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By Stephanie Wolf of Dance Informa.
These celebrities have found their stardom on the big screen and radio airwaves. But before they were famous, these actors and singers spent a lot of time in the dance studio.
It’s no longer a surprise that Australian actor Hugh Jackman is a great dancer. While he gained a lot of recognition for his appearances in blockbuster movies like X-Men and Wolverine, Jackman began his performance career in musical theater and trained at the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at the Edith Cowan University. He won a Tony for his role in the 2003 Broadway musical The Boy from Oz and received great acclaim for his 2011 concert Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.
Emily VanCamp, star of ABC’s Revenge, seemed poised for a career in ballet as a promising pupil at the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ training program in Montreal. After visiting her sister on set of a 1999 movie called Ladies Room, VanCamp was bitten by the acting bug and enrolled in classes — the rest is history.
Before her hit single “A Thousand Miles,” Vanessa Carlton was actually a budding ballet dancer at the School of American Ballet. In interviews, Carlton is often quoted about how challenging it was leave the dance world, but she struggled with the level of discipline required to pursue it professionally and followed her affinity for music instead.
A trained dancer and singer, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones first got her start in musical theater, appearing as the lead in the British revival of the musical 42nd Street at 15. She got to show off her dancing skills again in the 2002 movie musical Chicago.
Golden Globe Award-winning actress Jenna Elfman, best known for her role on the ABC hit series Dharma and Greg, is a classically trained ballet dancer. She switched to acting in her 20s after battling several bad injuries, but continues to be a public advocate of dance — she has made several appearances as a guest judge on FOX Network’s So You Think You Can Dance.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Funny man Jesse Tyler Ferguson has become a household name for his role at Mitch Pritchett in the ABC sitcom Modern Family. But Ferguson, a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City, got his start in musical theater. And, early in his career, worked as a singer and dancer at Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Patrick Swayze grew us dancing. His mother, Patsy Swayze, owned a dance school in Houston, where he trained. Patrick then trained at the Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools in New York City and, eventually, married dancer/actress Lisa Niemi, who he danced with at his mother’s dance studio.
Before finding his fame in movies, actor, director, and screenwriter Christopher Walken’s theatrical training had a major dance emphasis. He studied musical theater at Washington Dance Studio and later at Hofstra University in upstate New York. Walken actually still likes to squeeze in a step or two for his cinematic appearances and busted a move in Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” music video in the early 2000s.
Add Amy Adams to the list of aspiring ballerinas turned actresses. Born in Italy and raised in Castle Rock, Colorado, Adams studied dance at a local dance school in Castle Rock and got her first professional gig as a dancer with the Boulder Dinner Theater. She then moved to Minnesota to further her musical theater ambitions with the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. An injury eventually sidelined her dancing dreams, but an appearance in the 1999 mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous propelled her acting career.
Actress Neve Campbell (Scream, Party of Five) trained for eight months with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago in order to take on the role of Ry in director Robert Altman’s 2003 movie, The Company. But her dancing roots go back much farther than the film. Campbell trained for a bit at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto, but never pursued a career in dance due to an influx of injuries. However, her passion for the art form did lead her to co-write and star in The Company.
It’s not surprising that many athletes, actors, and musicians are also dancers. While some actively utilize their dancing skills throughout their careers, others have used dance as a hobby, sport, or as a way to train themselves to get ready for a role or a big game. Some of these celebrities stopped dancing due to injury, while others simply lost interest. One Oscar-winning actress studied ballet at the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.
Who is the most famous person who used to dance? Natalie Portman tops our list. Natalie Portman studied ballet and modern dance at the American Theater Dance Workshop after she graduated from high school. In 2010, she trained in ballet for five-eight hours a day for six months to prepare for her role in “Black Swan.” In 1991, Jennifer Lopez performed as a backup dancer for New Kids on the Block. She went on to become a Fly Girl dancer on the popular sketch comedy series “In Living Color.”
Academy Award winner Charlize Theron trained at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York when she was in her late-teens. Rapper Tupac Shakur started his career as a backup dancer for the 1990s hip hop group, Digital Underground. Actress Elisabeth Moss trained in ballet and jazz while she auditioned for acting roles.
Are you surprised that so many celebrities danced? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Every actress and actor go through a certain level of basic dancing to excel the songs in the movie industry. However, few of these stars are trained extremely well even before they became stars and here is a list of 7 South-Indian actresses who are professional classical dancers:
1. Shobana: Shobana is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and one of the most famous ones in the country. The actress even won a Padma Shri for her contribution. She became an independent dancer in her twenties and runs her own school ‘Kalarpana’ in Chennai.
2. Meenakshi Seshadri: The actress who became famous after her movie ‘Duet’, has been trained in four different dances – Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Odissi.
3. Revathi: The ‘Mouna Ragam’ actress is actually a professionally trained Bharatanatyam dancer and has been learning since the age of 7. The actress did her Arangetram in Chennai in the year 1979.
4. Amala Akkineni: The ‘Agni Natchathiram’ actress holds a Bachelors degree in Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts. She has given many live performances worldwide.
5. Manju Warrier: Manju Warrier is a trained Kathakali and Bharatnatyam dancer. As much popularity, she holds for her acting, she is that famous for her dancing.
6. Shriya Saran: Saran is an accomplished dancer. She was first trained as a child by her mother in Kathak and Rajasthani folk dance, and later trained in Kathak style by Shovana Narayan. She was involved with many dance teams in college and with her teacher. They would incorporate social issues into their dance routines
7. Simran: Simran is a trained dancer and can perform Bharatanatyam and Salsa.
10 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Dancers
You love watching your favorite stars light up the screen—but did you know that many of them studied dance, too? Here are 10 celebs you had no idea were also dancers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming breakout star Tom Holland trained as a ballet dancer for most of his childhood in England. In June 2008, he even starred in the West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical, wowing audiences with his skills.
Natalie Portman is famous around the world for films such as Closer and Jackie. But 2010’s Black Swan wasn’t her first exposure to dance. Portman actually trained for many years in ballet and modern dance at the American Theater Dance Workshop.
Sarah Jessica Parker
SJP trained as a singer and ballet dancer growing up, making her Broadway debut in the 1976 revival of The Innocents. She also went on to star in Annie and The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway. These days, she’s on the board of New York City Ballet.
It’s true, Twilight fans! Actor Taylor Lautner had a strong passion for dance growing up. In fact, he performed with both a hip-hop dance group, the LA Hip Kids, and a jazz dance group, the Hot Shots.
13 Going on 30 star Jennifer Garner has never been afraid to show her love for dance. And that makes a lot of sense, given that she studied ballet for over a decade growing up.
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander studied ballet intensively at the Royal Swedish Ballet School in Stockholm and the School of American Ballet in NYC. You can see some of her skills on display in 2012’s Anna Karenina, which features choreography by contemporary dance darling Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
While it was modeling that made Naomi Campbell a household name, she originally planned to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who was a modern dancer. Campbell studied dance from age 3, and attended the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, where she focused primarily on ballet.
Although you probably recognize her from the TV series “Will & Grace,” Megan Mullally is also a trained ballet dancer. Growing up in Oklahoma City, OK, Mullally performed with the Oklahoma City Ballet in high school as well as attending the School of American Ballet in NYC.
Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, known for her star turn as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, trained as a ballerina at the Canberra Dance Development Centre. Although she spent many years immersed in the craft and hoped to dance professionally, she made the switch to acting in 2004.
Spanish actress and model Penelope Cruz studied ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory, as well as training in theater. She’s said that her dance upbringing has had a profound impact on her current life.