With a list of awesome accomplishments to his name, dancer Louis Van Amstel still keeps pushing himself to the max. It is his passion for dance that has catapulted him from a small town outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, into the hearts of millions of viewers who have watched him on “Dancing with the Stars” during the last several seasons. As one of the professional dancers on the show coupled with celebrities including Kelly Osbourne, Priscilla Presley, Monique Coleman and Niecy Nash, among others, Amstel has clearly exhibited his talent, exuberance and endless energy, bringing out the best in his partners. Whether gliding, strutting or bounding across the stage, Van Amstel makes it look so easy.
Now, Van Amstel is taking his talent one step further, as part of the stage show “Ballroom with a Twist!” at the El Portal Theatre. The production, which was choreographed and directed by Van Amstel, features a rotating cast of dancers and includes a variety of ballroom dancing styles: classical, country, Latin, and more. Some of the other headliners, also familiar faces to “Dancing with the Stars” fans, include: Gilles Marini, Jonathan Roberts, Edyta Sliwinska, Alec Mazo, Anna Trebunskaya and Jane Seymour, among others.
For the past nine months, the show has been on tour throughout the United States and Canada. This is its first run in Los Angeles. It’s the “twist” that audiences really enjoy, said Van Amstel. But that’s about all he’ll say of the surprise element.
“I came up with the idea,” he explained. “And I sold it to the producer. Once he saw the effect, he agreed to it.”
Van Amstel credits his own “unpredictability” with the added dimension to the show. It’s clear to see that the entertainer in him is devoted to pleasing audiences and making sure they have as good a time watching the show, as he does performing in it. Van Amstel performs January 21, 22, and 23, with Niecy Nash in his arms, demonstrating the versatility that has become apparent in ballroom dance today.
As a youngster growing up in the Netherlands, Van Amstel began dancing when he was ten years old. Before long, he was competing on the international scene where his talent was quickly noticed. As an eminent dancer, Van Amstel has gone on to win numerous awards and championship competitions, including those sponsored by the National Dance Council of America and the International Dancesport Federation, among others.
Reaching such a pinnacle of success, comes only after arduous hours and hours of practice, and often pain. Yet Van Amstel speaks humbly of his achievements and acknowledges other people, people that surrounded him throughout his life, with helping him hone his talent. In the early years, his teacher and mentor Ruud Vermey did much to inspire Van Amstel. In the ensuing years, there were other people to take Vermey’s place.
“You have to have the right people around you,” Van Amstel said. “They saw the talent (in me) and made sure it developed. They pushed me, like a machine,” he recalled.
Indeed, Van Amstel loves dance, as well as theater. When it comes to the performing arts, his irrefutable positivity is apparent. Yet, it was only after he was faced with adversity, that his true passion took root.
“I grew up with hardship. Dance was more of an escape from what I didn’t want to see,” he recalled. “Dance was my liberation. It allowed me to speak, without saying a word.”
That negative “baggage” was soon to become a most powerful force, one that continues to motivate Van Amstel, not only to develop his own potential, but to help other people improve their own lives, too.
Promoting overall physical fitness has become a primary focus for Van Amstel. Realizing the immense popularity that ballroom dancing has gained over the last several years, with shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”, Van Amstel decided to incorporate the ballroom dance theme into his fitness program “Louis’ Dance Blast.” Besides personally teaching classes, Van Amstel is also looking to expand the concept through franchising and educational venues. His goal is to enable participants to get fit, have fun, and enjoy dancing, even when a dance partner isn’t available.
Among Van Amstel’s other concerns is his commitment to organizations that promote equality such as GLSEN, and his involvement in the NOH8 campaign. He is an advocate for organizations like GLSEN because he sees the ridiculousness of discrimination and bullying. “We need to promote a safer, all-inclusive society,” he said.
Words of wisdom from a consummate entertainer…with a positive twist.
(“Ballroom with a Twist!” opens January 19 and runs through February 13. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays, with two performances on Saturdays. El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601. Click here to purchase tickets.)