So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 1 Contestents Nico and Natalli will get on stage with Janet Jackson

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For most dancers, performing with Janet Jackson is at the top of their list of ultimate dream jobs, but for So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 1’s winner Nico Archambault and finalist Natalli Reznik, it’s a dream come true.

On November 22nd, Nico and Natalli will join Jackson on stage at the 2009 American Music Awards, performing a high-energy, five song mash-up routine.

“It’s such a great experience,” Nico says on his way to rehearsal in Los Angeles. “It’s the best you can get. It’s the top gig and it’s so much fun.”

Natalli agrees: “It’s amazing. It’s been really, really exciting,” she gushes.

Getting the call

Nico got the call from Jackson’s choreographer, Gil Duldulao, who choreographed the Michael Jackson tribute number on Season 2’s Top 20 show. “He called me on my birthday, on October 18th. It was amazing. It was the best gift ever!” Nico says.

And even the ever-confident, cool-as-a-cucumber Nico almost couldn’t believe it. “When I hung up, I was like, ‘Was that real? Did I really just get that call?'”

Though he had met Duldulao before, they had all just worked together on the set for judge and choreographer Blake McGrath’s video shoot. Natalli was also in the video.

“It was after we finished taping that Gil texted me and said, ‘Do you want to audition for Janet?'” Natalli remembers. “At first I thought he was kidding, or just being funny, but I said yes, of course.”

Natalli first saw the video for Jackson’s ‘All Night, Don’t Stop,’ when she was dancing with Cirque du Soleil and immediately knew that was what she wanted to do with her dance career. “When I saw that, I was so inspired and it stayed with me.”

Meeting Janet

Natalli admits she got giddy and giggly when she first met Jackson. “I was talking so much. I couldn’t stop,” she laughs.

When she first got to L.A., Natalli’s suitcase was delayed and she had to head to rehearsal without any dance clothes. “Janet brought me running shoes to rehearsal. That’s Janet — that’s how sweet she is.”

“I’ve never been a groupie of anyone in my life, so it wasn’t like I stopped breathing or passed out or anything,” Nico says with his signature calm, but admits the first time Janet joined them in rehearsal he had to take a moment. “I had to just say to myself, ‘Janet’s in the studio right now. Janet Jackson!'” And even though she is one of the biggest stars in the industry, Nico says she is approachable and friendly and makes sure she fosters ‘a really good vibe’ in the rehearsal studio.

“At one point, Janet was working on a routine and the dancers were having a break and I was sitting there, thinking to myself, ‘I have a really great job. Here I am, witnessing Janet learning her routine and I’m part of it. Wow.'”

The Jackson experience

Though the hours are long and the rehearsals grueling, Natalli insists the days go by quickly: “We work hard, but it’s so much fun.”

She notes that choreographer Duldulao is meticulous. “All the hand movements are precise and everybody needs to be the same,” she explains.

The dancers have even learned some of Jackson’s older choreography. “‘If’ is such a legend. Everybody who was a dancer growing up watched it off TV and copied it in their living rooms and stuff. It’s like ‘Thriller’ — it’s just one of those legendary dances and it’s so amazing that I’m doing it now,” Natalli says.

Nico isn’t just taking in this experience as a dancer, but also as a choreographer. “I’m observing all the time and taking it all in, especially about the way the space is used. It gives it a whole different dimension,” he says.

Nico says working spatially is one of the hardest things to learn as a choreographer – “You can’t practice it until you have a group of dancers to put your work on. You really need bodies in the space.”

The movement quality

Nico calls the movement “a mix of everything” — street jazz with some hip-hop influences and Natalli adds that there is also a lot of intricate arm movement.

“It’s precise and there’s a lot happening all the time — it’s very quick and there’s a lot of musicality in her work. The choreography is just so Janet!”

With all of the specific arm and head movements, Natalli says you have to be really strong to execute the sharp movement. “‘Use your hands like blades,’ is what Gil always says to us,” she says.

Future plans

Though Natalli hasn’t had a lot of time to explore L.A. yet, she’s enjoyed the food and the shopping. “And it’s so sunny and hot!” she says. She is planning on getting herself an apartment in California so she is able to work in L.A. and Toronto.

“I’ve wanted to live here for 10 years and all of a sudden, it’s all happening,” she beams.

Nico, on the other hand, isn’t a huge fan of the city. “I love what’s happening here — the dancing and what I get to do here, but as a city, it’s not really my thing. If I’m going to be in a city, I’d prefer Montreal or New York,” he says.

But don’t count on Nico settling into any one city any time soon. “I like my gypsy lifestyle right now. I just want to be a dancer, so wherever there’s a project that appeals to me that looks really interesting then I’ll go and I’ll do it.

“My whole point is to keep learning and I’m really learning from the best right now.”