Strictly Dancing: Janette Manrara in Burn the Floor at the Hobby Center
It's the stuff of Hollywood legend. Janette Manrara was working at a bank when her dance teacher pushed her to try out for So You Think You Can Dance. Manrara had grown up salsa dancing with relatives in her Cuban family in Miami, but didn't undertake formal dance lessons until she was 19.
Beytan Erkman Robbie Kmetoni, left, and Janette Manrara in Burn the Floor
She made it to the top 30 before she was cut in the show's Season Four competition, but found it more encouraging than otherwise. She couldn't believe she'd made it that far.
She came back in Season Five and made it to the top four female dancers and got to go on SYTYCD's national tour. She danced with Jennifer Lopez. She performed on Glee and went on the Glee live tour. She danced at the Oscars.
Now she's in the national tour of Burn The Floor, and Houston will have a chance to see her when Gexa Energy/Broadway Across America brings it to the Hobby Center December 14-19.
"I was staying in Miami. It was December right after Christmas and I had to fly up to New York. It was really, really, really cold and it took me a second to warm my body up to get ready for the audition," she told Art Attack. The audition went well and she was told she'd get a call when a spot became open.
That happened in July. The tour opened in London and played there for two weeks.
Burn the Floor has no lines. "It's strictly dancing," Manrara said. "We have two percussionists and two vocalists - male and female -- and about 20 dancers. We have very distinct characters that we like to portray through our dancing. My character, she's very strong willed and she thinks she controls men all the time. It's nice because there's so many different styles of dance involved in the show."
daemonstv.com Manrara during her SYTYCD Season Five run
There are no swings right now in the Burn the Floor company, which means, Manrara said, that dancers have to learn several other parts just in case - and the dances are varied: Viennese waltz, jive, salsa, and paso doble, among others. There's even the dreaded quickstep. Again, Manrara said, this is where her SYTYCD experience helped her out.
"We had a maximum five hours to learn a routine to perform on television," she said. "You learn to really find a way."
Still, glitches can happen, even on carefully crafted professional tours.
"I just learned a new track in the show. I was so used to going off. I walked off and I started changing and my dresser was helping me and I was halfway through when I realized I 'm supposed to be on stage in 30 seconds. It was panic backstage to get me out of the other costume and back in the one I was in. I made it but it was a show behind the show," Manrara said.
Two hours of non-stop dancing of all types sound boring to you? Manrara promised it won't be. "Burn the Floor is high energy and sexy," she said. Just the thing to wake you up at the end of a long day.