Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

New Zealand dancer travelling the world performing with Rihanna

Dancer Lance Savali from Wellington (right) is on tour with Rihanna. Photo / Supplied
Dancer Lance Savali from Wellington (right) is on tour with Rihanna. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi dancer Lance Savali is still puffing slightly when he answers the phone after finishing a show with pop queen Rihanna.

It's almost midnight in Utah, but the long hours are all worth it, he says.

The 24-year-old Wellingtonian is a back-up dancer for Riri's Anti World Tour, which will take him around the US and Europe.

The latest gig follows what has been a whirlwind year for Savali, who can name-drop Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown and Brandy as stars he has performed with in the past few months.

"Sometimes I have moments where I'm like: 'Man, I'm really living my dream'.

"This is what I've always wanted to do. To be here and for it to sometimes feel normal is crazy. It's like: 'What? This isn't normal. I'm dancing next to people I used to see on TV'."

Savali - a former pupil of St Patrick's College Town - loved dancing as a child and had his sights set on a career using his craft.

In late 2014, he got his first big break when a friend told him hip-hop star Brown was holding auditions in Los Angeles.

Savali was on the next flight to LA and quickly impressed Brown and his team, who booked him for their upcoming show.

"I was freakin' stoked. I went on two tours with Chris Brown and then I did a performance with Brandy at the Soul Train Awards."

A gig with Jennifer Lopez at the American Music Awards last year was also a highlight for Savali, who described her as a good person.

"We're all a team. The best thing about it is that she realises our worth and what we are to the show."

Asked if he ever got nervous about dropping her, he laughed.

"She trusts us. I'm not nervous because I know what I've got to do. You honestly get used to being around them. You realise these famous people are just human like us.

Lance Savali. Photo / Supplied
Lance Savali. Photo / Supplied

Among Savali's fans is professional boxer Joseph Parker, whose training camp is based in Las Vegas.

Parker, who is preparing for his fight against Carlos Takam in Auckland on May 21, said he became friends with Savali after a chance encounter at a concert in Vegas last year.

"I was standing right on stage because I'm good friends with some of the security guys and there was this guy with a mask on, dancing with Chris Brown," Parker said.

"All of a sudden he comes up to me and he's pointing at the crowd ... to me. I was like, 'Oh, who is this guy?' We shook hands and he kept dancing."

The pair met later and have been friends since. Savali has also introduced Parker to Brown.

Parker said seeing a fellow New Zealander and "Samoan brother" doing well overseas was inspiring.

"I think he's cracked it big and he deserves recognition.

"There's another person out here representing our country and making us proud and doing it big on the big stage."

As for Savali, he has big plans over the next few years.

He wants to continue his work on stage and also explore his love for fashion and photography.

- Herald on Sunday

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