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Actress Jenna Dewan fears she'll never top the career milestone of dancing for Janet Jackson.
The Step Up star has enjoyed movie and TV success and currently hosts Jennifer Lopez's competition show World of Dance, but she still can't believe she landed the job as one of her idol's back-up dancers.
"I basically became obsessed with Janet and wanting to dance with her when I was in high school," she tells Billboard. "Her Velvet Rope Tour was on HBO, and I watched it in my living room two inches from the TV. I was just mesmerized by her but also her dancers. I wanted to be one; that was my ultimate goal. I learned a lot of the moves by watching that.
"When I got to L.A., I auditioned for her Doesn’t Really Matter video. They were looking for just one spot, and I somehow got it. I was 19, I think. We shot the video and did a few performances, and one day after rehearsal she asked me to stay late.
"I was like, 'Ah, am I getting fired?' And then Janet in her sweet little voice was like, 'Would you wanna go on tour with me?' I just started screaming and jumping up and down. From there, I was one of her tour dancers for the All for You Tour, and danced for her for two years straight. I was a full Janet dancer."
And that meant tapping into Miss Jackson's famous generosity: "She does amazing things. She loves Anguilla, and one day in the middle of rehearsal just walked in and goes, 'Pack your bags, we're gonna rehearse in Anguilla!' So we went there for two weeks. It was surreal!"
"She’s so silly on tour," Dewan adds. "We would have sleepovers in her hotel room, play music and laugh and drink champagne... or she’d take us to the spa one day. She was sneaking me into clubs 'cause I was underage the entire tour! She just always wanted her dancers around. I think it is what makes her the most comfortable. She knows we love her, that we look out for her, and I think that’s why she’s careful who she picks."
Jenna returned to the stage with Janet in October (18), when the singer invited a group of former dancers to join her for a performance of Rhythm Nation at the Hollywood Bowl.
"It was so moving," the actress adds. "We actually all kinda cried a little bit afterwards. When do you get a full-circle moment in life like that, where you get to go recreate one of the best moments in your life again? And with all the other legacy dancers... Only Janet Jackson would be able to call every one of her dancers, and every one of us dropped everything we were doing to be at the Hollywood Bowl. That’s how much she changed all of our lives...
"She’s the pinnacle... There’s a certain respect and just like, title that she gives you; she’s the mama bear to all of us. Once a Janet dancer, always a Janet dancer."