Theyr’e dancers—and entrepreneurs. Meet The Connection, the latest professional dance group in Los Angeles.
The Connection aims to be a new model for dancers who quickly discover the reality of life in the industry: Continuous work is by no means guaranteed.
The group, which ranges from five to seven members depending on schedules, are committed to balancing their artistic dreams with financial security. Their trick is working for themselves in dance and outside of it, in industries such as real estate.
The group met in 2008 when former “Dancing with the Stars” pro Louis van Amstel put together a touring show that combined the show’s pros with those of “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol.”
They toured together for five to six years, then seven of the members, Patricia Kaniowski, Tony Pututau, CJ Blair, Randi Strong, Jonathan “Legacy” Perez, Oksana Dmytrenko and Jonathan Platero formed a natural “connection.” They realized they were each able to channel different strengths to form one cohesive and diverse group.
In 2016 and 2017, they formalized the group, launching a website and their first promotional video to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic.”
“We’re always being hired out to go make money for other people,“ said b-boy Legacy. “Why not create a business, learn the processes and systems that we’ve learned to create our real estate business, apply the same principals, teach everybody else, make a dance business of it, be hired out as a group…pave our own way and then create our own future.”
Legacy and his life partner, ballroom dancer Patricia Kaniowski, who is referred to as “Dance Captain” for her ability to clean up all of the movements, maintain a real estate business. Legacy made it to the position of Top 8 during Season 6 of “So You Think.”
But being on the show also had an unintended consequence.
“Everybody thought I had made it big time, so nobody called me to hire me,” said Legacy. “That happened for about six to eight months, and then I was street performing in order to compensate.”
After turning his life around, he became a motivational speaker and continues that work as well.
Within The Connection, he brings street style, and the plan is that each member not only brings their own style, but teaches their style to the others.
“You don’t have to be the best at it,” says Randi Strong, a ballroom dancer who stages the shows. “Just know how to do it and [when] performing, sell it.”
Strong got her start on Season 5 of “So You Think,” where she made it to the Top 10. She currently manages her own production company and generates ideas for The Connection.
“Our number one goal is to make a connection with the audience,” says Strong. “We’re all at home on stage. It’s exciting, it’s energetic. People connect with dance.”
Because of the dancers’ varying strengths, their shows are a combination of contradicting styles, including street, ballroom and contemporary, with plenty of tricks. And the variety in height among the dancers, including CJ and Tony who are both well-over six feet tall, does not make coordinating the movements easy.
Oksana Dytrenko and husband Jonatahn Platero (who participate as schedules allow) used to do the majority of the choreographing, including the promo video, but have since branched out to work on separate projects adding to The Connection’s list of challenges.
Tony Pututau and his life partner CJ Bair are both ballroom dancers from Provo, Utah. They design all of the costumes for the group and have a home staging business, working closely with Legacy and Kaniowski.
Despite all the growing non-dance businesses, the group remains committed to what they see as their primary goal — creating a platform to keep dancing.
“There’s so many dancers, you have to learn how to really stand out and make it happen for yourself,” says Kaniowski. “As we’ve gotten more professional, I’ve wanted something a little more stable. With this group we’re able to do it more because we love it and not just because we have to pay rent.”