Maxine Hupy Dances Toward the Top
A dance obsession leads to collaborations with music superstars.
It was the eve of her third birthday, and Maxine Hupy excitedly settled into her seat; ready to watch her very first dance performance. The East Side native’s heart quickly started thumping as the lights of the theater dimmed, music began pulsing, and the night’s performers traipsed across the stage.
Little Maxine’s eyes glazed over with wonder as she watched the dancers synchronically twisting, coiling, and bouncing to the beat. The colors, the costumes, the makeup and hair… she’d never seen anything like it.
Moments later, so hypnotized by the performance as she was, she popped out of her chair, slid past her mother and grandma and toddled her way towards the front of the stage. As the story goes, she plopped her chin on the apron and gazed up at the sweat glistened dancers above her. Impervious to the audience at her back, Hupy began dancing right along with them, bopping along to the music. Her mother and grandma took one look at the happy little girl and knew what they had to do next. Within a few days Hupy was in line to join the Milwaukee Ballet, the only dancing school accepting three-year-olds at that time.
Hupy, the daughter of Suzanne and Michael F. Hupy of Milwaukee law firm Hupy and Abraham, took to dance like a fish to water. Soon it became the biggest facet of her life, attending dance classes six to seven days a week. She landed her first major performance at the age of 13, becoming the youngest performer to play Marie in the Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker. Life, she says, soon became a juggling routine of sorts; balancing school with her busy dance schedule.
“In high school I would train on weekends, which left little time for anything else. I never went to any parties… I would go to class, do some homework, and go back to dance. In summers I would even go away to ballet school. When you want to be a ballet dancer you have to have dedication. But every day I looked forward to it,” Hupy explains.
“During that time the TV show So You Think You Can Dance got really popular. I thought to myself, I could do those other styles. So I joined a dance company in Chicago where we did stepping and things like banging on trash cans. I’ve even twerked, though probably unsuccessfully,” chuckles Hupy.
That Chicago dancing experience opened her to the broader dance community and soon Hupy swapped her Windy City residence for a place in sunny Los Angeles. Highly competitive and extremely small, the dance community in Hollywood remains one of the hardest places to break into. Her first job was as a production assistant. But wherever she ended up, Hupy noticed her Milwaukee roots still remained a part of her life.
“It’s funny, I found myself gravitating towards Midwesterners a lot. It feels homey, comfortable and easy. LA can sometimes be really scary and daunting. But just like Milwaukee is such a strong community, I have developed my own little community with my friends and who I like to work with.”
While in LA, Hupy also joined two dance companies, one specializing in Bollywood dancing. Then her agent turned her on to an audition for a spot as a backup dancer for CeeLo Green’s tour, “CeeLo Green Presents Loberace.” Green, best known for his 2010 single “Forget You,” would take up a two-month Las Vegas residency at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The tour was described as, “an electrifying, musical journey into the colorful world of CeeLo’s brainchild, “LOBERACE,” with CeeLo’s flamboyant sense of style and over-the-top creativity, 3-D graphics, surprise appearances, and ten amazingly talented (and flexible) female dancers that are sure to make you blush.” Hupy booked it, and was quickly plunged into the production. Green, Hupy says, made the experience a happy one.
“He is so great. CeeLo treats everybody as an artist. He’s great because he’s really good with improv. If someone in the audience isn’t giving energy, he will react to it. We all became pretty close because we only had a month of rehearsals before the show and then we had two weeks of rehearsals in Vegas before the show started. We were on stage four nights a week for seven weeks.”
Since the tour, Hupy has gone on to tour Europe twice and Singapore after being hand-selected by Green for his international tour. She has starred in the YouTube dance series “Dance Showdown” which is similar to ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” choreographed the “You Make Me” music video for international DJ Avicii, and has been featured in several commercials. More recently, her talents landed her a backup dancing position at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards alongside rapper Iggy Azalea (of hit song “Fancy” fame) and singer Rita Ora for their song, “Black Widow.”
Just like her three year old self dancing along to the beat of the performance, Hupy owes much of her success to her own fans, and fans of dance.
“Many times when performing I’m in such a state that I don’t always remember what‘s happening. It’s an adrenaline rush. You have fans there and you feed off of their energy. You’re out there and people are watching you perform this art form, a combination of your work up to that point,” Hupy says. “Every performance is unique, whether it is a sold out stadium, or a more intimate show. It’s all about the connections you make with the people in the audience.”