A group of young dancers watched intently as their choreographer eased them through the steps of a fast-paced routine at a Levittown studio.
The routine was no small feat. It was set to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” performed by actress Heather Morris on “Glee” and performed on stages around the world during the "Glee" summer tour.
Teaching them the dance was Courtney Galiano, an alum from “So You Think You Can Dance” and who performed on the Glee tour.
“I had eight hours to learn this,” Galiano told the girls. “You have, oh, about 40 minutes. No pressure.”
The girls laughed, loosened up and then tried it themselves.
“That was amazing,” Galiano said, encouraging them. “But now what I want you to do is totally let go. Go crazy. Have fun. I’m only here for one night!”
Galiano, a Long Island native living and working as a professional dancer in Los Angeles, was visiting area dance studios this week while she was home for the holidays and doling out professional choreography lessons and advice.
Marilyn Levine, co-director of 5678 Dance in Levittown, said she was thrilled to have Galiano visit the studio because she’s such a great role model for her students.
“I’ve been watching Courtney on TV since she started with ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and I just love her,” she said. “The important thing about Courtney is she just gives and gives and gives.”
Levine said Galiano’s visit to the studio Wednesday night was her second. She also came to the studio the week before and talked with the girls for two hours about being a professional dancer.
Galiano, 23, won fourth place on Season 4 of the Fox TV show and returned as an All-Star for Season 7. During the summer, she danced in the "Glee" worldwide tour and has also danced on the show. She’s also director of a traveling dance convention, called The Beat, that she’ll bring to Long Island in January and which the girls at 5678 Dance will also attend.
At the studio on Wednesday, Galiano said in addition to the Spears routine, she did improv exercises with the students and talked to them about conveying emotions through dance.
Olivia Tonis, 11, of Levittown, said she was inspired by Galiano and learning the difficult routine. She also enjoyed talking to Galiano about being a dancer.
“It was cool because I got to learn about other things and not just dance,” said Tonis, who has been dancing since she was 2 and aspires to dance professionally.
Galiano, who grew up in Levittown and Commack, said it was a great experience to be able to share her passion.
“It’s kind of full circle,” she said. “Growing up here, and then coming back and getting to share gratitude for dance.”