News & Politics

Here’s What It’s Like to Compete on Netflix’s “Dance Monsters”

Chelsea Cushing competed as CGI character Candy in the series.

Chelsea Cushing as Candy in Netflix's Dance Monsters. Photograph courtesy of Netflix ©.. 2022

Chelsea Cushing competed as the CGI-generated character Candy in Netflix’s anonymous dancing competition show Dance Monsters. She made it to the quarterfinalsOutside of her stint as Candy, she’s also CEO of AF Talent Management, a modeling agency in the DMV that scouts and develops models in the area. Chelsea and her husband Kenny live in Great Falls. 

We caught up with Chelsea to ask her what it was like to dance as Candy: 

How did you start dancing?

I was 18 when I got into a training program at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. After that, I got into the hip-hop world. My first tour was with the Roots, working with their assistant choreographer. I’ve also worked with Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, and LL Cool J.

When 2018 rolled around I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, and that put everything on hold. It’s a chronic blood cancer, so I’ll never be cured, but it’s manageable with different types of treatments. That was all I could focus on for about two years, but after I came out of that I got this opportunity with Dance Monsters. I interviewed in July 2021 and in August I was casted and given a week to pack and move to London for filming! 

How did the CGI aspect of the show work?

They first brought us onto the set and gave us these long, biker-like suits and we did what they call calibration. They attached all these sensors, and put us in a room where we did a series of different moves and poses so that they could connect all of the cameras to the sensors. Once we were calibrated, we would go into a room where we would see the monster reflected on the screen and it would follow our movements. In that room, we had 30 minutes to rehearse the routine and then had one taped chance to do it. If we messed up, that’s what they saw–it was still very much a competition. 

After the dance taping, they put a head camera on us and we didn’t dance again, but we had to just do our facials to the song so they could calibrate facial expressions onto the monsters during the performance, which was interesting.

Five contestants in their CGI suits. Their monsters reflect their movements. Photograph courtesy of Netflix © 2022.

So what does the studio audience see?

That’s the number one question I’m asked. Backup dancers were actually on the stage, but the monsters were only shown on a big screen. We, the competing dancers, were never on the physical stage unless we got eliminated. 

Chelsea Cushing doing the facial expressions for Candy’s performance. Photograph courtesy of Netflix.

Was it difficult to dance in the CGI equipment?

You know, I’ve been in some pretty outrageous costumes over my dancing career, but I would say this was the most challenging, simply because the tight clothes and the restrictions with the sensors was hard with the genre of dance that I was doing. Plus, there was padding for our monsters’ body shape, so I was working with a big macaroon shaped pad on my hip, too. So that added an element to my body that I’ve never trained with before. 

How did they assign you Candy?

It was definitely more based on personality. Throughout my interview process I was very grateful and was always thanking them, so I think they figured “Oh she’s sweet, let’s go with Candy.” 

Editorial Fellow

Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.