MARIETTA - Gregg Russell knows what it's like to be a small-town dance student.
So, he said he's thrilled to be "paying it forward" to a group of about 50 students from Stacey's Dance Studio in Marietta who came to his master dance class workshop Monday.
"I would have killed for something like this when I was young," Russell said.
Emmy Award-nominated choreographer Gregg Russell leads a music theater class during Monday’s master dance class workshop at Stacey’s Dance Studio in Marietta. (Photo by Sharon Bopp)
According to Russell, teaching helps bring the excitement back to young dancers.
"Dance is positive, exciting, fun," he said.
Russell, 40, of Los Angeles, was raised in Wooster, Ohio. He began learning to tap at age 4.
"It kept me occupied," he said. "I was a hyper kid."
Russell continued studying tap and then took up break dancing. He started participating in dance competitions around age 13 or 14.
After getting a part in "42nd Street" at Akron's Carousel Theater and touring with that production in the Midwest, Russell later moved to Los Angeles where has lived for about 25 years.
Russell has worked with Bette Midler, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, Michael Jackson and Gregory Hines. In addition, he has performed with Reba McEntire, Smash Mouth, The B-52's and Jason Mraz.
He is now producing and hosting "Tap Into the Network" intensives at seven cities worldwide in summer 2012.
"I've been very honored to work professionally for many years at all different venues," Russell noted.
"Gregg is fun and inspiring," said Stacey Heaton, owner of Stacey's Dance Studio. "The kids don't realize they're learning because they're having so much fun."
"I want my kids to experience dance outside Marietta," Heaton said.
Dressed in dance clothes, with bare feet, stocking feet, boots or sparkly tennis shoes, Russell's hip-hop master dance class of about 30 students danced, giggled, panted and sweated their way through his fast-paced lesson Monday.
Outfitted in knee-length shorts, a blue T-shirt that read "Respect My Authority" and black tennies, the bearded Russell told the kids: "It's called sweat. You'll be OK."
After showing the class a series of dance moves, Russell turned on The Black Eyed Peas' "Party All the Time" and the students rocked what they'd learned.
"How come I feel like we're on a Nickelodeon commercial right now?" Russell joked.
Students said in just a day, they learned from the choreographer.
"I learned a lot about that you should just be confident and you should never give up dancing," said Olivia Huck, 7, of Marietta.
Ohio University theater student Annie Harris, 18, has been dancing for 15 years.
"I told my mom when I was just 3 that I wanted to go to Juilliard (School in New York City)," she said. "(Dance) is a way to express myself and escape from everything I'm dealing with. And it's good exercise."