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Dancing with the (Gymnastics) Stars


By Wendy Soderburg '82

Published Oct 2, 2012 2:25 PM

Incorporating choreography into her routines, gymnast Anna Li '11 discovered that she loved to dance.


Photo courtesy of: UCLA Athletics

During a phone interview from Las Vegas in September, gymnast Anna Li '11 doesn't sound at all like someone who's just spent the better part of the week on a bus, traveling up and down the coast of California while performing as a cast member in the 2012 Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions.

The energetic 24-year-old, in fact, shows no signs of fatigue from a grueling tour schedule that has already included six shows in nine days. She and her fellow gymnasts—all former world champions and/or Olympians—are in Las Vegas to perform in the seventh show of a tour that will ultimately take them to 40 cities stretching from Seattle, Wash., to Tampa, Fla.

"It's a really cool show," says Li, an eight-time All-American who helped lead UCLA to its sixth NCAA team title in 2010. "There's gymnastics, and within the gymnastics, there's dancing. There's all different kinds of fun music—the guys do their stuff on the high bar and the girls do the [uneven] bars. It's really graceful, and there's a little bit of Cirque du Soleil-type action in it, too."

Li was invited to join the Kellogg's tour after qualifying as a replacement athlete for the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team in July. While training with the team in London, however, she suffered a nearly disastrous injury—landing on her neck while attempting a dismount from her best event, the uneven parallel bars.

"I had to stay overnight in the hospital and I had this really big neck brace on," Li says. "But I couldn't be too upset, because I was lucky to still be walking."

Despite the injury, Li says that her Olympic experience "had been a dream—I couldn't believe it happened." She was able to leave the hospital in time to cheer her teammates on during the Olympic competition. "I just wanted to be there and support the team. I had a big neck brace on, but ... ," she says, laughing.

At this point in the Kellogg's tour—10 weeks after her injury in London—Li still has to be careful not to put herself in dangerous situations that might cause her to reinjure her neck. She has limited the amount of gymnastics she does in the show and replaced it with dancing.

"Working with Miss Val at UCLA [Head Gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field '87], I really enjoyed dancing," Li says. "I remember when I was young, my mom put me in dance classes and I loved it. Once we got on the tour, this was one of the few times, besides working with Miss Val, that I was able to work with a well-known choreographer. It's cool to be a part of it, and I learned that I really love dancing!"



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