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W.Va. native Sara Bivens is a backup dancer for Nicki Minaj

March 10, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Sara Bivens, who is originally from Martinsburg, W.Va., has lived in L.A. since 2011. She has danced with Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Usher and Chris Brown.
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LOS ANGELES — Martinsburg, W.Va., native Sara Bivens has the "boom, daboom, boom."

Or least on the days when she's dancing backup for rapper, singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj.

Currently, while Minaj is a judge of "American Idol," Bivens is on a small hiatus as she waits for the tour to resume.

In the meantime, the professional dancer had a chance to carve out some time to chat about her life in Los Angeles and the job that has been taking her all over the world.

"I started dancing at Tari Jo's Dance Studio (in Inwood, W.Va.), when I was about 3," she said during a telephone interview from her Burbank, Calif., home. "It wasn't really my choice, but my mom and dad's choice."

But there was something about dancing that Bivens said, "I just fell in love with it." She maintained dancing all through middle school and high school and thought it to be a "really great hobby."

By the time she reached high school, Bivens said she started to approach dance more seriously.

However, she still had her dreams set on a more practical career such as physical therapy. That's until she and her boyfriend, Trent Reid, visited his older brother, Thad, at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

"And I just fell in love with the idea that I could keep dancing and make a career out it," she said. "I never realized I could do that."

For two years she went to school for dance, and then made the move in 2011 to the Los Angeles area.

"And I've been dancing ever since," she said.

Bivens said she decided on LA because growing up she had attended conventions and competitions where she met a lot of choreographers from LA.

"I just wanted to come out to LA because I knew this is where the stars were, this is Hollywood, this is where your dreams come true," she said. "So I figure I'd give it a shot."

Her first professional LA job was dancing at the U.S. Open Surfing Competition. She was hired by Hurley.

It took her about six months of working and dancing hard before she got in front of Minaj.

"I really wanted to go on tour," she said. "And I had gotten the call to go and audition for Nicki."

Bivens said Minaj hand-picked all of the dancers who went out on tour with her.

"I was really lucky and blessed to get that," she said.

When she got the call to audition, Bivens said she was excited because she was a fan of Minaji's music.

"She's someone I've looked up to in the music industry," she said. "I listen to her all the time. So when I got the call, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is perfect. I love the music, and I can listen to it over and over and over again and not get sick of it."

There were between 700 and 1,000 dancers there at the audition, Bivens said, and Minaj only auditioned females for her on tour.

Minaj wasn't in the room at first when Bivens auditioned, but came in later. Bivens said sometimes the stars come to the auditions, sometimes they don't, so she didn't know what to expect.

"When she walked into the room I remember thinking, 'Oh my gosh, Nicki Minaj is here.' And that was huge."

Bivens said she fought her way to get picked. She said she had to freestyle dance first to show her improv skills. And then had to learn a dance combination to "Super Bass" and dance with four others in front of Minaj.

At the end, Bivens said there were only six ladies left. And Minaj started to ask more personal questions of the dancers.

"She had pulled me aside when I was packing up my bags to leave, it was like 1 in the morning," Bivens said. "She said, 'Make sure your schedule is clear for the next couple of months because you'll be getting a call to go on tour with me.'"

Bivens said she didn't trust it until she was actually in rehearsals.

The first tour she danced with Minaj was for The Pink Friday Femme Fatale Tour with Britney Spears in 2011. Bivens said she was on the road for four months, and then it's been on and off the road.

"I feel like I love touring," she said. "It feels like it's a general statement, but the best part about tour is the fans and performing for them, the energy from the crowd every night. How when you go out the crowd roars so loud that you can't even hear the music. You can't even hear the music in an arena overtop the people screaming. I got goosebumps up my spine because it was so crazy."

When they're home, she's performed with Minaj on "The Today Show" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" to name just a few. But right now, they're on break as Minaj is with "Idol."

During that time, Bivens said she's not under an exclusive contract so she has danced with Justin Bieber, Usher and Chris Brown for one-time performances.

"I keep auditioning, taking classes and waiting for the next job,"

Bivens said she isn't sure if she plans on returning with Minaj when she goes back on the road because she wants to do more things locally in LA.

As for her future, Bivens is thinking about teaching. She had the chance to come home to the area and teach classes, including some classes at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

"I feel like I've really done a lot that I'd never thought I would do," she said.  "To say I have more goals, I do, but I've accomplished so much. I see a different life by giving back and teaching is ultimately what I want to do."


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