Growing up, Crystal Clark was surrounded by a deluge of dance. Family gatherings were not complete without music and dancing, where freestyle was king. Crystal tried her hand — or feet, rather — at the sport occasionally but was not nearly as keen on it as were her brothers, Jeremy and Chase Hudson. Her daughter, though, is another story, one that is told in part on CBS’s new series, “Come Dance With Me,” which premiered on April 15.
Eleven-year-old Mia Clark is a second generation student at Southern Strutt, following in the footsteps of both of her maternal uncles. She spends five to six days a week at the Southern Strutt dance studios in Irmo, demonstrating a caliber of discipline and dedication that served her well as a competitor on “Come Dance With Me.”
“One thing that my teachers have told me is never give up, and opportunities will come your way,” Mia says. Her biggest opportunity to date transpired via a sequence of phone calls in 2020, the first of which was from a national television network.
When Crystal received the phone call from her brother, Jeremy, she was well aware that he had entered himself and her daughter into a televised dance competition. However, she did not anticipate stepping into the spotlight in his stead. As a professional dancer, Jeremy was far from the “untrained family member” that the show pairs with a young, talented dancer. Crystal, however, fell squarely within that classification. Her days of dancing were long gone, replaced with bouts of chronic pain. She was headed home from a physical therapy appointment when Jeremy called her to tell her the news.
For the next week, Crystal struggled with the decision: to dance or not to dance. She could not imagine letting the opportunity pass by for her daughter, who dreams of a career in dance. Still, the physical pain she endures was a real threat to her ability to join her daughter on the dance floor. Finally, Crystal says, “I woke up one morning and had this sense of, ‘You need to do this. You need to quit sitting in fear and letting your body control you, and do it for Mia.’” With that, their adventure was set in motion. “My body was not prepared, but overall we were very excited,” Crystal says.
While filming in Australia, Crystal and Mia began each day at roughly 5:30 a.m. After breakfast, they would toss together suitcases filled with all of the accessories and accoutrements necessary for a day of photo shoots, interviews, rehearsals, and wardrobe fittings. Somewhere in the midst of the organized chaos, Mia was whisked to and from school. The mother-daughter duo would cap off each evening with a final review of the day’s choreography and a healthy dose of stretching before heading to bed.
Naturally, Mia picked up on the choreography quicker than her mother but was delighted to discover of her elder counterpart: “She actually had some moves up her sleeves.” Still, the learning curve was profound.
“At 42, I quickly found out that learning choreography and remembering the moves is very challenging,” Crystal says. Moves like the tour jeté pushed her body to its limits, but the patience, love, and talent from the show’s choreographers — not to mention motivation from her daughter — encouraged Crystal to persevere. “For me, the highlight of course for the show and for the choreography was dancing with Mia,” Crystal says.
According to Mia, the feeling was mutual. “My favorite part of the experience was definitely dancing with my mom because I’ve never had that opportunity before,” she says.
Through hip-hop routines and groovy disco dances, the mother-daughter duo continuously demonstrated a chemistry that could not be choreographed. Eventually, this chemistry propelled them into the semifinals, in which they competed with only three other teams. “We had been working so hard week after week and we felt like our hard work was paying off,” Crystal says of this achievement.
Although their time as competitors came to a close in the semifinal round, Crystal and Mia are proud of their performances and accomplishments along the way — all of which, they admit, felt profoundly surreal as they tuned in to watch the first season of “Come Dance With Me” with friends and family. Crystal, who was initially hesitant to take the leap of faith into the world of televised, competitive dance, says of her experience, “I feel extremely blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn from the best choreographers in the industry and to be able to do it with my daughter. I will cherish the experience for the rest of my life!”