Rancho Santa Fe resident pursues passion for dance on TV show


By Megan McVay


Young ambition is about focusing on a goal and not stopping until you reach it. It is about persevering through pain and through failure. It is about dedication, precision and indomitable will. But for 16-year-old, Tanner Clark, it was much more than that.

Clark’s career as a signed dancer and a background dancer on “The X Factor” television show began three years ago when his father bought him a gift card to a dance studio. Reluctant to take a class, Clark stepped into Studio 429 months later, completely unaware of his dancing abilities.

Soon, the session he deemed to be a one-time experiment evolved into his lifestyle.

He began to take weekly break-dancing and hip-hop classes. As he showcased his impressive work ethic and his original dancing style, his instructors took notes and within his first year he was drafted into the studio’s invite-only competition team called “Tru-definition.” Around the same time he was invited to participate in the studio’s production team — and the weekly 18 hours of training that accompanied being a part of two competitive teams.

“I was around everyone at the studio so much that we became like brothers and sisters. Dancing is the type of thing that allows you to become family with the people around you,” said Clark.

Clark pushed himself one step ahead of executing perfect routines, as he used his developed style to choreograph them, as well.

“Choreography is a skill I had to develop over time. At first I had to learn the basics of dance, but when I became more experienced my creative side began to come into play. But there is no such thing as hitting a peak, you’re never done learning,” said Clark.

However, he does mark the summer of 2010 as the zenith of his dancing success thus far. Last year, at the Hip Hop International Competition in Las Vegas, “Tru-definition” decided to use his choreography to Lady Gaga’s “Speechless” for the closing piece. During the U.S preliminary round, the team finished fourth. However, “Tru-definiton” made an unlikely comeback in the U.S finals by winning second place and beating out their older Studio 429 counterparts.

He used his choreography skills to not only teach his own team, but also to land a job with So-Cal Dance Studio, teaching intermediate hip-hop classes. He has also taught the Cathedral Catholic High School Dance Team several routines.

Transitioning to this career-orientated form of dance, Clark decided to leave Studio 429 this year.

“I decided that I wanted to pursue dance as my career and make the industry my life. I want to become more rounded as a dancer. I started to get used to the style from the studio, and now I’m determined to branch out. I’m now taking all my classes online and am fully committed to dance,” revealed Clark.

His journey to a professional dancing career began out at sea, when he embarked on a dancing cruise to the Bahamas called “Monsters of Hip Hop.” On the cruise, the dancers tanned during the day, but when the clock struck 7 p.m. they attended dance classes instructed by Britney Spears’ and Justin Timberlake’s choreographer Kevin Maher and So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Marty Kudelka.

Kevin Maher recognized Clark’s talent during classes and immediately set him up for auditions in L.A. Within only a few months, Clark was signed by Clear Talent Group, an L.A.-based agency, and was being managed by Brian Friedman, one of Britney Spears’ choreographers and the executive producer of The X Factor.

Friedman signed Clark up for The X Factor background dancer auditions. He and 60 other potential dancers were given 30 minutes to learn a routine before they had to perform in front of five Hollywood producers. Clark had to undergo numerous nerve-racking callbacks, but each time the candidates lined up to hear the results, Clark’s number was called until he was finally given the position.

Due to this two-and-a-half-month job, where he will be dancing in front of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, he must be on call every day and be prepared to learn as many as six pieces, only two days before taping the show. Stepping up his dedication to the next level, this month he packed his bags and moved from Rancho Santa Fe to his new address in North Hollywood. Clark is a former Canyon Crest Academy student and will now be taking high school classes online.

“If there’s something you can’t go a day without thinking about, you have to pursue that with your every ability. You have to give everything you have and strive for what you want to do,” said Clark.

With his limitless ambition and unyielding drive, Clark plans to dance his way up to the top, step by step.

“I haven’t had a lot of power in my life. I feel like I have been restricted in some ways and I should be heard. Fame is not a bad word. It is something to strive for. You have to work for it and commit yourself to every aspect of it and that is what I’m going to do,” said Clark.