In a room of 100 other dancers, Chapman dance alumnus Ben Bigler auditioned for a dream job: dancing alongside Cher during her “Here We Go Again” tour. The day following his audition, Bigler received a call that he had been selected to join Cher’s dance team and was scheduled to board a flight to Philadelphia the next day to begin touring.
“I had never performed in an arena before; that was kind of a huge experience for me,” Bigler said. “I had never danced for the amount of people that I’m dancing for now with Cher – we are doing arenas of 30,000 people.”
Bigler began dancing when he was three years old, at his doctor’s orders. During a physical check-up as a toddler, Bigler wasn’t able to pass a balance test, so his mother enrolled him in classes: he’s been dancing ever since. A year prior to dancing on her latest tour, Bigler worked with Cher on her performance at “CinemaCon” in Las Vegas, as she needed extra dancers in addition to her regular cast.
When her tour needed to replace two dancers, Bigler got a call from his agents to audition. Bigler said he learned a lot on this new journey, having focused mainly on commercials and movies before the opportunity in the touring music industry presented itself.
“With this kind of backup dancing, we are there to support the artist,” Bigler said. “My job is just making sure that the overall picture looks good and that she’s looking really good.” Bigler was a recipient of a talent scholarship. While Bigler contemplated studying business, he decided to focus on dance and graduated with a degree in dance and a minor in public relations & advertising.
“I really wanted to major in business because I didn’t think I was going to dance much after college,” Bigler said. “But I fell back in love with dance in my sophomore year of college because of the classes I was taking, and specifically, I developed a really close mentorship with one of the professors there, Alicia Guy.”
Bigler said that Guy pushed him to continue dancing. Guy told The Panther that Bigler was always talented and is gifted with attributes that never fail him. She remembers when Bigler approached her with the idea of dancing for Cher’s team.
“He was the one who had to change his mindset. It was the turning point for him, having that discussion. I told him, ‘You either need to go for this or don’t,’” Guy said. “That was really me transitioning my hat from being his professor to being his mentor.”
Guy first met Bigler when he was her student in a jazz class during his freshman year. But it wasn’t until his sophomore year that his dance development became “one of the most extraordinary, positive progressions” Guy’s ever seen.
“He came in with raw talent and he managed to transform not only his body through technique and artistry, but also his entire philosophy and mindset of himself in being a professional dancer,” Guy said. “Combined with his fantastic work ethic, along with his talent, it’s been a perfect combination for his success.”
Bigler and Guy still remain very close. When the Cher tour came to Las Vegas, Bigler brought Guy out to watch the show in-person. “I feel like a proud dance mom. I was beaming every single moment watching him perform on that stage with Cher in this epic arena with other incredible performers,” she said. “He really is a working professional dancer. Just getting to see him live his dream job, I have no words for how proud I am of him.”
Bigler noted that performance opportunities at Chapman helped him advance his dance career and gave him experience in choreographing, creating and performing, which he claims are the most important parts of dance. Outside of the classroom, Bigler talked about the value of the performance and leadership skills he gained through the Chapman Dance Alliance club in which he served as vice president.
“Our main goal is to provide the Chapman community opportunities to choreograph, perform and share their artistic vision with their family, friends and peers,” said Alli Esposito, current president of Chapman Dance Alliance and a senior dance and psychology double major.
“We try to bring together, socially and artistically, all dancers on campus by providing the community with this platform.” Esposito and Bigler have been friends for many years working together at the dance convention Hollywood Connection.
“He is one of the most hardworking, professional, reliable and all around great person to be around,” Esposito said. “That’s really valuable in the dance industry, being somebody that people want to work with, and people want to work with Ben. It’s great having him as a role model coming out of the Chapman dance department.”
Bigler continues to give back to the dance community by guest teaching and speaking in the dance department at Chapman.
“(The dance students) were just so inspired and thrilled that this is an alumni because it kind of puts it into perspective that it’s not that far of a goal for themselves,” Guy said. “They too can one day book a huge world tour with an iconic performing artist because one of their peers has done it.”
Through all of his professional experience thus far, Bigler told The Panther he advises future artists attending Chapman to completely immerse themselves in everything the dance department has to offer.
“Experience every moment of it,” Bigler said. “If you fully just let everything go for the four years that you’re there, you can really learn a lot and develop some really cool relationships with people and professors.”