ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Marena Tarin immediately knew something was up.
The 17-year-old student from the Public Academy for Performing Arts was practicing with the rest of the nearly 40 students in Karen Price’s beginning hip-hop class at the University of New Mexico, when she was shocked.
Walking in the classroom, with a hoodie and camouflage, was choreographer Shane Sparks.
“When he walked in, I knew it was him,” Tarin said, still excited. “For him to take time and come talk to us, that’s special.”
Sparks is known for being a judge on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” and MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” He has also choreographed for artists such as Monica, NSYNC, Omarion, B2K and is working on a new reality competition TV show called “Battle of the Crews.”
“Dancing saved my life,” Sparks said. “It’s important for me to come to dance classes and see the new generation of dancers. There is so much talent, and all of these dancers are getting younger and younger. This group, you can see their heart when they dance and that’s what makes it special.”
Sparks took a moment to chat with the group and then later invited them to a freestyle battle, where each student entered a circle and dance for nearly 30 seconds.
He also spoke about how he got into dance.
“I learned it all on my own,” he said of dance. “My family didn’t have the money for me to get lessons. So what I picked up, I picked it up from the streets. As I fell in love with dance, I continued to push myself forward with it.”
As Sparks spoke about his childhood, his story resonated with Tarin.
“Like Shane, I don’t have a lot of money for lessons,” Tarin said. “So it’s really cool that he would take time out of his day to come talk with us. I want to be a dancer and would love to work with him.”
Sparks was in the Duke City because he is teaching some hip-hop master classes at the Duke City Stars, Advance Dance in Rio Rancho and Dance Space in Santa Fe today through Saturday. He was also getting footage for a documentary to be released later this year.
“When they asked me to come talk to the classes, it was something I jumped at,” he said. “All of these kids are phenomenal when it comes to dancing. Watching them reminds me of when I was starting out.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal