A Little Star

Tiny dancer, Breena Bell,  sees one round of America’s Got Talent as just the first stop to a career in dance.

Written by Jesse Chambers  Photographed by Beau Gustafson

A lot of little girls take dance classes, but very few appear on national television. Breena Bell of Lincoln, Ala., did, performing on America’s Got Talent in 2011. Breena, age 9, whose specialty is acro-dance, a style that blends dance with gymnastics and flexibility, was eliminated from AGT after one live appearance. However, she received encouragement from the judges, and far from being an ending, her appearance was, she hopes, only the beginning of a show business career.

B-Metro spoke to Breena during one of her afternoon classes at Linda Dobbins Dance in Mountain Brook. Joining us were Breena’s mom, Tammy, and her coach, Anna Marie Dobbins, who is the daughter of studio owner Linda Dobbins. The diminutive Breena seems very much at home in the studio, which is filled with the sounds of music and the chatter of dancers in other classes. She spends much of our interview hanging, sometimes upside down, from a set of gymnastics rings.

She says she can’t even remember not wanting to dance. “I liked to dance around the house a lot, and my mom and dad finally signed me up for dance,” she says.

Breena was five years old at the time. According to Tammy, Breena told her, “’When I don’t hear music, I’m sad on the inside,’ so we decided then that we would not take music or dance away from her.” Tammy and her husband, Patrick, both quit smoking so they would have the money for the classes. Now in her second year at the Dobbins studio, which she attends four days a week, Breena studies all styles of dance, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop and contemporary.

Performing for audiences makes Breena feel good. “I just feel like I’m letting out all my energy on stage,” she says. “The energy feels like I’m letting out everything… like problems.” And she adds, “I get to show my emotions.”

Breena says that she enjoys the effect she has on people when she performs. Does she like getting the attention, we ask? “Well, I do and I don’t,” she says. “I don’t have to have the attention, but when I’m on stage, I like to have the attention of people watching me.”

Breena also does some contortionist tricks, such as putting both feet above her head. She discovered this ability during her first year in dance and used it as part of her number on AGT.

The young dancer’s journey to AGT began in Atlanta, where she made it through a few rounds of auditions before being eliminated. However, Tammy says. “They encouraged her to make a YouTube video.” AGT picked 20 videos for online voting—from about a million submitted—and Breena was voted one of 12 semi-finalists by the show’s fans, so she made the trip to Hollywood.

“We got a phone call, and they asked us to be on a plane in two hours to go out to L.A.,” Tammy says.

Breena has had other opportunities to learn about show business. She and other dancers from the Dobbins studio went to Scotland this summer to perform in the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. She took part in master classes at the studio with cast members of the musical Wicked and with the artistic director of Canadian circus troupe Cirque Du Soleil.

Breena wants to be part of Cirque Du Soleil someday. What would she like to do with the famed troupe? “Probably the hand balancing and the silks, and trampoline,” she says.

“A lot of parents would freak out if their kids said they want to join the circus,” Tammy says, laughing.

“But it’s actually a good career if you have the talent,” Anna says.

The diminutive Breena can go far, according to Anna. “She has great ability that not many dancers are born with, and she works hard and has a lot of drive,” Anna says. “She’s very smart for being young. She takes corrections. She learns every style. As a dancer, you can go far if you learn every style, plus having flexibility is a bonus. She’s a little star.”

Breena enjoys the long hours at the studio. “If I stay here longer, I get to dance longer and learn more stuff,” she says. “The more stuff I learn, the better I get, and the more successful I’ll be.”

Her brother, Tyler, age 16, is a big encouragement, and he and Patrick help Breena learn trampoline flips at home in Lincoln. Lori Maddox at Dobbins Dance also coaches Breena. She plans to go to Chicago and New York next year with other dancers from the studio. In New York, Breena and others will have the chance to work with choreographers from Broadway shows and TV’s So You Think You Can Dance.

And she will surely continue to perform.

“The first time she ever performed in front of an audience, she ran offstage and ran into my arms and looked at me and said, ‘I want to do it again,’” Tammy says. “And she has kept doing it again and again.”


2 Responses to “A Little Star”

  1. Christy Anthony says:

    I know this young stars family and have had the honor of watching her do some stunts and dance because her MiMi ask her to show me. She is amazing and will go very far! She’s a face and name to remember and to look out for! CONGRATS BREENA!

  2. Jim Chambers says:

    Wonderful article, will show it to my grand daughter to help encourage her to remain in dance class.

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