The dancers are descending on Atlantic City this weekend - and Tyce Diorio is anxious to prepare them for a reality check.
From the moment students arrive at the Atlantic City Convention Center on Saturday, Jan. 8, for The Pulse, a weekend-long hip-hop, jazz and contemporary dance event, they should be ready to show what they've got, says Diorio, a guest judge on the hit Fox series "So You Think You Can Dance." Diorio and eight other celebrity reality-TV choreographers will not only be teaching the students new dance moves; they will be watching them. Dancers who catch their teachers' eyes could earn scholarships, become future Pulse proteges or even perform with the famous choreographers.
"What we hope for is for the dancers to gain experiences and some tools for their bag for when they go out there in the real world and have to make it happen," says Diorio, who is participating in his second Pulse tour. "Because they have to take the ball and run with it and play on the court. It's up to them."
The Pulse workshop, which first came to Atlantic City in 2004, is designed to give dancers from across the country the chance to train with the industry's hottest names.
In addition to Diorio, the all-star lineup includes Emmy Award winners Mia Michaels and Wade Robson from Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance"; Brian Friedman of NBC's "America's Got Talent"; Laurie Ann Gibson, choreographer for Lady Gaga and MTV's "Making the Band"; Desmond Richardson of Complexions Dance Company; Cris Judd of Lifetime's "Your Mama Don't Dance"; Dave Scott of "Stomp the Yard" and "Step Up 3D"; and Gil Duldulao, who has worked with Janet Jackson.
The Pulse workshop offers full days of classes with the faculty members, in addition to a teachers-only private class and reception. The weekend event also features a performance showcase open to all participants, plus a question-and-answer session and photo opportunities with the choreographers.
The goal, Diorio says, is to help students learn how to better use their talent and take on new material at a quicker pace.
"We want them to gain the ability to pick up choreography in a timely manner, process it and turn it into their magic and art," says Diorio, who has danced with Jackson, Paula Abdul and Jennifer Lopez. "Because learning how to put (a dance) together in a short period of time, that's what it's like. You don't have the time."
The Pulse is a very different experience compared to a typical dance convention, Diorio says. The dancers participating are all experienced - only students ages 11 and older are accepted - and they are expected to have at least a basic dance background and keep up with the pace.
That, Diorio says, gives him the freedom to do the type of choreography he wants to do.
"The great thing about it is it doesn't feel like your typical teaching schedule at a convention," Diorio says. "It feels more like a professional choreography job, which is so great. The talent is on a different level and caliber than most conventions out there. We don't take young juniors. We have an intermediate level, advanced level and advanced pro."
"What's great about this tour is you can choreograph what you want to choreograph," Diorio says. "You raise the bar for everybody as the choreographer."
Diorio calls the tour, which includes stops in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and New York City, "one big ball of cookie dough."
"It's just so yummy, all of it," Diorio says. "We have a great time. It's not a grueling schedule - it's between four and five classes a weekend. You have a great time, dance and get to choreograph. There is a bit of pressure, because the dancers are expecting you to bring something unique to the table."
Dancers also can expect all of the fun quirks that come with working with a famous choreographer, Diorio says.
"It's fun to walk into Laurie Ann Gibson's class and hear her calling the dancers 'honey bunches of oats' or 'muffin,'" Diorio says. "You watch Mia (Michaels) choreograph with her brilliant assistants - she doesn't lower her standards for anyone. You have to rise to the occasion."
"The dancers inspire us," Diorio says. "It becomes this one big motivational day of dance. I don't even call it work, because it's art mixed with fun."
"For me, it's a privilege and an honor to be working on The Pulse. It motivates me and pushes me in my craft. That's really the best part of it. It's definitely the hottest ticket in town."
The Pulse on Tour
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 8 and 9
WHERE: Atlantic City Convention Center,
1 Convention Blvd., Atlantic City
TICKETS: Individual rate $240. Special rates for groups, studios, teams and teachers. Parents and spectators are welcome. Four different levels for dancers ages 11 and older.
INFORMATION: 877-PULSE-01, www.thepulseontour.com