People just don’t dance like they used to.
“It’s so sad to me,” says Kelly Konno.
“People don’t have the opportunity to dance anymore. Back in the day in the ’50s they had sock hops and social parties and dances, whereas we don’t have that anymore.”
Having continued to reap the benefits of dance since childhood, Konno, a professional dancer, choreographer and actor, has decided to take matters into her own hands. On May 2, she’s launching a weekly Kelly Konno Dance Cardio class in North Vancouver, drawing on her industry experience and using dance steps to make participants sweat. “Dance should be a part of everybody’s life. I’m using this class to not only bring dance into people’s lives but it’s a great workout and it makes you feel like you’re not working out and who doesn’t want that?” she says.
Born in Alberta, Konno, 42, moved to B.C. at age 12 and grew up in Surrey. “We came from a family of dancers and so naturally my family put us in dance. I just remember loving it and wanting to do it all the time. If we had a choice to go to dance or go to a birthday party, I would choose dance and it became my passion at a very young age even without me knowing it. I just loved it and I didn’t want to do anything but,” she says.
After graduating from high school, Konno moved to Los Angeles where she pursued a career as a professional dancer until age 30 when she returned to the Lower Mainland. During those L.A. years she worked with recording industry giants like Janet and Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Prince, Pink and ’N Sync. She went on a number of world tours and performed live on shows like the Grammy Awards and Saturday Night Live to name a few.
“It happened quicker than for most people for myself but I still had to spend a good year I would say in Los Angeles where I was struggling. ... And then the audition for Janet came about and that was the biggest move of my life and my career as a dancer. That was pretty fabulous at such a young age too.
I’d only been in L.A. for a year, I was trying to do my thing but this was the turning point in my professional dance career,” she says.
Looking back on that period of her life, Konno says it helped shape her. “I learned a lot about hard work, about discipline, about loyalty and about just being a good person. I saw a lot of people come and go in Janet’s camp and I was one of the few that stayed around for so long. I think that was because I was always just grateful and I stayed humble and I stayed hard working and I never took it for granted. ... I would never take advantage ... I think that’s why I stayed around for so long because I was a good person to hang out with and work with and I think that plays into everything that I do in my life, even up until this day,” she says.
Since moving back to the Lower Mainland, Konno, who currently lives on Bowen Island, has continued to work as a choreographer, including appearing on the TV series Canada Sings, and continues to be active with Triple Threat Dance Convention, which she founded 18 years ago and co-owns.
Acting is another focus and her career has taken off in the last couple of years.
“I trained for a good 10 years since I came back to Vancouver and just now is all my training starting to pay off. It’s going great. I’m getting lots of bookings and seeing myself on some movies and TV and slowly building up that resume and that’s all I can ask for, really,” she says.
Recent credits include a part in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story, Motive and Emily Owens M.D. Upcoming movie releases include Hallmark’s A Time to Dance and Lifetime’s Faint of Heart.
With so much of her life focused on other pursuits, Konno decided to start offering dance cardio classes on Bowen Island in February.
“I act now as a profession and I choreograph so I don’t get to dance on the daily like I used to. So it’s really important for me to be able to dance and keep myself in shape as well as share the experience with people that wouldn’t normally get a chance to take a class like this or from a person like myself,” she says.
Konno also views the classes as an opportunity to do something for her community and plans to continue expanding her offerings throughout the Lower Mainland. “I want to branch out to cities that mean something to me,” she says.
First up is North Vancouver and in addition to her regular Bowen Dance Cardio offerings, she’ll now be offering weekly one-hour classes Mondays at 9:15 a.m. at Perform Art Studios at Lonsdale Quay.
A question Konno is commonly asked is, “I have two left feet, can I come?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, this is exactly for you.’ Half the people that say they have left feet don’t. They actually are pretty good. They just have this warped idea in their mind that they’re unco-ordinated. We’re not really, if you give your body a chance to just break it down properly and repetition, anybody can get it.”
One of her favourite aspects of her classes is the freestyle dance circle portion.
“It allows me to dance with different people that want to join me in the centre of the room. The older people are the ones that are more apt to get in there with me. Dancing across from a 70-year-old man or somebody in their 60s that’s just loving life? I just look at their faces and I would never get a chance to dance with these people if it wasn’t for this class. So for me, I’m just like are you kidding? Is this my life? I get to rock out with people of my community of all ages, male, female? I still can’t believe it and I treasure every class that I teach,” she says.