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A Time For Dancing - Larisa Oleynik
There's a time to laugh, a time to cry, and for moviegoers there's now a time to dance. The Emmy-nominated film, A Time for Dancing, will leave even the most rigid soul broken, bruised and beautiful. Inspired by the best-selling novel by Davida Wills Hurwin, this touching coming-of-age film tells the story of two teenage girls bound by a love of dance and most importantly, a love for each other. Jules (played by Larisa Oleynik) and Sam (played by Shiri Appleby) endure the laughter, passion and heartache that come with adolescence. Along the way, however, Jules falls victim to a fate only the strongest bond can endure. As friendships leave memorable footprints in the hearts of others, this film will leave a lasting impression on your soul.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Larisa Oleynik about the film. Since she was eight-years-old, Larisa has grown in front of audiences playing a string of sweet characters combating her every funny one-liner. Now, with years of experience under her tutu she has come into her own as the girl who will dance into your heart in the name of friendship.

The film is a far cry from your previous roles in 10 Things I Hate About You and The Secret World of Alex Mac. What made you take on such a dramatic character?

Larisa Oleynik: They let me do it! I read the script and I just cried. It's so cheesy, but it's true. And it was just the right time for it. I was 18 and living on my own and figuring out all these things in terms of relationships. It was just perfect timing and a wonderful experience. I grew up a little bit on that movie.

I watched the movie with one of my best friends and we both were bawling at the very end.

LO: Well good! (laughs) I haven't been able to watch it with anyone really so that's good to hear. You're supposed to! It's accomplishing what it's supposed to. (laughs) We need movies every once in a while to make us cry.

You did such a great job playing a dramatic character and looking back on your resume you've done 3rd Rock From The Sun and 100 Girls, which are really great comedies. Do you think you'll stick with drama or do more comedy next time?

LO: It's more about the movie itself. I don't really have any plans for myself really. (laughs) I don't really think like 'I should be doing this now' or doing that now. Its just kind of what comes along and it seems like it's the right thing to do at the time. I'd love to do more dramatic roles if they were to come my way. We'll see what happens I guess.

Good call! As I was saying before, my best friend watched it with me and she's a dancer. We both loved the choreography and wondered if it was really you dancing the entire time or if it was someone else.

LO: Oh no! Absolutely not! (laughs) I had two awesome dance doubles and basically, I got hired about two or three weeks before they started filming. So, I had a really limited amount of time. Basically I worked with the choreographers' assistants the entire time. It was easier to take instructions from the choreographers' assistants because they were both my age. They basically put us through a little dance boot camp. (I learned) more than anything to not necessarily get the moves down right, but to get the looks of a dancer. To walk appropriately and stuff like that. There were snip-its that Shiri and I did, definitely. I don't know how much she did. But there was the one chemotherapy dance that I did on my own with four boys. For the most part, I'm no dancer. I was just able to kind of fake it and let the dance doubles come in and do the real stuff. I'm glad you couldn't tell right away.

No, we couldn't. At first I was like, 'No it looks like it's her' and my friend kept watching more and debating over it because she knows all about the dance stuff. I certainly don't. I was totally clueless.

LO: We were scared about it. That's good because we were a little worried about it for a time. As long as you can't tell right away then I'm happy with that!

The film has also been compared to other dance flicks like Honey and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Where do you think the comparisons lie?

LO: I haven't seen Honey. I did see Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. I love that movie! But I don't know if it's necessarily that…(I think) the only things they have in common is dance.

That's what I was thinking

LO: Basically what we tried to do all along was not make it a dance movie. The dance sequences in the movie are more of a way for the characters to express themselves. It's more reflective of what's going on with them personally and their relationships. I would say it's a dramatic film about relationships first, and then secondly I would say it's a movie about cancer or dance. I wouldn't put (dance) as the first qualification for it.

Yeah I definitely agree with you. When I was doing my research I noticed that critics kept comparing it to other dance movies and I just don't think there's a comparison personally. Your movie was way more touching and dramatic than Honey, for example.

LO: Yeah, that's one I never saw. And I never saw Save The Last Dance either, so I don't really know.

You've been in the business since you were eight playing Cosette in Les Miserables. How did it feel to be so young and starting off in such a great role?

LO: Look at you with your research! (laughs) It was all a fluke. It was totally funny. I knew the song that the little girl has to sing because I did it for a school play. And my godparents saw me in this play, then they saw the ad in the newspaper and they showed that to my Mom and I…wait no. It should be accurate: my Mom and me. If my mom reads that I'm grammatically incorrect I'll have hell to pay. (laughs) Anyway, she showed it to us and I said, 'Hey I want to go do this' so I took a day off school. I think that may be why I wanted to do it because I took the day off school and got to go to San Francisco because we live a ways away. I did it with no experience and it was just totally a fluke. I thought, 'Wow, this is cool!' How easy? I don't think I knew the full extent of what was going on. All I knew was that I had a great time and it was a lot of fun and I liked missing all that school.

No kidding!

LO: It really changed my life I guess because after that I got an agent and started auditioning and all that stuff. And now its what I do! It's just one of those things. I had a blast doing that. It was so much fun.

You mentioned before that the film is about relationships first and then about cancer and/or dancing. Do you think a lot of girls, when they're watching this movie whether they are in middle school or high school, can relate to the relationships that you have in the film?

LO: I hope so. I think so. What I saw about Jules always is that she's so focused and so determined and has these goals that are so rigidly set for herself that she doesn't really allow any leeway for her relationships so they kind of crumble around her while she's dedicated on this one path. She doesn't allow herself to be persuaded by these relationships. In the beginning of the movie she breaks up with her boyfriend simply because she doesn't have time for him. The main relationship in the movie is between the two girls: Jules and Sam. Shiri and I just worked together a lot talking about our friendships. Friendships are always difficult, you know? After you get through the first couple of years and it becomes like, 'OK, now this is a real relationship and we can't get away with the same stuff we used to.' It's really hard and takes a great deal of communication. And that's what Jules learns because she's so used to being so centered that once her body is physically deteriorating she doesn't know how to deal with her emotions at all and she shuts her friends out. It's understandable, but it's exactly what she shouldn't be doing. It's when she needs people the most. She learns to trust and that she's not perfect and that she needs Sam to provide something for her that isn't so internally focused. It isn't about her; it's about two people. So I guess that's what she learns in the process. Sorry, that was a long-winded answer!

That's totally fine. In 1995 you were asked who your role models were. Since you've been in the business at such a young age, who would you say your role models are now?

LO: I don't know that I have any role models now that are fixed. Definitely my mom - she's the coolest. She's worked really hard her whole life and I just think she's got a great attitude. Moms just know so much it's so silly.

Very true!

LO: They know things that nobody else knows and its great. I don't have any role models like career wise. I don't know! (laughs) I used to when I was younger, but basically it's just a lot of people in my life that I look up to that I think are amazing. I guess I like to think that I'm a combination of all of them. I strive for different things and to improve different parts of me and that's reflected in different people.

- Danielle Henbest


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