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Toys for dance

Eddie Garcia won't sigh or change the subject Thursday if you ask him what Michael Jackson was like. He's used to it.

The dancer and choreographer, who worked on Jackson's tours for the "Bad" and "Dangerous" albums, plans to lead an intermediate and advanced dance workshop at the Grand Opening Extravaganza of Studio Fusion, at 16401 Gothard St., in Huntington Beach, to bring in donations for the Marines' Toys for Tots drive. Anyone who brings a new, unwrapped toy worth $10 or more gets in free, but Garcia has a feeling that whatever the event's cause, the King of Pop will come up at least once.

"Everybody wants to know what Michael was like," said Garcia, who teaches at Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. "I love to share my experience. I was fortunate to work a long period of time with him."

So, for the record, what was Jackson like?

"He was the kindest, most wonderful human being that I've met, as far as an entertainer goes," Garcia said. "Just really, genuinely sweet and nice. The experience of going on tour was unbelievable for me. I can't say how much I learned from being around him and seeing how much he cared about the art form."

Garcia plans to demonstrate at least one thing he learned from Jackson: the moves from the "Thriller" video. And though he doesn't know if he'll have time to teach it at the workshop, yes, he does know how to do the moonwalk.

Garcia's all-ages class, Dance Like a Star, is just part of the festivities planned. The studio also has food, raffle prizes, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an appearance by the Laker Girls on the night's itinerary.

The grand opening starts at 4 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting and continues with Garcia's workshop at 5 p.m., followed by a beginning and intermediate class for all ages at 6 p.m. and a Barre Fusion fitness class for adults at 7 p.m.

According to co-owner Cindy Cairo, the studio has been busy since it opened three months ago. Nearly 100 dancers have signed up for classes in jazz, tap, funk, ballet and other styles. To accommodate competitive kids who spend multiple hours at the studio after school, the owners have even set up a homework room where they can study and eat during breaks.

The studio's founders, Cairo, Kelly Cason and Kristine Barnes, live in Huntington Beach and have daughters who attend the studio. Cairo credits the show "So You Think You Can Dance" with inspiring many teens, mostly girls, she said, plus a few brave boys, to take up the craft.

"We have a lot of teenagers coming in who have no experience dancing," she said. "So I try to make it as non-intimidating for them as possible."

If You Go

What: Grand Opening Extravaganza

Where: Studio Fusion, 16401 Gothard St., Huntington Beach

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Cost: Free to attend; "Dance Like a Star" workshop free with donation of new, unwrapped toy worth $10 or more

Information: (714) 596-7400 or http://www.studio-fusion.net

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