When Alonzo Russell was a freshman and sophomore at Auburn High School, he won the school’s annual talent contests by performing Michael Jackson songs with all the dance moves. Russell hasn’t just captured dance contests locally. Russell helped form Fatally Unique in 2006 and leads as chief executive officer and choreographer. The group has performed at On the Waterfront and will take the stage Monday at Victory Sports Complex in Loves Park. Then, it’s off to New York City for a Black Entertainment Television-backed competition Aug. 8.
When Alonzo Russell was a freshman and sophomore at Auburn High School, he won the school’s annual talent contests by performing Michael Jackson songs with all the dance moves.
A longtime friend, Robbie Green, said Russell looked just like Jackson: “Growing up, he’d wear short pants he’d cut the bottoms off of. He had white socks, little jackets and everything. He had a curly, wet-looking wig. He had his pose down pat.”
And more importantly, Russell’s Jackson moves were “distinct, so precise,” Green said.
Russell hasn’t just captured dance contests locally, nor has he limited his impersonations to male iconic figures. In July in Chicago, audience applause from a crowd that had gathered around him in the halls of the United Center before Beyoncé took the stage made him the winner of a dance contest promoted by a radio station. Green said Russell had studied Beyoncé’s moves on YouTube and replicated them with ease, winning T-shirts and other promotional materials.
Dancing for the 18-year-old Rockford resident isn’t all about him, though. He’s won the respect of Fatally Unique dance group members by showing respect. Russell has been choreographing moves for Fatally Unique that present girls and young women in dances that are more admirable.
“It’s not that pumping and bumping,” said his mother, Melisa Lewis. “The guys are lifting the girls, and the girls are always ladies at all times.”
Russell helped form Fatally Unique in 2006 and leads as chief executive officer and choreographer. The group has performed at On the Waterfront and will take the stage Monday at Victory Sports Complex in Loves Park. Then, it’s off to New York City for a Black Entertainment Television-backed competition Aug. 8.
Fatally Unique performs to hip-hop music, but also to R&B, soul and rock tunes. Members audition. At the last audition, 54 youths tried out, with eight making it through the two-month process to claim a spot on the team, Russell said.
Team members sign contracts saying they’ll keep up their school grades, will regularly attend practices and will keep things positive. One time, a pregnant teen was asked to leave the group, Lewis said.
The two dozen team members wear black and red during performances, pay dues and participate in activities to raise money for travel. They range in age from 10 to 22 and often practice three days a week, three hours each time, mostly at the nCENTER in Rockford.
Russell said most of those associated with Fatally Unique consider his interactions with the dancers “nice.” But he said he also can be blunt, and others may consider him arrogant. “It’s just my ambition being so strong to let no one stand in the way,” Russell said.
For the past several years, Russell has been referring to himself as Prince Alonzo. He said his Christian religion teaches him that he’s the child of a king — God. He refers to his mother as his queen, and his home as his castle.
Lewis said her son is merely confident. Dancing has been his prime motivator since he was in Pampers, she said. After Thanksgiving dinners, he’d lead his cousins in a holiday dance show for family members. When he was 15, he helped start Fatally Unique in the family’s basement, where they moved couches and tables and occasionally mopped flooded concrete floors to make room for kids to dance.
“I’ve never seen a kid this limber,” Lewis said of her son.
Georgette Braun can be reached at email@example.com.