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CCM alumna dances through Lifetime Christmas movie

Karen Olivo enchants in 'Holiday Spin'

by Deborah Rieselman

If Karen Olivo, CCM '97, had asked Santa for something special this year, her request might have been to dance in a family Christmas movie about dancing. And the alumna, who was named Broadway's Best Female Dancer in '08, would have been thrilled at how quickly the jolly old guy delivered.

Several times this holiday season, the extremely talented and beautiful Olivo will grace TV sets in "Holiday Spin," a new heartwarming Lifetime movie about — what else? — dancing.

Even through she previously wowed Broadway by winning the Fred & Adele Astaire Award for Broadway's best dancing in '08 ("In the Heights") and was nominated for it in '09 ("West Side Story" revival), this was her first dance movie. And it was the first time she had ever ballroom danced.

As odd as that sounds for an Astaire winner, she does not consider herself a dancer at all. Singing and acting have usually been her strong points.

Consequently, learning to ballroom dance with Ralph Macchio, the original "Karate Kid," who plays her husband and a former dance champion, was "challenging" in that he has a specific "technique," she says. In addition, Macchio is quite a competent dancer, having competed in "Dancing with the Stars" last year until the final round.

Olivo is more than competent in dancing, but also in a variety of other talents. Besides the Astaire Awards, she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in "West Side Story's" starring role of Anita, as well as a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for "In the Heights." After graduation, she landed her first Broadway role in the original run of "Rent."

In 2005, TV appearances began coming her way with small appearances on "All My Children" and "Law & Order." By '11, she had a weekly role as Cassie Reynolds on "Harry’s Law" with Kathy Bates. Just recently, on Nov. 18, 2012, she made her third appearance on "The Good Wife."

Other career highlights have included performing for the president and his family, as well as the entire country, at a 2010 White House concert broadcast by PBS and taking part in the revival cast recording of "West Side Story" while lyricist Stephen Sondheim sat in the booth critiquing their work.

Karen Olivo headshot

'Holiday Spin' synopsis, airtimes

After the death of his mother, 17-year-old Blake has to go live with a stranger who claims to be his father. Blake's life changes when he connects with a young dancer and ends up being her dance partner for an annual Christmas Eve competition.

Show airs on the Lifetime channel with the following schedule:

  • Friday, Dec. 21, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 22, midnight
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25, 10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2 a.m.


Karen Olivo photo gallery

Click any photo to enlarge and start slideshow.