He's shared the stage with the likes of Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, but all the while, choreographer and dancer Lance Savali has hidden a secret health condition from his superstar employers – his heart's stuffed.
"It's a challenge I face every day and it's taken a real toll on my life," the 29-year-old Wellingtonian reveals to Woman's Day. "I was born with a heart condition called SVT or supraventricular tachycardia, which meant that if I overexerted myself, my heart went up to 240 beats per minute and I thought I was going to pass out or die. I'd sort of short-circuit.
"I'd be on stage with Chris Brown or Rihanna and it would happen all the time. I'd think I might die, but I had to be professional so the crowd didn't know, then I'd get off stage, get it back into rhythm and go back on stage!"
Fortunately, four years ago, before he performed at the Super Bowl with J.Lo, Lance was able to have keyhole surgery to fix the condition. "I had to be awake the whole operation, so I was super-nervous," he tells.
He still suffers from second-degree heart block, where his heart "beats irregularly sometimes", but Lance insists, "I just do a couple of star-jumps and that gets it going again. It doesn't affect my dancing and my cardiologist says I can't die from it, so I'm sweet! The only cure is a pacemaker, but the cardiologist is telling me to hold off as long as I can because I'm still young."
Explaining that this is why he chose the Heart Foundation NZ as his charity on Celebrity Treasure Island, Lance adds, "I want to invest in people who suffer worse than I do. I'm doing this for them, to show them that even if you do have a disadvantage, you can still succeed in other ways."
Speaking of success, Lance says he never would have achieved his dancing dreams if it hadn't been for his mum and dad believing in him.
"Growing up, I didn't think this career was a reality because I lived in New Zealand, but one day my friend in LA rang me to say Chris Brown was having an audition, so I asked my parents for the money to book my flight, promising I'd pay them back.
"I flew over to America with nothing in my bank account, but – bam! – I booked the gig and went on to work with other artists."
Performing at Coachella with Beyoncé in 2018 was a highlight. "She 100% lived up to my expectations. She's such a hard worker and cares about everyone who helps put her vision together. When she talks, it sounds like an angel. It was a huge accomplishment to dance next to her."
What about shaking his thing alongside J.Lo and Shakira at the Super Bowl in Miami last year?
"It was a peak moment. There were about eight other Kiwis who did it, so it was like a New Zealand takeover. Jennifer just loves us Kiwis because we dance strong."
And as for Ariana Grande? "She's really open and tells us all about her day. I'm low-key in love with her. If I get the opportunity to work with her again, I'd 100% shoot my shot!"
But not all artists have been so amazing. Asked about Nicki Minaj, Lance describes her as "the highest maintenance", adding, "I personally wouldn't work with her again."
And Madonna? "She's a weirdo! I was three months into rehearsals for her world tour, then she fired me because I was a Scorpio. She told her tour manager to tell me she couldn't read my energy. But she's Madonna, you know? She's unapologetic and I love that about her. I'm grateful she fired me because if she hadn't, I wouldn't have worked with Rihanna. It was a blessing in disguise.
"Rihanna and Chris are the people I've spent the most time with. For most artists, it's like, 'Hi, thank you for being here, bye,' but we really know each other. Obviously, she's Rihanna and she's a superstar, but when I'm sitting down with her, she's a respectful, approachable human being and it's easy to talk to her."
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