BELFAST, Maine — Just three months ago, Sunny Hitt was busy teaching yoga and dance most days a week to midcoast Mainers.
But two weeks ago, after a move and a major life change, the dancer from Morrill was somewhere quite different — a Hollywood studio, where she donned 1980s styles and danced her heart out on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, Conan.
Hitt, 31, moved from Belfast to Brooklyn in September after she successfully auditioned for the Dance Cartel, a small, up-and-coming modern dance troupe that had caught her eye on a visit to New York City last year.
“My sister took me to see this show, and it totally blew me away,” Hitt said Thursday in a phone interview. “I was totally inspired. It had this very palpable, almost infectious energy about it that really draws the viewer into the experience of the show.”
And while she loved teaching in Maine, she felt that she had limited time to be an active performer in a field often populated by young people.
“I felt I still had some time left in this body, and the time to take risks is now. It’s not tomorrow. I should really go for it now,” Hitt, who grew up studying ballet in Maine, reflected. “My motivation was definitely to work with this company. I think it’s a really exciting time to join them.”
She said that things happen fast in the company, such as the opportunity to be flown to California to perform on Conan. She and a few others performed as backup dancers to musician and entertainer Reggie Watts, who sang a new song, “Information.”
“With the Conan gig, I felt that we could be done after this and I will feel like I made it,” Hitt said. “It was a blast. Every second of it was fun. Dancers are used to rehearsing in dirty, grungy studios and rolling around on dirty floors and not getting paid. We felt very taken care of [at the shoot]. It was catered. They paid us. You really feel that all of these hours you put into rehearsing and forming your craft is being acknowledged and respected.”
Next up for the Dance Cartel? A Saturday night performance in Manhattan of “On The Floor,” the group’s monthly show and the last one before members take a winter break. It’ll feature Japanese pop duo Cibo Matto, and Hitt is looking forward to it.
“It’s very much an experience rather than a performance,” she said. “We have special guests and we improvise with them. There’s video elements going on. We have a live D.J., and toward the end of the show, we pull the audience into the front of the floor and we have a dance party.”
That, to Hitt, is joyous.
“I think that’s one reason I love this show — it feels like one big dance party,” she said.