Tony Bellissimo: Dancing to the top of Hollywood

Tony Bellissimo after a 2011 interview with Live! Starring ... You! at Future Dance Center. (Photo by Bryanna Gwitt)

Tony Bellissimo after a 2011 interview with Live! Starring … You! at Future Dance Center. (Photo by Bryanna Gwitt)

If you’re a fan of Glee, you’ve seen Tony Bellissimo. That’s also true if you’ve watched Step Up 3D, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, any number of awards shows, Rihanna’s “Loud” tour, and more. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest backup dancers and he’s got a great shot at becoming a household name.

This week, during our Red Carpet Reporting class at Mount St. Mary Academy, Tony talked our students about his dance career. Here’s that conversation, edited by LSY reporter Rachael Sparacino:

Rebecca: What do you feel when you dance?

Tony: I feel a sense of freedom and a connection to the music and an absolute passion and energy.

Libby: How does the spotlight affect you now?

Tony: I now have to watch what I’m doing at all times because I know that there are young people watching my every step. Unlike the Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohans of the world, I have to keep myself clean and pristine and set a good example for the next generation.

Molly: Does the pressure of messing up affect your dancing?

Tony: No, at the end of the day it is still dancing for me. The government jobs, Army and stuff like that, that stuff is hard. It has pressure. What I’m doing is falling in love and really enjoying my life.

Alyssa: How did you get your start?

Tony: I got my start in Buffalo (Tony danced at Future Dance Center), then after that I moved to L.A and my first job was at the Academy Awards.

Libby: How long did you dance a week as a kid?

Tony: I had maybe three or four days of classes, I also taught dance to kids. I danced in high school, in middle school, before school, and after school. I danced during hockey practice and I would dance in the locker room and be doing the robot. I would dance during lacrosse and work while I was on the sidelines. If you want me to dance, I could just put headphones on and get lost in the music.

Emily: Does dance feel more like work or fun?

Tony: At times dancing can feel like work, for sure, but it is really fun for me. I’ve worked regular jobs, stocked shelves. What I do now is mind blowing. When I do movies or award shows I just giddy like a little schoolgirl, thinking about how awesome this is. I love it!

Erica: Who is your hero?

Tony: My dad is my hero, my role model, and my inspiration. My mom is my best friend. Jack, my brother, is the ultimate – he is a soldier, I look to him for guidance. I look up to my sister for her wisdom. My whole family is my hero.

Maggie: What has been your favorite performance and why?

Tony: To this date, right now and until the future stuff happens, my favorite performance was a piece for Dancing with the Stars with Misha Gabriel, Kenny Wormald from Footloose, Travis Wall, tWitch – a bunch of the top dancers. I used to be back in Buffalo watching them on TV, so it was a pretty groundbreaking thing for me.

Rachael: Were your parents supportive when they found out you wanted to go to L.A. and be a dancer?

Tony: My parents were tentative because I didn’t finish college before going to L.A. My dad wanted to see if I could do it. They always supported me, but there was a fear and they wanted me to rethink it because I drove my car across the country and there was this thought that I won’t be back. They saw that I could take care of myself because I got an apartment by myself, they realized that I had a little extra maturity.

Alaina: How did it feel to have all that make-up on while performing in the monster episode of Glee?

Tony: That was like a dream come true. I’ve had a lot of dream-come-true moments and that was one, to have monster make-up done by professional make-up artists and do that (performance). I would walk around and growl and played the zombie. It was like a character I wanted to be all the time. You hear about actors who get into their characters and embrace it and I love it. Love it! Love it! Love it!

Tim: What is something about the dance industry that nobody knows until they are in it at the professional level?

Tony: As a dancer it is your responsibility to get the connections and to get yourself out there publicly. You have to make the connections yourself. If you are shy then it will be a very hard career.

Maggie: Do people ever ask you to dance offs?

Tony: Always. It happens whenever we go out. For me, I love it because I love to see all the young energy.

Molly: How do you compare performing live and performing in a movie?

Tony: Performing live is ultimate high. I always say it is number one – there is nothing that can touch that! I am completely free from any kind of harm and I am on the highest level of adrenaline. I love the energy of the crowd when performing live – it is amazing. When performing live you get to do it one time and one time only and that’s it. It’s a short-lived thing. When performing on a movie you do it over and over again. So the first time you do it you’re really hyped, the second time you are really hyped, the third time you are getting better, and the fourth time you are making very few mistakes but the fifth time you get bored with doing it over again. When you do a movie, no matter how many times you do it, you can’t let the energy drop. But when you do an awards show, you get one chance – one time only – and if you mess up you have to be professional. You have to know your spot, be sharp, and just have fun. I love to perform live. It is one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Check out this interview Tony did a couple of years ago with our Live! Starring … You! reporters:


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