Sparkle, Shine and Step

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Charissa Seaman

Charissa Seaman, 40, was a top professional dancer and choreographer who worked with some of the biggest stars, including Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Dolly Parton, Vanessa Williams, Paula Abdul and many others.

Rehearsing 10 hours per day and then performing every night for 15 years takes its toll on your body once you reach your 30s. The excitement of traveling around the world loses its luster. It’s a young person’s game — but Seaman wanted to stay in the dance world.

After retiring as a professional dancer, the next logical step was to be a competition judge, touring with Showstopper, a dance competition. After that, Seaman opened her own studio in Malibu, Dance Star, to teach what she had learned during her stellar career.

“I worked with Showstopper, teaching choreography all over the country,” Seaman shared. “I really enjoyed that. I loved being that person — the teacher children looked up to.”

Since opening her studio doors five years ago, more than 800 local girls and boys have trained under the direction of Miss Charissa, as her students call her. Children as young as two dance to their heart’s content and learn to do it properly, to the best of their ability — Seaman has seven professional dancers on her teaching staff. But the emphasis is on having fun.

“Deep down inside, everybody loves dancing,” she explained. “It’s a chance to let everything go and is a wonderful art form. I sometimes dance around the studio on my own. It’s like therapy.”

Seaman grew up in South Carolina, which she says is similar to Malibu in terms of nature and beauty. She started dancing at three years old, but didn’t enjoy it because she felt her teacher was stifling her creativity and gave up. At nine, she started classes again in earnest and never looked back.

“I realized I was good when I was 12,” she said, “and I became professional when I was 13. I started entering competitions, and was always complimented on my sense of joy and how I channeled emotion. That’s what I try to instill in my girls.”

At just 15, Seaman was offered work with Dolly Parton in Nashville. Her mom let her take the job when she reached 16.

“I went to private school in Nashville, and my mom and teachers made it clear that if I didn’t keep up my grades, I’d have to give up my job,” Seaman said. “I tell my students that dance is the first thing parents say has to stop if their grades suffer, but most dancers are actually great students. They’re disciplined and know all about time management.”

Seaman moved to Los Angeles at the age of 18, working and touring with Britney Spears from 1998 to 2004 as both dancer and choreographer.

Like all professional dancers, Seaman has suffered injuries.

“Nothing major, mostly sprains,” she shared. “But I did break my ankle once, during a performance. These things happen, however much you stretch and warm up.”

Dance has come full circle for Seaman, whose specialty is jazz hip-hop: she’s taking a group of Dance Star girls to a Showstopper competition in Anaheim next month. 

“I’m not looking for perfection with my students,” Seaman said. “I definitely want to instill technique and want them to practice so they feel comfortable on stage to feel the joy and have fun. My main job as a teacher is to develop confidence. Even the shyest child can become a great dancer.”

Seaman explained that while she doesn’t watch television, she has heard about dance schools on reality TV that are all about negativity, yelling, parents fighting and cut-throat competition.

“Why would anyone want their children to experience that?” Seaman said. “It’s not my experience, and it’s definitely not the experience here. I’m about creating wonderful memories for the children.”

The annual Dance Star show at Pepperdine always sells out for both performances. This year’s event — scheduled to take place in May — is still in the planning stage and the theme has yet to be decided.

“But it’s always about sparkling and shining,” said Seaman. “Who doesn’t want to sparkle and shine? I want the show to bring a sense of magic and wonder, to be something the dancers will remember forever.” 

For more information, visit dancestarmalibu.com.