Hanscom lieutenant proves he can dance

  • Published
  • By Meredith March
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Moonwalking in combat boots can't be easy, but 1st Lt. Karl Artis, 66th Mission Support Group executive officer, made it seem so when he took the stage and grooved to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" at Hanscom's Summer Bash on June 26. That performance showed the Hanscom community something North Carolina and Boston dance communities, as well as television producers, already know - Lieutenant Karl Artis definitely can dance.

Lieutenant Artis, who currently performs with two Boston dance crews and recently appeared on the fifth season of "So You Think You Can Dance," was a high school wrestler when a friend introduced him to breakdancing. At first, the lieutenant was skeptical about his abilities. "There's not that much dancing in North Carolina," he said.

He found, however, that his wrestling training had prepared him for dance's physical complexity. "I didn't have any rhythm before and wrestling helped with that. I learned how the body works," he said.

Lieutenant Artis continued to hone his dance skills while attending North Carolina State University and began practicing with other breakdancers as an informal dance crew. He was surprised by how natural he felt during their first public performance.

"It was really exciting and I thought, 'Hey, I like performing for people and being on a big stage,'" he said.

Performing regularly with the crew led to an opportunity to dance on a student dance team called Fusion. Fusion's style incorporated diverse elements from breakdance, hip-hop, bangra, rass, and traditional Asian dances, Lieutenant Artis said. In addition to dancing, he also gained choreographing experience during his time with Fusion.

Since arriving at Hanscom, Lieutenant Artis has joined two Boston-based dance crews, Wrush and Hip Hop ConnXion, and continues to take dance classes to diversify his skills. He also made a goal - to compete on "So You Think You Can Dance."

"I always liked the show," the lieutenant said. "It first came out when I was in college, when I was getting into the swing of dancing. After watching all of season 4, I decided I might as well try."

Lieutenant Artis stuck with his decision, even when he learned last November that he had just two weeks to prepare an audition solo. "I already told myself I was going to do it, so there was no way I was going to back out."

After two weeks of practicing and choreographing, Lieutenant Artis headed to Brooklyn, N.Y. for auditions. He successfully auditioned through several rounds, but ultimately did not make the top 20 cut. However, he was asked to audition for future seasons. "They told me to come back," he said.

While the outcome wasn't exactly what he'd hoped, the process was an important learning experience, Lieutenant Artis said.

"I learned about the entertainment industry, which is something I'm really trying to get into," he said. "I learned a lot about myself and that's what will motivate me to try again for the show. I know some people get discouraged and don't take criticism well. I'm not the best at taking criticism either, but I'm learning that sometimes you need it to grow."

Lieutenant Artis is also grateful for the support he's received here at Hanscom.

"This is something I had to talk to my supervisors about, and thankfully, all of my supervisors so far have been really supportive of my dancing -- which is kind of cool in a military environment because [being a dancer] is relatively unique in the Air Force," he said.

"The people are really caring. They always say, 'Mission first, but take care of your people,' and I believe that's what my supervisors are doing. I wasn't sure if I could continue dancing and serve in the military, but when people care enough, they make it possible for you to do things you like to do."