September 4 [13:00 EDT] -- Tired of spending quality time with her parents on Long Island, Antonela Kostyan decided to blow off steam by rounding up some friends and hitting the dance floor.
She had no way of knowing that her restlessness would land her within arm's reach of Beck, Puff Daddy, and U2.
A Manhattan resident, Kostyan was on the floor at a club near her parents' house on Long Island when she and a friend were "dancing, goofing off, being silly," as she puts it. The two were soon approached by an MTV staffer, who offered them the chance to do the very same thing in front of the stage at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
Kostyan and her friend, Tim-E Davis, were each handed a sort of musical Wonka Golden Ticket in the form of a letter declaring "YOU have been selected to dance in the party pit which is located in front of the main stage."
"I looked at it and laughed and threw it on the bar," Kostyan, a 28-year-old fashion designer said of her first reaction to the invite. "Then I said, 'Wait a minute. I really want to do this.'"
She's not the only one. Lots of folks hold onto dreams of calling up Ticketmaster, buying a ticket to the awards show, and landing smack dab in Puffy's lap.
"I always wondered about it," Emily Paradela, another of this year's crop of pit dancers, said. "I wanted to try to get tickets, but I never bothered to find out how."
Now, of course, she knows precisely how it's done. The 200 heaving bodies that comprise what has been dubbed
"the party pit" have been tapped by MTV scouts for their dancefloor skills and overall undying energy, which they will need to keep their feet pumping and their smiles beaming through what could be a four-hour telecast.
"I used to go to raves and dance for 10 hours, so I'm not worried about that," Kostyan said.
After being tagged by MTV reps, the rhythmic elite are invited to the network's headquarters for a brief meeting concerning the whats, wheres, and whens of the broadcast. However, since the invite that the prospective dancers received from MTV gave no details about the nature of the meeting, many dancers arrived ready to audition and rip it up right there.
"I was really nervous walking in," Kostyan said. "I thought it might be this showdown of cool people."
Fortunately, no such confrontation occurred. Instead, the dancers were given a crash course in pit etiquette 101: no white clothing ("It'll make you look like a giant marshmallow," they are warned), no smoking, and no leaving the pit for any reason during the length of the show (no, not even for a trip to the bathroom).
Above all else though, it is emphasized that they must have fun, and show it in a big way. While a bouncing, hopping pit is important for good TV viewing, it also feeds energy to the performers, who usually find a sea of seated dignitaries awaiting their performances on other awards shows (think of the Grammy Awards).
It shouldn't be much of a stretch for the pit personnel to act excited. Kostyan, whose own musical taste runs more toward drum n' bass and jungle, says she's looking forward to seeing Beck, Jamiroquai, and L'il Kim hit the stage, and Paradela says she's stoked about seeing U2 and the Wallflowers. However, there will be at least one part of the show that may require a bit of acting on Emilia's part.
"I don't really care for the Spice Girls," Paradela said.
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