour bus for another long ride. love traveling the world, eating new foods, meeting new people and having new experiences. After 20 years in the industry, touring is still my favorite job.

SELF-ADMINISTERED CARE: Quigley relies on his personal faith to bolster his emotional health on tour. “My morning prayers are so important to me,” she says. Quigley goes to the gym to build her stamina and she makes it a point to eat healthy. “I don’t do drugs, I don’t eat red meat and I like fruits and vegetables,” she says. “This combination has been super helpful for my physical health.”

Quigley’s Top Visiting Tips

KEEP IT COOL: To make the choreography feel new night after night, Quigley recommends creating stories from the lyrics you dance to and having fun with them. For example, when dancing to the song “Juice,” she imagines squeezing oranges in Florida and running on the beach.

DO YOU SPEAK : “Don’t be afraid to ask questions to avoid mistakes.”

Haley Hilton is a New York-based dancer and writer.

Colleen D. Ervin