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Christos Tsiantoulas on the importance of saying yes: How exploring everything can get you anywhere

Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.
Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.

Christos Tsiantoulas is the kind of dancer who’s done a little bit of everything. Versatility is built into his personality – he leads with openness and curiosity. For dancers who want their careers to span the spectrum of the industry the way his has, here’s how he made it happen: say yes. To everything.

Tsiantoulas’ started his career in L.A., with an abundance of choice. He was offered contracts with three top agencies: MSA, Bloc and Go 2. He signed with Go 2, and from the sound of it, that’s the last time he considered narrowing down his options. Tsiantoulas has performed at the Grammys with Bad Bunny (multiple Grammy, Billboard, MTV and American Music awards). He’s been hired as skeleton crew for a touring ballet production with Jacky Cheung (Cantopop icon) and a drag show with drag queen Shangela (RuPaul’s Drag Race). He has danced for the Toronto Raptors basketball team, toured with the industry revered PULSE dance convention, and from there was booked on the America’s Got Talent live show in Las Vegas, among other movies, music videos, and festivals.

Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.
Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.

Even though he was well appreciated at the America’s Got Talent live show (initially hired as a hip hop dancer, then brought on to do more acts because he was skilled in multiple), he prefers the variety of gig work to extended contracts. “I was so fortunate to do that residency in Vegas, but it felt like a nine to five. To have a full-time contract, consistent income, was reassuring. But constantly being an extension of a picture where I was just another person in the ensemble – I didn’t move to the States to be hidden.” Since then, he’s lived the gig life on hyperdrive.

Tsiantoulas danced in an upcoming Brad Pitt and George Clooney movie, titled Wolves. He dances by Clooney, ensuring the actor was kept safe and on track with the choreography within all the moving parts of the big dance scene. Taking care of a star without getting in the way of their acting can be a fine line to walk; only trusted dancers are tasked with the job. 

Most recently, he starred alongside singer Jordy (named Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist by GLAAD Media Awards, also nominated for Queerty and iHeartRadioMusic Awards) in his music video for his latest single, “Second Minute Hour,” which at time of writing is sitting pretty at 107k views on YouTube. Tsiantoulas performs a heated duet with the singer, trusted with some intimate, intense and captivating choreography.

Christos Tsiantoulas with 'America's Got Talent' Live Vegas show cast for Light Balance Group.
Christos Tsiantoulas with ‘America’s Got Talent’ Live Vegas show cast for Light Balance Group.

He is also officially on faculty at the nationally esteemed Mather Dance Company, sharing his knowledge with the next generation of dancers through their summer intensive and Bridge Into The Industry program, as well as judging competitions. His strongest asset as a teacher is his blanket experience across the industry, and teaching students how to find opportunities anywhere.

For example, “When I said yes to David Archuleta,” (runner-up on the seventh season of American Idol, and winner of multiple Teen Choice Awards) “about dancing for a couple of his LoveLoud Festivals, it lead to me choreographing to his song ‘Crush’ for some spot dates at his festival. I put myself in a position where I got to ask for what I wanted.” As the saying goes, just ask – the worst they can say is no. “Or leave you on read,” Tsiantoulas jokes. “But even if I’m not the right fit, they’ll still see who I am.”

Saying yes to everything, embracing versatility as a core component, does come with its own unique drawbacks. “Since I’m trying to do a little bit of everything, it feels like I’m moving a little bit slower,” says Tsiantoulas. “I have a choreo gig here, I’m movement coaching a music artist there. I’m not with major labels yet, because I’m chipping away versus jumping on one thing. Dancers never feel like we’re doing enough.” There’s no fast track to one niche area of success, but you have more experience to pull from in anything that you do. “It’s more fulfilling. I chase feelings, experiences and people that make me feel excited.”

He continues, “I did a ballet skeleton crew,” for a concert tour with singer and actor Jacky Cheung. “And I’m not a ballet dancer, but it allowed me to be honest with myself in that, yes, I’m training everything, but I may not excel at everything.” Even in a style that wasn’t his forte, Tsiantoulas knew himself well enough as an artist to see where he would be a benefit to the choreographer. “I told the choreographer, ‘Why don’t you get somebody to replace me, and I’ll stand in as the artist?’” Doubling for Cheung, he was able to contribute to the choreography and give his creative input in a way that was most useful to the project, and most fulfilling to him.

Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.
Christos Tsiantoulas. Photo by Alissa Rose.

So saying yes brings three big benefits, whether or not the gig is your home style. Firstly, it helps you find what else you’re good at or might enjoy. Secondly, it helps you find what you’re not so good at. And third and most importantly, it helps you find what you can offer anyway.

“Maybe what I’m offering for a gig isn’t my dance ability, maybe it’s my creative input, or my skills as a choreographer, or my suggestion of other artists who might be right for the job. I’ve learned that different people have different perceptions of professionalism.” He makes the point that it’s hard to be poorly perceived when you’re respecting peoples’ time, operating out of a place of encouragement, of generosity, of ‘yes.’ “When you facilitate a positive work environment, that allows people to recommend you in the future, or extend further for you, or throw your name into rooms that you’re not even in. ”

You can follow Christos Tsiantoulas on Instagram: @christos_tsiantoulas.

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.

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