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Just Dance

Nearly a year has past since former Fort St. John resident Brock Jellison wowed the world at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Nearly a year has past since former Fort St. John resident Brock Jellison wowed the world at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

He returned to the Energetic City this past week to host a dance workshop to, in his words, "light a fire" under some local dancers and get them thinking about their futures in the dance world.

"It's been a long time since Fort St. John had a professional dancer come out of it. A very long time, actually," Jellison said.

Jellison taught tap and contemporary dance routines to a number of local dancers from Studio 2 Stage and The Move Dance Centre, ranging from just starting out to those thinking about where they'd like to take their craft as they go on.

"It makes no sense to me for you to train for 12 years and not at least go to a couple of auditions and try and do something. You have to taste it a little bit before you decide you're just going to move on," he said.

Jellison has been dancing since he was two years old, spending much of his childhood at his mother's dance studio, Jellison Studios.

"It was cheaper than a babysitter, just bringing me along to her classes," he said.

By the time he was 12, he was teaching his own classes.

It wasn't always easy for Jellison - being a male dancer in a small industry town, he was a victim of taunting and bullying from his classmates.

Once he graduated high school, he left Fort St. John to pursue his passion for dance.

His perseverance paid off and, after working as a professional dancer in Vancouver, Jellison was tapped to choreograph the opening ceremonies at the Olympics.

After working for months to prepare, and the rush of actually doing the performance, Jellison said he wasn't expecting the onslaught of emotions that came with being done.

"There was a definite crash after the Olympics. There was nine months of a lot of work and I was in charge of 120 volunteer tap dancers and 27 professional tap dancers - not to mention trying to get my solo together at the same time - and after nine months of go, go, go, go, go, two days later the interviews were done and I was sitting on my couch thinking 'okay, I need to go for a walk.'" he laughed.

"This is what they were talking about, this is why they said, 'oh, make sure you have your friends around you when you're all done' and now I understand fully why the Olympic teams, with their athletes, all have counsellors after they're done their event. You can imagine training your whole life for that one event and going out, win or lose. It's done. You did it. Now what?"

The "now" after the Olympics involved doing freelance cultural coordinating for various corporations in Canada and the U.S.

For Jellison, 'now' includes playing with his newly formed band, Clapping Monkeys, and looking at dance opportunities in Montreal - Jellison was contacted by Cirque de Soleil and was asked to send them a resume.

"I would really love to become an artistic director for a large company like that," he said.

Over at the workshop, Jellison had the dancers doing tap routines to rock music, showing them that there are many facets to the dance world beyond the traditional.

Jellison isn't known for his contemporary work in Fort St. John, but he is known for it in Vancouver.

"Contemporary is fun because you can really do whatever you want and if you can actually get inside their head and get them to let go and shed that tight withdrawn stance - turn around, don't face the mirror, nobody's watching you - you just move," he said. "Dance is a pretty amazing thing for that. It's so cathartic. You could just be doing a regular day, turn the lights down low, turn the music on and start moving, and all of a sudden you find yourself bawling your eyes out and you don't know why until you think about it for a second - I just really needed to move."

For those dancers who want to move on to the professional level, Jellison has some advice.

"Catch a plane to Toronto, go do an audition. Take the train to New York, go watch a show on Broadway, get inspired. Because as tough as life is for a dancer, it's also very rewarding as an artist if you can actually be glad with what you're doing," he said.

"It might not be the highest paying job and it might not be the most rewarding job of all time, but there's nothing like being on stage, there's nothing like holding an entire crowd of people and their emotions - being able to control anything that you want."