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Dancer to tackle half-time show

Super Bowl will be the next project White Rock's Nico Bauman takes on.
White Rock's Nico Bauman has made leaps and bounds in many areas of entertainment

She trained as a dancer with Crescent Beach studio Joy of Movement – but it's dancing of a different kind that White Rock's Nico Bauman (nee Rivera) will be doing on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5).

She'll have her production assistant hat on at the Indianapolis Convention Centre, as part of a dedicated team that stages the half-time show for the event – headlined this year by Madonna and featuring performers from Cirque du Soleil.

It's not a new role for Bauman, 27. She worked the Super Bowl first in San Diego in 2003 when the half-time entertainment line-up included Shania Twain, Sting and No Doubt; and she was in Dallas-Fort Worth for last year's show, starring the Black-Eyed Peas, Usher and Slash.

Along the way, she's also worked on a number of other high-profile events – including the 2004 Oscars.

The Super Bowl half-time show is a high-energy gig that calls for resourcefulness, multi-tasking and trouble-shooting skills, Bauman said.

Duties can involve everything from co-ordinating groups of performers, to making sure stars are conducted safely to the stage, and patching cuts and bruises.

"I jump in wherever I'm needed," she said.

In all, it takes about a thousand people to get the show – usually about 12 minutes long – on and off the field.

"The cast is sitting tight until 'go' time," Bauman said. "The magic of it is that everything happens in real time – all these people come on the field during a commercial break and run off during a commercial break."

It's hard not to get carried along on a wave of adrenalin as you're running the cast, plus staging and sound equipment onto the field, she added.

"There's so much excitement – and the crowd roar sound –" she gave a vocal imitation – "that's really what it sounds like."

Most of all, she said, there's a sense that everyone – from headliners to every last performer on the field – is giving 150 per cent.

"The members of the marching bands are all college-age musicians," she said. "They're amazing artists who take such pride in what they do."

Bauman said she is usually brought in a few days before the show itself to the huge tent city created for the people who work on the half-time show.

It's a stage in the production when most of the pieces of the huge puzzle, including the musical headliners' performance and dancers' and band choreography have been developed independently, but have yet to fuse according to the director's vision, which is usually shrouded in secrecy right up to performance time.

"Last year, they were expanding the scope of the show up from what had been done in the past, including all these LED suits.

"I was sitting there trying to visualize what it was going to look like. Then at one point, I walked into the designers' tent and they had all the images on their computer screens. It was the first time, for me, of having the big picture."

One of the biggest thrills about working last year's show was observing the Black-Eyed Peas' own choreographer, Fatima Robertson, at work, Bauman said.

"As a dance artist, it's amazing to be present in a rehearsal with Fatima and watch her do her thing," she said.

Bauman comes to this kind of work highly qualified.

From her days as a member of Joy of Movement's Visions troupe she was developing skills not just as a dancer but as an international ambassador for the arts at such events as Dance Excellence in Los Angeles.

From there it was a logical step to audition and join the upbeat Young Americans international touring troupe.

She moved down to L.A. in 2001 right after graduating from Semiahmoo Secondary, and was a full-time member of the Young Americans for three years, after which she became a 'resident cast' member helping mentor the next generation of performers.

Through her Young Americans work she met troupe alumni Jayme and Jason Olthoff who had established themselves in high-profile special-event work with producer K.P. Terry.

With them, Bauman gained the opportunity to work on such shows as the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Awards and the International Association for Jazz Education annual conference – and the Oscars show, which she managed to squeeze in before returning to B.C. to continue her education at Trinity Western University.

On the Oscars, she was assigned to the camera co-ordination team, which meant she had to make sure that the stars were in their seats at the right time for the pre-planned audience reaction shots.

"I'm on radio and if they're moving around, it's like 'who's got eyes on Johnny Depp, who's got eyes on Clint Eastwood?'" she said.

"You've got tremendous respect for the talent, but they get the vibe when you're shuffling around that they need to get back to their seat."

Her shining moment came, Bauman said, when she was approached by Sean Connery.

"The rule is not to engage the talent, but he walked up to me and said in that voice, 'You look like you know what you're doing'. It turned out he wanted to know where the washroom was. I managed to tell him the washroom for 'really handsome gentlemen' was over there."

Although event work was put on hold while she completed her education (she now has her master's degree from Trinity Western), Bauman said she's enjoying her return to the pressure-cooker environment.

With all the individuals and egos involved in the Super Bowl half-time show, one might expect more tension between people, but it seldom materializes, Bauman said – people are far too focused on giving their all for the show.

"Show-day grace, you might call it," she said. "It's a feeling that we're in it to win it. The cast gets that vibe. Nobody likes to sit in a stadium tunnel for half an hour, chilling. But everybody's so pumped up, there's a team dynamic and unity on the day. It's beyond what we can do individually – it's something greater."

Not that Bauman has abandoned performing herself by a long chalk – as an emerging artist she's part of a new contemporary Vancouver company, Centio Dance, and is always looking for other opportunities to hone and expand her skills.

"My first love will always be the stage, but a close runner-up is making these events work. I hope it's why I'm being invited back."


About the Author: Alex Browne

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