Belgian Ballet Dancer to Gay Icon: A closer look at BDC’s Salim “Slam” Gauwloos

It’s Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. New York City–especially Broadway Dance Center–is celebrating love loud and proud by walking in the Pride March again and hosting special Pride March fundraiser classes. Amidst all this joy, pride, and celebration, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come (and also how far we still have to go) in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights and respect.  

The arts reflect life, and the dance world has often ignited social change (Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey are but two choreographic changemakers that come to mind). It’s not quite a surprise, then, to know that the dance community had a huge influence on making “gay” visible, accepted, and mainstream.

BDC Works: AntBoogie

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Anthony “AntBoogie” Rue II has been an innovative leader in the entertainment industry. After founding the AmountBoyz and touring with Madonna, AntBoogie set his sights on training the next generation of dancers by starting Urban Dance League. We got the chance to speak with the fashion-forward entrepreneur to learn more about his experiences and what it takes to be a successful working artist.

What was your dance training like growing up?

My introduction to dance was very interesting. One day, I wanted to avoid math class so I took a chance on a dance class with National Dance Institute. This organization—founded by New York City Ballet Principal Jacques d’Amboise—offers dance instruction to thousands of New York City public school children each year. They invited me to join their program and that was the beginning of my life in dance. During the year, we focused on free movement, choreography, and performance. Over the summer, we learned ballet, tap and jazz.

When did you begin auditioning and training?

I started taking dance classes with National Dance Institute around nine or ten years old, and began auditioning for professional work around sixteen.

Can you tell us about Urban Dance League?

Urban Dance League (UDL) is a professional sports league of organized street-dance competitions, classes, and showcases based on the idea that “Dancers are Athletes.” UDL presents professional dancing in the same arena as the professional sports and athletic world. Sports, by
Antboogie_7definition, are all forms of competitive physical activity, which through casual or organized participation aim to use, maintain, or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. To be a professional dancer is to do and be all of these things. Dancers train for years while investing countless hours training in sessions, classes, and rehearsals. They hone their craft, exercise all physical capabilities, and sometimes defy them by pushing past the limits of the human body. Dancers withstand injuries and endure both treatment and rehabilitation. 

What qualities do you look for when hiring dancers?

Each job is different, so it depends on what project I’m working on. The dancers that are sure of themselves stand out to me; not over-the-top arrogant dancers, but someone who has that look in their eyes telling me they’re ready to work. The ability to freestyle is also very important to me. I want someone who isn’t intimidated to move freely, not someone who just does tricks. I also look for dancers that are in great shape. I think being in shape shows discipline and dedication, which are qualities everyone respects.

How would you tell dancers to prepare for UDL tryouts?

A great way to prepare for an Urban Dance League tryout is to watch footage of our previous games. You can get a feel of the different styles coaches throw at players. Come ready to dance with everything you’ve got, and leave all fears outside once you step on the floor.

Do you have any upcoming events you want people to know about?

The next UDL tryouts will be Sunday, September 28 at Broadway Dance Center. The final battle for the UDL competition on BET’s 106 & Park is September 29.

You are one of the founding members of the AmountBoyz. How would you say the group impacted the dance community?

Most of the group was formed in LaGuardia High School (the “Fame” School). While in school, we toured and performed on shows like Soul Train, TRL, The Ricki Lake Show, The Jenny Jones Show, 106 & Park. People loved the way we danced, and we started to generate a huge following. It was new to see a group of guys at that age at our level.

Many dancers today still come up to me and tell me about the first time they saw the AmountBoyz perform on TV—how it made them want to start dancing and move to NYC. It gave dancers a group to look up to before dance shows were popular. There was no social media or websites to host your videos for free. We had to pay for bandwidth to allow people to see our talent.

Our dedication to being the best and to each other inspired many. To this day, you can’t find many groups that stick together as long as we have. Our resume as a group is extensive. To say people wouldn’t believe how much work came from the AmountBoyz would be an understatement. Our 20th anniversary will be in 2016.

What advice do you have for people who are trying to start their own dance companies?

The first thing they should figure out is the goal of the company. If you’re paying taxes on your company, then you need to have a real plan for what you want to do. If you are looking to display your work, I would form a group first before investing money into creating a company. Dance companies need dancers that are dedicated. Without dedicated dancers, your work will not be able to form into something profitable.

You danced for Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour. What was that experience like? How did you get that opportunity?

I originally went to Madonna’s audition to hang out with her choreographers, Rich and Tone Talauega. After seeing their routine, I was ready to dance. I wasn’t signed in, but they asked me to jump in and try out the choreography. Rich and Tone are some of the best people to work with, so I did what they said! And the rest is history.

I was given the opportunity to travel the world and dance at the age of 25. I also got to choreograph my two solos with Madonna. This was a great time in my life. I believe it’s still the highest selling tour to date, so you can imagine the amount of people we performed in front of every night. You needed to be super focused on her stage, because it was very dangerous. If you didn’t pay attention to moving parts of the stage, you could lose a body part or your life. I learned a great deal about responsibility and being held accountable as not just a dancer, but also an adult.

We know that you’re also a rapper and MC! How does your music differ from other music out there now?

I don’t like most of the Hip-Hop music being created today. It’s very negative and only plays to one side of our culture. My music is different because I love dance. My energy and musical choices reflect that love of dance.

What are the steps to producing and recording a mix-tape?

The key things you want to have when creating a mix-tape are a good quality microphone and studio. The music cannot sound like you recorded it on your Casio. I would recommend hiring a producer who is also an engineer so that he can equalize and master your recordings. Hire a great artist to create your cover art. Research which blogs and websites cater to your sound, and send them a digital copy.

antboogie_4If a movie were produced about your life, who would play you and why?

I’m 32 but look younger, so I would probably have to find someone who could dance, rap, and look young at the same time. I’m not sure who I could get. I don’t think there is any actor that could pull off the size of the stars on my head.

What do you think has been the most challenging obstacle you’ve had to face in this industry?

I run into my biggest problems when working with people that don’t understand the value of what I do. A lot of the industry does not respect our craft. That is one reason why I created Urban Dance League. I wanted to create a business that would force the market to value our craft. Somebody has to get their hands dirty, and plant seeds to make some changes. So I backed away from gigs, because at the end of the day, my gigs didn’t do anything for the next generation of performers. What I have done for dancers in two years with Urban Dance League is more impressive to me than anything on my resume.  

Any other projects you have in the works that dancers should know about?

I have a couple videos and performances coming up with Urban Dance League. If they would like to stay connected with us, they can visit our website

Longchamp scores a SLAM-dunk

Contemporary jazz teacher, Slam, has made his mark on nearly every aspect of the industry from documentary film to the Broadway stage and from international pop tours to memorable TV commercials.  If you’ve watched television or opened a fashion magazine in the past year and a half, you’ve probably seen Longchamp’s campaign starring Coco Rocha.  And who else would be the mastermind behind the movement than BDC’s own Slam!

slamWhat was your dance training like growing up?

I started training to be a classical dancer at age 13. I went to the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp, a school with total of only 100 students.  We danced all day and then had 2 hours of academics – Kind of like the Fame school but just for ballet. It was very strict but I’m very happy I did it because it actually made me the dancer that I am today and taught me to be disciplined. Growing up, I would also take a lot of Jazz dance classes at night. But before dancing, I had a big passion for gymnastics. I was obsessed with Nadia Comaneci…but then realized guys don’t get music on the floor exercise so that was a deal breaker for me.

img_1164When did you begin auditioning and teaching?

I guess I started auditioning at age 13 because I had to audition to get into the ballet school. But my first real audition for work I would say was at age 19.  I used to love going to dance auditions, I remember when I didn’t have the money for class I would just go to auditions to stay in shape – it’s free class!  I started giving classes a couple years after, but the actual teaching the classes came much later.

How did you land the job as choreographer for the Longchamp commercial?

Madonna called them. Just kidding!  The ad agency approached me.  They saw some of my previous work in fashion – Wella, German Vogue, and my recent Glamour Issue with Anne Hathaway – and they were aware of my work.  So the producer contacted me and I had a couple meetings with them, I also had a dance rehearsal with Coco Rocha (who happens to be an amazing dancer and we clicked right away).  Everything kind of fell in its place and all of our creative energies totally worked together. I’m also sure my expertise in working with women and making them look beautiful was a big help, too. I have experience choreographing a lot fashion productions.  In April we just wrapped my second season with Longchamp, shot in NYC with Coco.  I think they released some photos of the print ad already and the commercial should be out soon. Stay tuned!

From a choreographer’s standpoint how’s choreographing a commercial different from choreographing a live performance?

It is different but I enjoy both!  Choreographing a commercial feels a little bit busier, more spontaneous because half of the time you are still choreographing on set (as it becomes more of a meeting of the minds with the art director). But I like that; I like that nervous energy and constantly changing energy. And also when shooting film, you have more options as far as editing.  As a choreographer you can make different versions and edits.  It is stressful, though, with all the different voices on set. But overall, it’s pretty amazing.

Choreographing a live performance feels more structured.  The rehearsal schedule is set up upfront.  When you have organized rehearsals I feel like you have more time to play around with choreography and also get to know the performers more.  It feels a little more intimate to me because you get to connect with your audience on an almost spiritual level.  And what I love about a live performance is its honesty, it’s either good or bad – there’s no editing process!

img_0519What was it like working with models like Coco Rocha and Liisa Winkler?

Amazing! They were both a pleasure.

Lisa comes from a dance background as well; she used to be a ballet dancer in a ballet company in Canada. I liked her innocence.  I didn’t even get to rehearse with her in a studio –  She flew in from Canada straight to JFK terminal 5 where we shot the Longchamp “You Should Be Dancing” commercial! We only rehearsed on set but she did great.

Working with Coco is amazing too, I always call her “the Martha Graham of modeling.” She does it all.  Coco takes amazing direction and it is incredible to work with a true supermodel. And on top of all that she’s the sweetest and most humble person.

Coco has danced before – she was an Irish dancer growing up and she has danced in commercials for Black House White Market and in flash mobs for Fashion’s Night Out. How do you think dance experience helps one as a model?

Everything is movement these days.  As you’ve probably heard, “In fashion, one day you’re in and the next day you are out!”

So if you are a model with dance experience, like in Coco’s case, you’re going to work more. I think it’s going to be more inspiring for the photographer and the client to have a model who can play different parts through her movement and follow direction. But then again, I also like working with models that can’t move at all!  It becomes a challenge for both of us. There’s something raw about their dance inexperience and it captures a different (but still good) energy. I actually encourage  a lot of models – both aspiring and established –  to take a dance class… it’ll most definitely help them out on set, at a casting or anywhere they need to “move.”

I saw you on this season of “The Face” where you led models in a dance/movement challenge. What did you look for when you chose the winner of that challenge?

This was actually a great opportunity to show how dance influences fashion these days.  I looked at each model’s energy, how quickly she picked up direction, her willingness to learn, and her inspiration.  But as it turned out, the girls that had a harder time moving (but still sort of went for it and threw themselves into the challenge) actually photographed great!

0Is choreographing for models different than choreographing for dancers since you have to focus on featuring a specific product?

Yes it is different with models.  The product is the most important. You will have a really good take of a dance section but the product (in this case, the purse) wasn’t turned the right way or flap wasn’t facing up. So a lot times they go with the take we’re the product looked the best and maybe the performance was a bit less.  I must say the energy on a fashion set is different then on a film commercial set with dancers In Fashion there are no rules, you just go!  For example, you will start at 9am until 3am and the next day you start again at 9am again!  But the choreography itself is basically still a creation from the choreographer… so the difference  between choreographing for models  is that you are choreographing around a specific product or message. In dance, you are a bit freer as an artist to take the audience where you want to go.

Check out the television commercials here:
“You Should Be Dancing”
The Making of “You Should Be Dancing”