Wednesday 9 October 2013

Abe Hefter turns to teaching and assumes limited role as radio host

Longtime Montreal sportscaster Abe Hefter has assumed a limited role on local Bell Media radio stations in order to devote most of his energy to teaching.

Hefter, for years a fixture with CJAD Sports,   recently accepted a full-time appointment at Concordia University in the Department of Journalism as a lecturer and undergraduate program director. " I had been teaching at Concordia for about a dozen years, part-time, initially within Continuing Education and, more recently, within the journalism department," he says. " I enjoyed being back at school  so much I decided to head back to the classroom as a student: I'm working towards my MA in Journalism Studies at Concordia."

Abe Hefter
Hefter says he quickly developed a passion for teaching , "the same passion I have for radio. So when the opportunity came up to teach, full-time, at Concordia, I went for it.  It's been an amazing experience: incredibly rewarding."

For Hefter,  what has been doubly rewarding is the fact that he has  been able to continue to connect with Montreal radio listeners as the host of TSN 690's weekend morning show: The Locker Room. He is  on from 7 am to  9 a.m. "It's been a blast talking sports and sharing the airwaves with the very talented likes of Amanda Stein, Eric Thomas, Robyn Flynn and Dave Kaufman," he says. "At Concordia and TSN 690, I've been able to enjoy the best of both worlds." 

Hefter is also part of the Habs pre-game show on the weekends with Flynn.

Hefter joined CJAD  in January of 2002. He was with the former CJFM/FM 96 from 1981 to 1985 before departing for Vancouver.

Sunday 6 October 2013

An absolutely amazing So You Think You Dance 2013 Tour show in Montreal

I have seen a lot of live shows in my time, but few will ever measure up to the So You Think You Can Dance 2013 Tour stop at the Bell Centre on Sunday, October 6. Earlier in the day I had an exclusive opportunity to interview the top 10 performers. Only three members of the media attended this press conference, so I found myself with unprecedented access to such a group of reality show superstars.

The group was composed of female and male first place finishers Amy Yakima as well as Du-Shaunt Fik-Shun Stegall, Aaron Turner,  Jasmine Harper,  Hayley Erbert, Jenna Johnson, Makenzie Dustman, Nico Greetham, Paul Karmiryan  and Tucker Knox.

Here I am with Jasmine, Aaron, Amy and Fik-Shun.

What a fine group of young men and women, each of them still pinching themselves over the celebrity status they have inherited as a result of being on the hit Fox and CTV program.

Including intermission, the show was just over two hours and the crowd loved every minute of it. This was high level entertainment, a superpbly choreographed series of routines from the get go. On this night the Bell Centre was configured into a smaller theatre, carving out about two thirds of their capacity and leaving a cozy 6,000 seat venue. It was perfect from the  get go as the top 10 dancers, accompanied by a small supporting cast of others from this season, entered the stage from the floor level and the song “Putting on the Ritz.”
With Makenzie and Paul.

While the charismatic Nigel Lythgoe, producer and judge for the show, was not in Montreal, we saw him all evening long on the beautiful big screen behind the stage. An early highlight was the introduction of the top 10 to thunderous applause, followed by Fik-Shun and Amy delivering opening remarks. There were many francophones in the audience and with apologies to Premier Pauline Marois and her gang from the PQ government, not a word of French was spoken. Nobody seemed to care.  This was all about the international language of dance.

When So You Think You Can Dance Canada was on the air here on CTV, two cross-Canada tours took place: one at the Place des Arts and another at the Bell Centre. The reception for the Quebec dancers was incredible. I wondered how wild the crowd would go for the Americans, making their first appearance here. Well, it was huge. The numbers were draw jopping, the costumes superb and the flow of the show just right. There was not one dull second. There were a lot of popular repeat numbers from the show and some new ones. Each dancer did a solo. The first half ended off with Sand,  a contemporary group piece choreographed by Chris Scott and featuring   the whole cast.  It had to conclude the opening hour as they literally did drop sand all over the stage.

Highlights for me included Aaron’s tap dance number, Aaron and Jasmine making 48 moves in seven seconds,  Jenna looking gorgeous in a spectacular blue dress in her  ballroom routine and the emotional finale to the tune of Jennifer Lopez’s Live It Up.

Quite appropriately, Amy and Fik-Shun were the last performers to do solos and they were thanked with loud and appreciative standing ovations. You could see from their reactions how touched they were. Here is a look at the emotional farewell the dancers got from the crowd.

Celebrating its landmark 10th season, So You Think You Can Dance’s top 10 finalists have been making their way across North America, performing in a mix of theatres and arenas as part of the So You Think You Can Dance Tour 2013,sponsored by BLOCH, an international leader in dance wear.   

The 42-city tour will kicked-off on October 1 in East Lansing, MI with shows scheduled through November 27  in Los Angeles, CA.   Besides the Bell Centre, Orillia and Windsor were the two other Canadian cities chosen for the tour.

 Amy  and   “'Fik-Shun”   this year became the first couple to win that were partners from the beginning of the season.  “I still cannot believe this is all happening,” Amy told me. “A few months ago I was just this average dancer. Now I am recognized wherever I go and I have such amazing opportunities. It is just a dream come true. The whole thing has just not sunk in.”

Fik-Shun already knows what he wants to do from here. “I want to be in the next Step Up movie,” he said, referring to the popular series of dance/romance/drama films. Season Six third place finisher Kathryn McCormick and Season Four second place finisher Stephen “tWitch” Boss  were in Step Up Revolution while others have enjoyed success on Dancing With the Stars and other TV and movie roles.

Where did the name Fik-Shun come from? “During my freshman year in high school I wanted to have a dance nickname.  So I asked and I was told that when I dance, I do not look real. Like fiction. That is where it came from.”

The dancers say that the tour, thus far, has been a lot of fun. “We are like a family,” said Makenzie.   “We have more than 30 shows to go on this tour so it is hard on the body. We definitely need our sleep.”

Fik-Shun said that performing before such live audiences “provides us with that extra dose of energy on stage.” Noted Jenna: “Dancers are usually on stage in the background at live concerts, so this kind of tour is unique as people are coming to see us.”

Tucker likes the fact that they are now getting paid for the job, something which was not the case when they auditioned and went through the preliminaries and live shows leading to the top 10.”To see all of these different cities is cool,” he said.

During the day Sunday the dancers explored downtown  Montreal, notably the underground city of shopping from Eaton Centre to the  Promenades des Cathedrales. At a food court, Tucker decided to give the Quebec speciality of poutine - french fries, topped with brown gravy and cheese curds-  a try. “It was amazing,” he said. “I had never heard of it before.”

Poutine was not on the menu for Fik- Shun. “Nope,” he said. “I was happy to go to Subways.”

Jenna said she was both surprised and delighted with how many people recognized them in Montreal. “We are an American show, so we really did not expect that,” she said. “We quickly learned the French word for ‘smile’ as a lot of the young girls kept shouting ‘sourire’ to us.

Which particular stores did they like shopping at? Brandy Melville, Roots and Lush were their favorites.

I end this story with a plea to CTV. Please bring back So You Think You Can Dance Canada!