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10 Questions for Sandra Colton

by: COURTESY OF Pink Pen P.R., Sandra Colton’s dance moves have taken her from the University of Oregon to a career in Los Angeles and the publishing world.

It's hard to find work for dancers in Hollywood, Sandra Colton says, and nothing means more than talent and motivation.

'A lot of people move to Hollywood with talent, but they have no drive to overcome obstacles - being tall or short or skinny or blonde,' says Colton, an acclaimed dancer who recently moved to Portland. 'There's always somebody working harder and faster than you. It's always important to be on your game to handle what's presented to you.

'And, it's about already having your skill set down when you get there. You're not going to get a job when you walk in the door. If you go prepared, it's like you've been there awhile.'

Colton, a 2000 University of Oregon graduate and former Ducks cheerleader, wrote a book, 'Book Me!' ($55.95, Pinstripe), which breaks down how a dancer should go about getting a lot of work in Hollywood.

Colton has an extensive resume that includes being a 'Star Search' winner, a Las Vegas opening act, a Los Angeles Laker girl, a 'So You Think You Can Dance' contestant, a movie and roles in music videos.

The Tribune caught up with Colton to talk pirouettes:

Tribune: You've lived in mostly Vegas and L.A., why come to Oregon for college?

Colton: I applied to NYU, USC and Oregon, and I got accepted by all three. I chose Oregon for the non-entertainment factor - I wanted to get away from the entertainment side of things and have something to fall back on. I majored in sociology, minored in journalism. And, they have great cheerleaders who can dance.

Tribune: How was the Laker girl experience?

Colton: It was the year after their three-repeat (as NBA champs, 2002-03). Everybody and their mom wanted to audition that particular year. It was so heavily covered by the media. … I like to describe it as I had the best seat in the house - on the court, random celebrities lining courtside seats every game, every major star coming to play. I'm a big sports fan, I like seeing people being competitive. Unlike other cheerleading teams, we got to perform six times a game and had costume changes. It was a production, part of the game atmosphere, we were kind of like little celebrities.

Tribune: You competed on the original 'So You Think You Can Dance' in 2005?

Colton: It was just a show in the works then, the kinks weren't worked out. I did the first show three times before it made it to air. We were in L.A. for a good two months just kicking it around, waiting for episodes to catch up where we were in the season. I got on the show as a tap dancer.

Tribune: And you appeared on 'Dancing with the Stars'?

Colton: Yeah, last season, during the semifinal show, I performed with Raphael Saadiq, who's pretty well known musically.

Tribune: What other things have you done in Hollywood?

Colton: I was in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' a speaking role playing opposite Robert Knepper. I was on 'Boston Legal,' 'Legally Mad,' and the 'Tonight Show' with Katharine McPhee and Paulino Rubio (as a dancer). … I've been in music videos with Katharine McPhee, Snoop Dogg, Marie Serenholt … I toured with Rihanna.

Tribune: You got your start early, competing on and winning Star Search teen dance in 1992?

Colton: When I was 12, with my sister. It was a cool experience, competing against other tap dancers. We won 10 grand and got to pick out our own furniture for our bedrooms - we had a makeover of the whole house. It was cool going to school and having everybody know you. (The 'Colton and Colton' sisters opened for the likes of Bill Cosby and Lou Rawls as teens in Las Vegas Strip acts).

Tribune: Why did you move to Portland? You want to work as a dancer here?

Colton: Cupid struck, my boyfriend lives here. … I already got an agent in Portland, Ryan Artists, and I know they're trying to expand the film industry in Portland. Hopefully other things will come my way. I'd love to move into more choreography, maybe for a recording artist or travel to do it. I want to open my own professional dance studio within six months (called The Dance Suite); I instruct at four different places, but a lot of them cater to little kids and preteens.

Tribune: Is there dance work to be had in Portland?

Colton: I haven't seen a lot of postings. In L.A., you have dance agents, and if you don't have an agent, you don't get announcements for jobs. Here, people post online. There are dancers gearing themselves toward a career, but they don't have the meeting place or foundation where it's only about dance.

Tribune: What are some points you make in your book?

Colton: There's a big difference in taking dance in a college environment, which is geared toward modern dance and ballet, and then moving to L.A. for more commercial work. A lot of dancers want to do their technique, but you have to combine that with personality. In commercial, you're not the star; the product is the star. There's a fine line a dancer walks between being great in auditions and not standing out too much. It's about knowing when to shine and blend in.

Tribune: Was it tough to get a dancing book published?

Colton: It took awhile, a year in the making. I had a hard time finding a major publisher who wanted to take on dance, because they think it's a niche market. But I tend to think otherwise.