They’re Fly (Girls)… And They’ve Got the Moves!

I had this crazy ambitious dream that I, Allison Venezio, had what it took to be a Fly Girl.

Childhood is awesome for building up such lofty ambition, wasn’t it?

We all had dreams and ambitions, folks. Mine was to dance in a bra and jeans with Jennifer Lopez on the same stage, and it not be deemed weird.

Fly Child

No lie, when I was eight years old, I wanted to be a Fly Girl. And not just a “fly girl,” but an actual Fly Girl, as in the dancers who performed at the beginning and before commercial breaks on In Living Color. In reality, my talent early 1990s dance life pretty much proved that would never have happened. As the many videos on You Tube have shown me (not to mention the actual watching of the show), those girls have more talent in their pinky toenail than I had in my uncoordinated, awkward child body in the 1990s.

Me in 1991 (age 8 1/2), not being so fly.

As an adult taking Hip Hop for six-and-a-half years, all that awkwardness was extinct, and I really did get my “dream” to be the Fly Girl I wanted to be. And then I busted my ankle and took up writing about nostalgia. I now live the dream doing something I didn’t realize I loved until I had the opportunity to really work on it. At night. And before work. And during my lunchbreak.

I have a day job, folks. The writing thing, like the dance thing, is not that day job. And I’m kinda depressed for even admitting any of this.

Anyway, childhood ambition, I knew it well. And I did get to live it for a little bit.

Those Girls Are Fly!

Every decade had its dance troupe of sorts. Whether it was the teenagers on American Bandstand, the Golddiggers on The Dean Martin Show, Goldie Hawn in a bikini on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, The Solid Gold dancers, or anyone who got in the Soul Train line, there were plenty of shows that spotlighted people hoofin’ it up to trendy music. There is a perfectly good cable access show on some obscure local network that offers this kind of entertainment, except the dancers look like Soul Train grandparents. I have no clue what it is called, or even if it is still on. All I know is that I saw it while clicking through channels one night. I may have watched it.

Again, tangents…

The Fly Girls were the dance group that introduced episodes and danced before commercials during the entire five-season run of In Living Color. The dancers were a diverse group of younger women, all clad in costuming of early 90s glory. I mentioned bras as tanks with jeans, right? Oh, they wore them. The girls also got involved in sketches, usually as extras or as part of gags.

Their moves came at a time when Hip Hop (as a dance form) was not mainstream like it is today, and the dancers themselves were classically-trained and technical dancers.

Could’ve fooled me.

The Girls (And Choreographers Who Make Them Fly!)

The girls were choreographed during the first four seasons by Rosie Perez (who herself had danced the Soul Train line in her dance life. Perhaps you’ve seen her in action?

Uploaded by MrBo131

In the fifth and final season, choreography was done by Arthur Rainer, with Lisa Joann Thompson (herself a Fly Girl during seasons four and five) and Diedre Lang (a veteran of all five seasons) as Assistant Choreographers.

While most of the faces may not be familiar to you, you obviously know Jennifer Lopez, and if you watch a little show called Dancing with the Stars, you’ve seen Carrie Ann Inaba.

Inaba (far left), with Deidre Lang (a veteran of all incarnations of the Fly Girls) on the right.

And if you’re a MSTie, or have just seen Hobgoblins, Cari French was not only of the original Fly Girls, but she did this in Hobgoblins.

From this move every little kid did in their dance recital to introducing Keenan Ivory Wayans. I wonder what ever happened to Cari…

…and I just looked up Hobgoblins. The spelling of the first name is different. PLEASE tell me this is the same person! This HAS to be her!

Seeing Them Fly!

I hunted around for some “fly” videos of the girls in action, and You Tube, it turns out, does not disappoint.

If you really want to see how amazing the Girls are, this unbelievable 20-minute video pretty much sums it all up.

Kudos to You Tube User Jim Leonard for this unbelievable editing job!!!

After watching this video (and logging all these hours of Very Important Research), I’d like to think that I finally did live my dream of being a Fly Girl, even if that opportunity came many years after the actual Fly Girls were a part of pop culture history.

Impact

The Fly Girls were of a time when Hip Hop dance was not mainstream, and we have Rosie Perez to thank for bringing this style of dance to the forefront.  in 2017, kids love taking Hip Hop classes in dance school, and the studio I went to offers master classes and workshops.  My former dance instructor, Sam Chisholm, has his own Hip Hop group, L3gacy, and the videos…just wow. I am truly lucky to not only have a group of dancers I just happened to love watching growing up, but also to have an instructor who helped me “live my dream” for seven years.

Me in 2011, in what I believe is my best “Fly Girl” costume. :-)

Lofty ambitions…I lived them well.

Gregory Hines Tap Dancing To…”Tap Dance”

I couldn’t think of a more clever title! Give me a break!!!!

I danced for 21 and a half years (the 22nd year ended in injury halfway through the year, and signaled my “retirement” from dance). So if you ever want to know why I write as much as I do, it’s because I was initially filling a void left behind by dance. Now it is a hobby I embrace with the love and dedication that anyone should give to their talent. I pride in referring to myself as a writer and content contributor the way I referred to myself as a “Non-Professional Hip Hop Dancer.” Now I throw “Retired” in front of that and call it a day.

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Me in 1988 (age 5) in my first recital.

I studied Jazz for eleven years, Ballet for four years, and Hip Hop for six and a half years (the half year was the injury year).

I loved to perform – there was nothing quite like a costume, enough makeup to impress a clown, and a huge stage. I loved it so much, that returning as an adult at the age of 25 was like a homecoming of sorts. Sure the studio and teachers were different, but there is nothing quite like feeling in your element, no matter where you are. A dance floor is a dance floor, a ballet barre is a ballet barre, and a stage…is a stage.

 

The one type of dance I never got into was Tap. I did take little kid classes until I was seven years old that involved Tap, but it wasn’t something I wanted to continue. Of course, all my friends did Tap in the adult classes, and I wanted to try it, but never did. Now I’m convinced I would have been forced into retirement sooner if I did.

Just because I never tried Tap, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it – the kicklines, the sound of the shoes (which I LOVED as a little kid), the rhythm, the sound of the shoes, the costumes, the sound of the shoes…yeah, you get my point. I loved spectating when it came to Tap. Not having a mind for it (I’m a classic over-thinker, which can be a bad thing in dance in general, but worse for Tap), and having friends who were amazing at it was what interested me more.

The other thing that interested me more? Watching professionals do it. Like Gregory Hines.

I’ll confess, I’ve never seen White Nights. I know Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov were in it, I know Lionel Richie has a song on the soundtrack (“Say You, Say Me”), and I know Hines was a Tap dancer in real life the way Baryshnikov was a Ballet dancer in real life. Oh, and they play dancers in the movie.

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Magical!

Would you like to see the magic happen? Hit play, and be AMAZED!

Uploaded by jbbe2

And this is where I reference David Foster.

Again.

The song playing in the background is the David Foster-composed “Tap Dance,” and it is on Foster’s 1986 album…David Foster. I’m sorry guys, I’m striking out with all kinds of non surprises.

I love the “It’s-So-1980s” appeal of this song. It’s like aerobics and tap dance got together, had a child, and raised up that child up right. Did I mention David Foster is a genius? Because he is the one that made this song happen.

Sadly, I can’t find a music video to back this song up (because let’s face it, David Foster must have felt the music with the song!), but why have a music video when you can have Gregory Hines tapping? That’s even better!

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I especially love the dancing in this scene. Hines moves about the floor gracefully, all the while stomping with the glorious sound of taps. His was a talent lost with his passing, but thankfully is very well-preserved, based on what I found on You Tube. Every dancer should strive for so much! It seems that the dance world tends to get lost in the current trend of Hip Hop, but sometimes, the classics work well. And those who strive to preserve this art are keeping it alive and well!

The version heard in the movie has more tap sounds in it than the actual song does, so if you REALLY want to hear this song in all the glory it intends to have, here it is.

Uploaded by David Foster – Topic

Incredible.

Allison isn’t a world-class dancer, but she knows her stuff. She loves writing about David Foster (easily her favorite composer). If you like what you’ve seen here, she’d love for you to visit her on her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut. Ironically, her Twitter handle used to be @DancerChick1982.

She’s like Kevin Bacon in Footloose – she’s gotta dance!

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How to do the Thriller Dance

Thriller

I spent lots and lots of time as a kid in my bedroom practicing my sweet dance moves. From “the centipede” to “the wave,” I knew them all. I even thought I could moonwalk, even though I was pretty bad at it and I was in reality just dragging my feet while shuffling across the carpet backwards.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller was a huge event when it was released and before long my friends and I found ourselves imitating some of Michael’s awesome zombie moves. I never got the entire dance down, but now thanks to a couple of videos by Dancin’ Dave on Youtube, I now know what I will be doing this weekend. Anyone lucky enough to trick or treat my house this year will get more than a handful of candy. They’re going to get an entire song and dance number.

5-6-7-8, hit it!