When it comes to dance competitions, Utah dancers are not just well represented. They stomp. They dominate. They box-step out the competition. Fourteen dancers from Utah have appeared on So You Think You Can Dance, and in 2007 Sabra Johnson from Roy was voted the winner.
Utah has always been a strong supporter of the arts. In 1852, Social Hall was erected as a place to stage plays and other entertainment. Ballet West, established in 1963, and Repertory Dance Theatre (1987) are world-renowned companies. Odyssey Dance Theatre, a newcomer on the scene, is building a strong reputation. Both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University have dance programs that attract students from around the world.
It is no surprise then that Utah dancers are making their mark on a national level. Seven of the fourteen dancers appearing on So You Think You Can Dance have trained at Center Stage Studio in Orem. The studio also had students appear on other programs like Dancing with the Stars, Nickelodeon shows, and the English version of Dancing with the Stars, called Strictly Ballroom.
President and CFO of the studio, Alex Murillo, is proud of his students’ accomplishments. They competed in New York recently and won the top studio award in the 2012 Dance Awards. They were up against over 170 other studios and took home the top prize and $25,000 on the strength of their dancers.
Alex says, “Mayor Jim Evans of Orem even gave us the keys to the city. He wanted to honor us for the recognition we have brought to Orem and so revived an old practice as a way to show his appreciation.”
Robin Murillo works with her husband and believes one of the strengths of their studio is that they offer a wide variety of dance styles, teaching classes from ballet to hip hop and tumbling. They also give vocal classes to help students with stage presence.
“People here are more focused on arts rather than other pursuits,” Robin says, “and parents spend more time with their kids.” She sees this as one of the main reasons the dancers from Center Stage have excelled. She also sees that her students are willing to put in the work necessary to succeed.
Last season on SYTYCD, two girls from Utah, Lindsay Arnold and Witney Carson, were finalists. Head judge Nigel Lythgoe praised Utah for turning out “brilliant dancers.” The rest of the world is finding out what Utah natives have known all along: Utah rocks!