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Maybe shell dance forever

Terry Brock simply keeps going as performer, choreographer and teacher
by: Cliff Newell, After Terry Brock’s sizzling performance at the recent From Broadway to Hollywood, the emcee warned the audience, “She is a professional. Do not try this at home.”

When you meet Terry Brock you can't help thinking of Gene Kelly's classic performance of 'Gotta Dance!' in Singing In The Rain.

Of course, it's been nearly 40 years since Brock arrived in Los Angeles to seek her first job as a dancer. But seeing her today it is so easy to imagine her enthusiasm, determination and sheer willpower to not let anything get in the way of doing what she loved to do so much.

'Gotta dance! Gotta dance!'

'I'm nuts,' said Brock, explaining how she is able to do what she does. 'I go 24/7. I exhaust people when I tell them what I do.'

One of those things is operating a dance studio at the Lakewood Theatre. She jokes that she's 'the best kept secret in Lake Oswego,' but for the past 10 years she has taught dancers from the ages of 5 to 70 - tap, jazz, musical theatre, technique and strength and conditioning.

Although Brock teaches several hundred students at Lakewood Theatre, it is the proverbial drop in the bucket when it comes to all she does. Here is a partial list of her recent or upcoming work as a teacher, performer and choreographer. Prepare to be exhausted.

n Choreographer and performer for Robert and Marilyn Pamplin summer production, From Broadway To Hollywood.

n Performer in Back on Broadway at the Duke Theatre.

n Performer at the New York City Tap Festival.

n Choreographer for a tap dancing festival in Canada.

n Featured soloist in a tribute to Eleanor Powell in Canada in August.

n Choreographer for Dance West at Beaverton High School.

As for her personal habits, Brock is practically perfect.

'I live right,' she said. 'I always have worked out. No smoking, no drinking. I take vitamins. I do love coffee. I'm probably fueled by caffeine.'

But it is Brock's mental outlook that explains why she could probably give endurance lessons to the Energizer Bunny.

'What I want to accomplish is human development, and dance is my vehicle for it,' Brock said.

For the first seven years of her life, Brock was not a dancer. However, from the age of 3 on she begged her parents to allow her to take dance lessons. In addition, while growing up in Portland she spent every afternoon watching the Mouseketeers dance up a storm on The Mickey Mouse Club.

Finally, after four years of relentless pressure, her folks gave in.

'I was consistent,' Brock said. 'I never stopped. When I was 3, I told them I was going to be a dancer. When I started dance lessons I was happy as a clam.'

By age 16, Brock was a professional dancer at the famed Roaring 20's Club in Portland in a show that was sort of updated vaudeville, featuring musicians, singers, dancers and specialty acts.

When her feet weren't tapping, Brock found time to be an outstanding student at Franklin High School. In fact, she was her class valedictorian and earned a scholarship to Duke University.

However, that led to another sticky parental moment.

'Instead of going to Duke, I went to L.A. to be a dancer,' Brock said. 'My mom and dad wanted to strangle me.'

There are all kinds of show biz horror stories in which talented and idealistic youngsters go to Los Angeles or New York, then fall flat on their faces. But Brock immediately found work in a novelty act that featured the fellow who did the voice of cartoon character Yakky Doodle of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon kingdom. It toured all over the USA. Then Brock joined the Ray Anthony Band, which played in huge amphitheaters all over Europe.

Then show biz smiled sweetly on Brock. She joined the musical group The Spiral Starecase, which recorded the multi-million selling hit 'I Love You More Today Than Yesterday.' Even today, millions of people can probably hum that tune, and it helped keep Brock in work for 10 years - working three shows a day, six days a week.

As far as dancing, however, the highlight of Brock's career probably came in 1986 when she went to audition for an elite trio of dancers in a show produced by dancing great Gregory Hines. She got the gig.

'Gregory Hines was a wonderful man,' Brock said. 'Kind, generous and a big star.'

She also danced with the Nicholas Brothers, Harold and Fayard, whose flying splits still seem impossible after all these years, and Arthur Duncan, the man who brought tap dancing magic to The Lawrence Welk Show for decades. Shirley MacLaine and Mel Brooks were just a couple of the show biz greats among her associations.

Finally, the wandering girl decided to come home. She turned down dance leads in two Lake Tahoe productions and returned to Oregon.

'I missed Oregon. I missed my family,' Brock said.

But even though she came off the road, Brock kept right on dancing, still doing lots of performing but with an emphasis on teaching and choreography.

One thing Brock has learned is that there are a lot of people like herself out there, whether they are 5 or 60, all harboring dreams of being dancers.

'I spend an exorbitant amount of time with my students,' Brock said. 'I have an endless, tenacious drive to get them there. I don't give up on anybody.'

If teachers are judged by their students, then Brock ranks with the very best. Past pupils have performed in such Broadway hit shows as Fosse, The Rink, Oklahoma, Chicago, Hairspray, and Wicked, plus the famed Merce Cunningham company and dance companies all over Europe.

'I've got 'em everywhere,' Brock said.

Shoshana Bean, a Brock alumna, was the lead dancer in Wicked on Broadway, and she will reunite with her old teacher when the roadshow of Wicked comes to Portland in September.

However, Brock never really parts with her students.

'I keep contact with them all the time,' Brock said. 'I do a lot of mentoring with them.'

For example, 'Sometimes they call when they can't figure out what a choreographer wants them to do. I address the situation from my own viewpoint. I can show them something where maybe the choreographer didn't take time to show them how to get there.'

Still an in-demand performer, many of Brock's appearances are with partner Sam Weber, who she calls 'the best dancer I've ever seen.'

However, after 46 years of dancing will Brock finally have to slow down? It is a bit daunting for her when she thinks about ailments that loom for tap dancers.

'There's the potential for hip replacement,' she said. 'Knees and ankles give out. There's neck and shoulder strain. There's even hearing loss from all the music and taps.'

However, even though Brock has given many performances right in front of blaring loudspeakers, her students cannot believe her hearing would ever diminish.

'I never miss a beat,' she said, adding with a laugh, 'My students tell me I can always hear a tap beat if it's wrong.'

Still, things haven't changed for Brock since she was 3 years old. She plans to keep on dancing.

'I don't expect to be fading anytime soon,' Brock said. 'I love my work. I'm fueled by it.'

'Gotta dance! Gotta dance!'