July 14, 2008

Pittston Native Puts on Dancing Shoes for TV Show

By Caleb Sheaffer, The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Jul. 14--Pittston native Alicia Duque has a habit of being busy.

So it was not shocking to Duque, 22, that she graduated college on a Thursday, packed up her belongings and moved out of her apartment on a Friday, and then flew to California the next day to tape a show for her prime-time television debut.

That debut -- on the ABC show "Dance Machine" -- will air Friday at 8 p.m. "Dance Machine" is a new show this summer that features six dancers battling against each other for a chance at $100,000.

For the show, producers enlisted ordinary people who happen to be great dancers. During the course of an episode, the six contestants have a dance-off, and the studio audience votes off contestants. The show ends with the final two contestants battling for the prize money and earning the title of that night's "Dance Machine."

Duque, and her family, must stay quiet about the outcome of the show until it airs. Rehearsal for the show lasted three weeks, before the contestants taped the show in front of a live studio audience.

When she went to California to tape the show in January, Duque took her family, including her parents, Mary and Samuel Duque; her brother, Bob O'Donnell of Avoca; her nieces, Elizabeth and Kaitlyn Hastings; her nephew, Andrew Foster; her cousin, Billy Yuhas; her sister, Robin Foster, and her brother-in-law, Richard Foster.

When Duque auditioned for the show late last year, she felt nervous, waiting with three other women, all gorgeous. But, during the try-out, she shook everything she could shake in all the right places, and danced her heart out. She was asked back to meet the executive producer, who in turn asked her to be a contestant on the show.

"Initially, when I got cast for it, nobody would believe me. Most people's misconceptions of me are I am a big girl and that I can't dance," Duque said. "I think it was a shocker that my dreams are coming true."

Although Duque participated in talent shows at Pittston Area High School and studied dance off and on at local studios, she started to discover her talents for acting and comedy improvisation in college. At the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Duque worked on short films, and even produced her own show, "The Alicia Duque Show." Duque's parents run ADS Drycleaners, on Main Street in Luzerne. Because the family owns the business, and Alicia used to work there, all of the customers want to know about the show.

Her mother, Mary, was not surprised her daughter is pursuing a career in show business. Whenever Mary Duque had the camera out, Alicia Duque always found a way to get herself in the picture, even when she was a child.

"She is a go-getter," Mary Duque said. "She'd like to have her own talk show. With the way she is going maybe some day she will, and then mom can retire."

Her mom said it was shocking that Alicia made it on a dancing show, especially because she only studied dance for a short time. Duque mostly learned to dance by her intuition, and moving with the music, not formal training.

During the rehearsals for "Dance Machine," Duque worked with choreographers for Janet Jackson as well as Miranda Garrison, the assistant choreographer for "Dirty Dancing."

"'Dirty Dancing' has been a monumental movie in my mind, so to work with the assistant choreographer from the movie was amazing. I'm crazy for (Patrick) Swayze," Duque said with a laugh. "I've watched it literally 84 or 94 times. I am not kidding."

Regardless of how "Dance Machine" turns out, Duque is glad to have competed on the show, and she hopes it opens more doors in show business.

"It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for anybody, but for somebody who wants to be in the industry like me, it was phenomenal," Duque said.

[email protected], 570-821-2083

Duque recently graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in digital media productions. In addition to her acting, she has modeled for "All You," a women's magazine sold at Wal-Mart. Just last week, Duque moved to Philadelphia, to work for a talent casting agency. But her true aspirations lie in the stage and screen.


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