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South Jersey Choreographer Lives To Dance

(Photo by John McDevitt)

(Photo by John McDevitt)

MARLTON, NJ (CBS) – A new reality show premiering on CBS, “Live To Dance,” features dancers of all ages and backgrounds. The dancers are competing for the grand prize of $500,000.

But one local woman calls the experience, priceless.

Nikki Dean-Hocker of Marlton, N.J. began dancing when she was two, started competing by nine, but at 12, her dreams were almost shattered.

“There was an accident. I was in a dance studio training and a car had come through the dance studio,” Hocker said.

She broke her nose, a cheekbone, needed more than 200 stitches on her face and required several follow up surgeries as a result.

But a gift from her parents changed everything. They managed to get Nikki backstage passes to meet her idol, Paula Abdul, who was in town for a concert. Nikki says Paula gave her a pep talk that provided her the strength to dream again.

“Live, love, be happy, keep on dancing and I held onto those words throughout my entire life,” Hocker explained.

Nikki now works as a choreographer at Jazz Unlimited, the same studio that just happened to host the local auditions for Paula Abdul’s new show.

Hocker added, “We quickly got together a bunch of the routines we had choreographed prior and spiced them up a bit.”

And one team, along with a solo dancer from Jazz Unlimited, made the cut to try out in New York City where Nikki personally thanked her idol for her inspiration. Nikki now hopes her story can inspire others.

“Maybe there’s a little girl out there that kind of feels down and out the way I did and hopefully, she doesn’t let go of her dream and she keeps pushing because anything can happen. Anything can happen,” Hocker said.

As for the dancer and the dance ensemble from Jazz Unlimited who made it to New York City, Hocker says she can’t say how far they actually made it on the show, for now.

The show includes an initial group of 17 dance acts. America then gets to vote in the 18th and final performer. Each week after that, two acts will advance on to the next round, one selected by the experts and one by viewers. In the end, six acts will compete in the finals and America will select the winner.

Reported by Elizabeth Hur, CBS 3; John McDevitt, KYW Newsradio

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