Read our exclusive interview with Lauren Gottlieb, one of the hottest up-and-coming dancers in Hollywood. After making it into the finals of the third season of the hit FOX reality competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ in 2007, Gottlieb was invited back this past season, the show’s seventh, as an all-star teamed up with one of the new contestants. Also a sought-after choreographer, having arranged the much-talked about performance between Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez at this year’s MTV Movie Awards, Gottlieb is also an occasional actress. Gottlieb discusses with us what it was like growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona, loving dance, to finally realizing her dream in Hollywood.
Shockya (SY): You realized at an early age (seven-years-old) that you liked dancing. Did you always want to do it professionally growing up, or did you just consider it to be a hobby when you were a kid?
Lauren Gottlieb (LG): The first year, I had no idea about the world I was stepping into, and neither did my parents. The next year, I fell in love with the stage after my first performance. The next year, I was enrolled in this competition. It was very early on I switched studios, like a year or two later. I knew that I wasn’t going to learn how to really dance. So I switched studios, and the teachers and the dancers around me, we knew that when we were 18, we were going to move to California. One of my teachers was Brian Friedman, who was an amazing teacher, was also a big-time choreographer. He did all of Britney Spears’ choreography, and he pretty much did everyone’s stuff growing up. So I learned the industry side of it really early on.
SY: You are trained in jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, tap and musical theater. What is your favorite type of dancing, and why?
LG: At my studio, they were really big on learning everything, and being able to pick up on everything in an audition, whatever comes your way. So I learned everything. But my main styles are contemporary and hip-hop. But I’m extremely inspired by everything, by breaking, by Broadway, by all these different elements that you can transform into your style.
SY: You first appeared on season three of the hit FOX dance reality competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ during summer 2007. Did all your training help with your auditions and competing?
LG: Yes, I felt like it was a dance convention. Back in the day, I think I had taken every single one (dance class). Every single class is a different style. I kind of felt like I was trained for it.
SY: What was your reaction when you found out you made it to the top 20, and would be competing on national television?
LG: When I first found out, it was kind of funny. Nigel (Lythgoe, the show’s creator and executive producer) and the rest of the judges on the panel were trying to tell me I couldn’t compete because season two, the year before me, I assisted one of the contestants on his choreography. They were trying to tell me it wasn’t going to be fair if I competed myself. So they said it wasn’t going to happen. At the last second, they said “Yeah, we’re going to have to push you harder than everyone else, which we’re going to do.” So it was a complete shock when I first made it, after like five minutes of telling me it’s not going to happen.
SY: So you didn’t feel like you had any unfair advantages over anyone else competing, did you?
LG: Oh, no way. I felt like they were going to be really hard on me. I didn’t feel at all that it was easy.
SY: You were asked to come back as an ‘all-star’ for this past season (the seventh), representing Hip Hop/Jazz/Contemporary dance. How did that make you feel?
LG: It was pretty surreal when we got the phone call. Everyone was from different seasons, but we all shared a very similar experience, probably one of the best ones of our lives. We never thought they would change the format (of the show), and bring us back. It felt like a second chance. It was a much different experience this time. There was a lot less pressure on us. I’m a huge fan of teaching, I always had that in me. Now we’re with people who don’t know our style. So that was kind of the best part for me, being able to teach our partner, and help them grow and work on stuff from the week before. But then it was the best of both worlds, because we got to go out and perform too.
SY: You have also appeared in several movies, including ‘Disaster Movie’ and ‘Bring It On: Fight to the Finish,’ and on several television shows, including ‘Ghost Whisperer.’ Is acting something you would like to pursue?
LG: Yeah, definitely. My first big role came out a couple of weeks ago. I was on ‘Make It or Break It,’ and it was so much fun. I got to dance and choreograph and act. I just remember being on-set, being so excited. I was so goofy and excited. It was a great experience; it’s definitely something I want to continue doing.
SY: You also starred on another hit FOX show, ‘Glee,’ where you had a four-episode stint as a dancer on the rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline. What was it like to be on the show?
LG: ‘Glee’ was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever done. The whole production staff is amazing, including the creator, Ryan Murphy. The writers are just kind of walking around, and you hear them get into our conversations. A lot of times the lines and one-liners come from us messing around and stuff. The choreographer was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. So it’s good people all around, and everyone’s super-talented. When it came to getting down to business, everyone just did their job. Everyone was so happy, and it was a great, great experience.
SY: You’re also a choreographer. Most recently, you choreographed the widely talked about dance performance of Tom Cruise as Les Grossman with Jennifer Lopez for the 2010 MTV Movie Awards. Did you have any idea that it would gain so much wide-spread recognition?
LG: Yeah, I definitely did. I got called in to help, and I was actually coming from a ‘Glee’ rehearsal. I had no idea what I was walking into, and it was Tom Cruise. I was like, “You could have warned me!” But it was so much fun, and he’s brilliant. He threw himself into the character right away. Instead of trying to teach him steps, we just put on the song, and let him jam out, and see what would come out and see how his body would move. Then I would throw in some arms, and make it a little more visual. It was a couple of months we were going a good three times a week. I got to know the whole family pretty well. Being on set, where they shoot all the little acting bits for the Movie Awards, it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot, and got to see the real deal. He was amazing.
SY: What advice do you have for other dancers who want to break into the business?
LG: Some of the best advice that was given to me was to train and be ready for everything. Growing up, I learned different styles, which helped me for ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ Coming out to L.A., and experiencing it for myself, and seeing the industry side of it, that’s helpful. But if you take acting classes and singing lessons, and have all these tricks up your sleeve, it’s humbling. It’s all about coming out prepared. It can take awhile to break into the industry.
Written by: Karen Benardello