“You don’t realize how exciting something is until it’s actually happening,” says Canadian dancer Justin Lopes.
For a dancer, it doesn’t get much more electrifying than landing a role in legendary director-choreographer, Kenny Ortega’s next directorial project. That’s especially true when that project happens to be a highly anticipated, made-for-television reimagining of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes its primetime premiere on FOX in October 2016.
Ortega, who was mentored by Gene Kelly early in his career, is best known for directing Michael Jackson’s This Is It concerts, the High School Musical trilogy, and for choreographing the film Dirty Dancing and Madonna’s Material Girl music video. Lopes, of course, felt honored to work with the industry giant.
“To even be auditioning for Rocky Horror was an incredible feeling,” says Lopes. “Booking the job and working one-on-one with Mr. Ortega was the cherry on top.”
Lopes, it’s clear, has the ability and versatility to make it in Hollywood– and Transylvania. Dancing in a large-scale production like The Rocky Horror Picture Show requires the ability to learn at an intensely fast pace and adapt to changes quickly. According to Jeff Mortensen, the production’s assistant choreographer, whether these changes have to do with spacing or choreography, Lopes would take anything given to him and run with it.
“Justin couldn’t have been a better fit for our team,” he says. “I could always count on him to ask the right questions and help propel our Transylvanian ship in the direction it needed to go.”
Lopes stays sharp both mentally and physically for roles like this one by continuing to broaden his movement vocabulary and study different styles of dance. He considers versatility second only to expression of individuality when it comes to a dancer’s performance abilities. He is trained in contemporary, hip hop, jazz, ballet, modern, tap and acrobatic dance styles and is into athletic activities like soccer, dirt-biking, and skateboarding.
“To me, dance is movement,” he says. “All of these different styles allow me to have different languages to bring across to an audience and to project my feelings and emotions in different ways.”
It is his ability to immerse himself in a character that made Lopes an unquestionable fit for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“When we were looking for our Transylvanians we wanted to find people who could transform and take on these alien characters,” says Mortensen. “Justin’s talent not only lies in his dancing but also this transformation ability.”
Lopes is thrilled to be a part of the continuing history of this cult classic, and feels he’s grown from the experience and the leadership on set. Still, the work is not always glamorous. Lopes says the project took 2 full months and did take a toll on his body. He’s got no regrets, however, and considers Rocky Horror the most positive, fulfilling, and rewarding thing he’s yet done in his still young but flourishing dance career.
“When you’re surrounded by that much inspiration everyday, it definitely makes every bruise, scrape, and all the hours put in, worth it.”