If Anthony Bellissimo is living the dream, he doesn’t want to wake up.
“No one better pinch me,” said Bellissimo, laughing.
The 23-year-old Hamburg native is climbing the charts to stardom, having recently appeared as a mob dancer in the movie “Step Up Revolution” and as a rocker thief in the musical turned film “Rock of Ages.” For Bellissimo, these movie credits are only the beginning for what is sure to be a lengthy, impressive resume.
“I was always a mover,” said Bellissimo, who has been dancing for as long as he can remember.
The Frontier graduate began his dance education at Future Dance Center in Hamburg under Gino and Denise Vaccaro. “They taught me if you want to do anything in life, do it with confidence,” he said.
In 2009, Bellissimo’s confidence and skill landed him on “So You Think You Can Dance,” a reality television show and dance competition. Bellissimo earned a spot in the Top 20 before he was cut. The elimination was hardly a set back.
Last year, Bellissimo danced with hit recording artist Rihanna on her Loud tour.
Bellissimo performs with recording artist Rihanna during her concert on the TODAY show.
“It was a lot of fun, it was great exposure,” said Bellissimo, adding that the experience gave him an opportunity to “grow as a dancer.”
Though Bellissimo initially planned to continue onto the European portion of the tour, he gave it up when he was approached to dance and act in “Step Up Revolution” and “Rock of Ages.”
It was the latter movie that required him to have a speaking role, a first for the dancer turned actor.
“I was nervous, but I am not one to back down,” said Bellissimo. “I attacked it full-steam ahead.”
His hard work paid off. Bellissimo’s role was a success and spurred a desire within him to pursue more acting gigs.
“It is the almighty goal, for sure,” said Bellissimo about acting in movies. “Hopefully you will be seeing more of my mug on the big screen in a couple of years.”
When Bellissimo is not acting or performing, he is cultivating his other love— teaching.
He has led classes all over the country with Tremaine Dance Conventions. Bellissimo credits internationally renowned choreographer Joe Tremaine for much of his early success.
“He is the one that really gave my career a jumpstart,” Bellissimo said.
Despite his new taste of fame and getting the chance to rub elbows with music artists such as Chris Brown and Robin Thicke in Hollywood, Bellissimo believes teaching to be his most gratifying experience thus far.
“It’s the ultimate pay back,” said Bellissimo, who added that watching the young students’ faces as they happily learn a new dance move is priceless. “I can’t get enough of that look,” he said.
While Bellissimo resides in Los Angeles with his rescued pitbull Rocky, he said Buffalo will always remain his true home. Even though he is exposed to some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities on a daily basis, Bellissimo said he is far more star-struck when he encounters a Buffalo Bills or Sabres player.
“I think I would pass out if Fred Jackson ever tweeted me,” said Bellissimo about the Bills’ running back. “I am the biggest fan.”
Bellissimo draws his strength from his family, including parents David and Debbie Bellissimo and friends back home.
“My mom is my absolute best friend,” he said. “I have a great family.”
Bellissimo said he constantly strives for excellence, so as to not let anyone back home down. “I still remember the inspirational speeches they gave at Frontier High School,” he said. “I want (former teachers) to be able to say one day, ‘I taught that kid.’”
Shockingly, when it comes to dance, Bellissimo said he wasn’t born with talent. “I would say I do not have natural skill,” he said.
What he does believe he has is a drive to perform, entertain and work hard at his craft.
“I do my history,” said Bellissimo, who spent countless hours watching movies such as “The Wiz,” “Mary Poppins,” and “West Side Story” in his youth in order to learn the history of dance. “Having knowledge of where dance comes from is so important.” Bellissimo feels that it is this knowledge that gives him an edge in such a fast-paced, competitive industry.
His other secret to success is that he never stops practicing from the time he wakes up in the morning.
“Whenever I hear music, I am dancing in my head. It’s constant,” he said.
Dancing is certainly not a job or a means to an end for Bellissimo. “When I am on stage, I am alive,” he said.