Millions of American households tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade every year as the turkey slowly roasts, casseroles bake and desserts simmer. This year, though, make sure to spot at least one familiar Robbinsville face gracing your television screen.
That face? It’ll be seventh grader Justin Gazzillo breaking it down with hip-hop dance crew “34th and Phunk” from dance gurus Willdabeast and Janelle Ginestra from Immabeast. Gazzillo will join the duo and 59 other amateur hip-hop dancers from around the country during the first ever Macy’s hip-hop production.
“They were calling out all the kids…and I was like, ‘It’s OK, it’s a learning experience, I don’t really care, but I’m just happy that I know this dance’…But then they said 709 and I was like oh my god that’s my number!” Gazzillo said about the experience of trying out.
Gazzillo has only been rehearsing monthly for four to five hour slots after learning all of the choreography during the audition for the “34th and Phunk” dance troupe.
A lot has happened for the Pond Road student since the Robbinsville Advance profiled him in December 2016. New York City talent agency Clear Talent signed him to a contract in June. Shortly thereafter, Gazzillo started working commerically with Universal Kids under NBC.
“We tune into Universal Kids every morning to see if Justin made the commercials or not, and it’s cool to see him almost every morning now,” said Linda Vandegrift, Gazzillo’s mother.
He added, “I have my friends watch too so they can see what I’m up to.”
Over the summer, Gazzillo went back to Schafer Sports Center in Ewing for gymnastics to continue training with his friends and teammates. At the same time, he was whisked off into the city a few times a month to audition in dance-focused commercial roles.
“I’ve gotten way more ‘nos’ than ‘yesses,’ but I really look at it as a learning experience,” he said.
From these auditions, he’s been running into the same dancers, who he’s built friendships with and now keep up with them via Instagram.
“It’s always the same kids, he’s building a group of friends. Right now, he’s all about building the connections, whether that be faculty or fellow dancers,” Vandegrift said.
Back at home, he still dedicates 20-plus hours a week at Stewart Johnson Dance Academy in Hamilton taking classes in hip-hop, tap and musical theater. He also has taken up his first teaching job where he is helping a younger classmate learn a routine for an upcoming competition.
Still, what’s most important to Gazzillo is school.
“Only thing I’ll drop out of school for is an opportunity in LA,” Gazzillo said with a chuckle and grin.
His mom added, “School is the most important thing always. If there’s the perfect opportunity in LA, we will see, but there’s no question about college whether right after high school or a little later down the line.”
One thing remains the same. Gazzillo still loves being able to dance with his 15-year-old sister Juliana since they don’t get to see each other during the week often due to their demanding schedules.
“It’s a different path than many middle schoolers, but it’s what’s deep in his soul, so it’s good to see him doing what he truly loves,” Vandegrift said.
And right now Gazzillo certainly is excited about where he stands.