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He can dance

Mountain View native pursues life on stage

"Pardon Me" by Incubus blared through the speakers. An energetic young dancer flipped and leaped effortlessly across the stage. Confetti and streamers shot into the air as the audience rose to to its feet for a standing ovation.

After a grueling season of performing on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2005, Mountain View native Nick Lazzarini become the very first winner of what went on to become a wildly popular reality TV show. As a child, Lazzarini attended Springer Elementary School in Mountain View and Blach Intermediate School in Los Altos. He also took dance classes through the City of Mountain View's Recreation Division and at Dance Attack Studios in Sunnyvale. Realizing that he wanted to focus on a career in dance, he decided to switch to home schooling, earn his high school diploma and move to Los Angeles.

Last week, Lazzarini spoke to the Weekly about his life since the television show and how he went on to co-created his own genre-blending dance company, Shaping Sound, which will perform in Cupertino on Oct. 25.

How would you describe a typical day?

If it's a rehearsal day, I've gotta start my day out with Starbucks. Then I head to rehearsal -- we start out with ballet, just to get ourselves ready for the day. Then we just jump right into show rehearsals.

This week, we've been balancing rehearsing for the show with putting together a number that we filmed for "The Ellen Show." It aired yesterday, and it's also online on her YouTube page. There's already over 500,000 views on it! She loves us and she wants to have us back.

What is it like with so many different personalities coming together at Shaping Sound?

I think the thing that saves us from a lot of fighting is the fact that we are all very much friends. Some of us have known each other for ten-plus years. It all stems from a couple of years back, when Travis Wall was hired for a "Dancing With The Stars" performance. It was his first one. He had this awesome concept, and it was the first time that all of us as friends had worked together doing what we loved to do.

We looked at each other like, 'How do we do this every day? How can we make this a reality, for every day of our lives?' We just slowly but surely started creating the company, and got funding and got backers for it. It's been a dream come true getting to dance alongside your best friends, knowing that you're not only creating with them but you're also giving your best friends work and a chance to make a living.

It's a really special process when we're in the studio; it's very collaborative. Everybody's voices are heard. When you have a group of fourteen dancers who can contribute and can be a part of the process, it makes the show that much better.

Has anyone within the dance community inspired you as you've grown up?

Young male dancers of course look up to Mikhail Baryshnikov, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. They're kind of the dancers who have paved the way for us. "So You Think You Can Dance" brought dance into the forefront. It made dancers household names, which kind of hadn't happened since the '70s with Bob Fosse. There are a lot of dancers to look up to now, but I think the older dancers were way better.

How would you describe today's dance culture, and what are your feelings about the way the dance culture is progressing?

I think it's progressing ... and it's not progressing. There is definitely more dance out there, and it's incredible. There's more work now for dancers. But I don't necessarily think that the level is as high because there's just so much of it. You know, back in the day, there was only a little bit of it, but that was at the highest level quality because there was so little of it. You had to be the best of the best to be out there ... because dance has become so much more saturated and it's SO much more out there, I feel like you can't find those superstars like you used to ... it's harder to find them.

What are your hopes for your future?

Well, right now I'm 31, and I'm reaching that point where it's time to start thinking about what's going to happen after I can't dance professionally anymore. Of course I'd like to choreograph professionally. But I'm also really enjoying dancing.

As a dancer growing up before "So You Think You Can Dance," there wasn't a lot of work as a technically trained dancer. There was a lot of work for hip hop dancers. For me, this skinny little white kid from Northern California who could pirouette my face off, I wasn't hired to do the Usher tour. I was kind of in limbo for a long time, and didn't really know what I was doing with my career. That's why I moved to New York: to get a fresh start.

Now it's a good time for dance, especially for commercial dancers, so I'm trying to soak this up as long as I can. But I know at some point I need to start thinking about my future.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would love to see more dancers in the Bay Area. Growing up in dance studios around the Bay Area, it was always this mecca for talent. If there are any dance teachers out there who see even a glimmer of something special in a dancer: Nurture it, foster it and make them the best dancer they can be. There is so much talent in the Bay Area that has yet to be tapped into. Keep your eye out, (and) if you find some little boy who loves to move around and loves to perform like I did when I was a kid ... let that potential grow and grow.

What: "Shaping Sound"

Where: Flint Center for the Performing Arts, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino

When: Sunday, Oct. 25, 3 p.m.

Cost: $40-$75

Info: Go to goo.gl/2YhPIa or call 800-745-3000.

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