Local dancer shares stage with Justin Bieber
In July, Pennsylvania Bridges broke a local story online that went viral about a local boy, Rueben Brock, whose dreams came true when he was chosen to dance on stage with Justin Bieber at the Pittsburgh concert July 13. His time on stage with the Biebs will be a memory that will last forever. We caught up with 11-year-old Rueben and his family after the performance to chat more about the experience that he says, “changed his life.”
“Once I got on stage, the nerves melted away,” said Rueben. “My best memory is being up on that stage doing what I do best.”
Brock (pictured top left) was one of four children picked to perform at the Pittsburgh show during the song, “Children.” Of the four kids, only two were local to the Pittsburgh area and Brock was the only boy. In March, Bieber’s choreographer put a call out to young dancers asking them to show their moves. They had to learn a piece of choreography, some improv and then post the video on YouTube to enter. After months of no word, finally, a few weeks before the show, young Brock’s world was completely turned upside down.
“[The other kids] were really nice,” said Rueben. “Everyone was really friendly.”
“The other dancers were all very nice,” said Rueben’s father. “It was clear that they were all just like Rueben, in the sense that they all wanted to be performers when they grow up. It was nice for Rueben to be around other kids like that.”
Young Brock is an outstanding performer at Synergy Performing Arts Academy. He has trained there for the past five years under the direction of owner and aunt, Rosalynn Miller, but that’s not where his interest in dancing began. His father recalls often how his tiny toddler would dance on the porch and around the home for hours. Who knew years later he’d be sharing the big stage with a superstar doing what he loves best?
“Being taught to pick up choreography really fast helped me because we only had a few practices,” said Rueben. “I’d like to say thank you [to my dance teachers] for pushing me to be the best and for always supporting me.”
“I prayed, screamed and bawled like a baby,” said Rueben’s mother, Cortney. “[It was] totally surreal. The love and support he received from family, especially his sister Dominique, friends, church, school, Synergy and the community, it was overwhelming.”
“[Watching him on stage], I 100% turned into a blubbering mess,” said stepmom Darra Brock of her stepson’s performance. “I swore that I wasn’t going to the shrieking teenager route, but instead, I took one look at him and melted into my mother-in-law, Renae’s arms. I was just so proud. While recording on my phone, another mother saw what was happening and took my phone while saying ‘you clearly can’t handle this. Please let me record, so you can just watch and enjoy.’ I was incredibly grateful.”
Of course, she wasn’t the only one shedding tears of joy. Many of the Synergy studio families were scouring social media that evening waiting for someone who attended the show to post videos and pictures – and there were quite a number of them there donning homemade tee-shirts in support of Brock. One might say the tears of mirth would’ve filled the Hoover Dam. Of course, one man had to hold it all together: Dad was in charge of filming the whole thing.
“I had to keep it together,” said Rueben’s father. “Right when he came out onto the stage, I let one little tear fall. After that, I had to focus. I knew no one else could be trusted to record the performance without screaming and jumping up and down.”
While the whole thing was over in what seemed like a blink of an eye, there were so many special moments for the family. Dad has recalled how Rueben walked off stage floating on a cloud and girls wanted to take photos with him.
“I’m trying to be humble and not let the fame go to my head,” said Rueben. “But, it’s fun having all this attention.”
“Rueben is generally an even keeled child,” said Darra Brock. “He’s an old soul. Rarely does he outwardly say when he’s pleased or excited about something he’s done. If Rueben tells you he’s having fun, even in passing, it’s a huge deal. So hearing him say repeatedly how happy he was, will always make me smile.
Another proud moment came when Justin Bieber said, “Give It up for the man Rueben, he crushed it!”
Though his time with Bieber has come to an end, this is just the start for Rueben’s dance aspirations. His step mother is thrilled he had the chance to see what his future could hold, as he’s spoken frequently about wanting to dance professionally or owning his own studio.
“Dancers typically spend countless hours training for years before they get opportunities like this so I am grateful that he was given this chance to live his dreams now,” said mom Courtney Brock. “I hope this experience will encourage him to keep working hard and dreaming big.”
While he looked like a natural on stage, the experience was no walk in the park. In the week leading up to the show, the Brocks were performing in the Poconos with Synergy Performing Arts Academy for their National Competition. They hopped in the car to drive five hours back to Pittsburgh in time for the rehearsal the day of the show.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work,” said Darra Brock. “It was nice once the dust settled to have a conversation as a family about whether or not he could handle this on a regular basis and still wanted to pursue a career in dance. Lucky for us, his answer was yes.”
“Rueben is so laid back that he was able to keep his cool,” his father said. “He loved all the attention he got, but he never really freaked out or got a big head about it.”
Because of the experience, Brock was featured in Pennsylvania Bridges, the Observer-Reporter, on a segment with KDKA and was interviewed twice on the radio on Star 100.7, once on the day of the show and once after to recap his performance.
In addition to dance, Rueben likes to study Pokemon, make videos, volunteer at Vacation Bible School and watch Steven Universe on TV. He dreams of working as a professional dancer, choreographer and owning his own studio one day. Rueben will enter seventh grade at Canon Mac in the fall after completing sixth grade at Washington Park Elementary School.
Story by Hayley Lynn Martin for Pennsylvania Bridges