Wearing the number of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ star rookie running back Doug Martin, Christian Bottger of Largo dances a routine to the song “Teach Me How to Dougie” during the Dec. 9 home game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
LARGO – A little over a week ago, Christian Bottger was just another 10-year-old kid who occasionally showed off his talent for dancing at his dad’s work.
Granted, his dad, Ed Bottger, is the video production manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But leading the Bucs cheerleaders and mascot in a dance for the game day crowd was just the beginning of Christian’s shoot to fame.
Snatches of his performance, during the Dec. 9 Buccaneers game against the Philadelphia Eagles, were featured before commercial breaks on national TV. Less than 24 hours later, Christian was on a plane to New York City to perform the routine on NBC’s Today show.
“Sunday when we went to bed, everything was normal,” his mother Christine Bottger recalled. “Monday morning everything was no longer normal.”
Christian’s parents called him out of his fifth grade class at Fuguitt Elementary School to tell him the news. Then the family started packing for the sudden trip.
Christian is a student at Starstruck Dance Academy in Largo, where he dances six days a week, between two and four hours a day. The 10-year-old who never quite sits still began taking classes at the academy five years ago, in the footsteps of his two older sisters, Ashley and Brandi.
“He was dancing around here when he could walk,” said Stefanie Valentine, his teacher and the co-owner of the academy. “We had to work on getting him into actual class.”
Now Christian is open to taking any class the dance school offers: tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop and lyrical.
“All of them except for pointe, because I’m not a girl,” he clarified. “I get to be with my friends and actually express myself.”
The family aptitude for dancing starts with Ed Bottger.
“I think that’s where they all get it from, not from me,” his wife Christine said.
Starstruck Academy has become a second family for the Bottgers – where Christian is if he’s not at school or at home. All three children have been Valentine’s students, even before she and her parents took over ownership of the business when she was just 18.
Christian’s dancing talent began to show up on the Bucs football field when the organization’s Junior Cheerleaders program began to incorporate boys three years ago. Children in the program perform in halftime routines.
From that, Christian was asked to make a short appearance in the Buccaneers’ parody of the Gangnam Style music video, which featured mascot Captain Fear in the place of Korean rapper Psy.
Christian had his first game day feature performance Oct. 21 when the cheerleaders needed a Michael Jackson for a choreographed routine that morphed from Gangnam Style to Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Then came the idea for a routine to the song Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie,” as a way to highlight the Buccaneers’ star rookie running back Doug Martin and to counter his unwanted nickname Muscle Hamster, the team website explains.
The routine starts with a few bars from Gangnam Style before Christian sheds his jacket to reveal Martin’s No. 22 jersey and hard-hitting “Dougie” moves, backed by the Buccaneer cheerleaders and Capt. Fear.
“It’s been a success ever since,” Christian said proudly.
The football organization has dubbed the much shorter mascot “Little Fear.”
Christian has performed the dance at Raymond James Stadium twice, during the Nov. 25 game against the Atlanta Falcons, during which the Starstruck team also performed at halftime, and most recently on Dec. 9, against the Philadelphia Eagles.
His dad’s video of his first performance has been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube.
He picks up new dances quickly, working with the Bucs choreographer only about 30 minutes and running through the routine with the cheerleaders only once on game day, his mother said.
“He’s always … picked up choreography really fast. Which helps a lot if you’re going to do something like this,” Valentine said.
Christian claims that he still gets nervous before dancing in front of so many people, but he seems to revel in the spotlight.
“I just liked dancing all over and seeing the fans clapping and screaming out loud,” he said.
Christian has busted out Gangnam Style when the song came on while the family ate at Buffalo Wild Wings.
“He’s his own personal flash mob,” Valentine said.
Valentine said Christian is her first student to become famous, but explains that the goal of her studio is to equip students to be able to take dance wherever they want.
“It’s kind of surreal for me,” she said. “You always hope something like this will happen, and it’s really cool. But I don’t think it will be the last time. I have a lot of talented kids here.”
Among his circuit of local appearances, Christian recently was featured on the Tampa Bay radio station WiLD 94.1. The family is in talks for appearances on Anderson Cooper Live, Headline News and Entertainment Tonight, Christine Bottger said.
The experience has been amazing, crazy and overwhelming, she said, but as a mother, she is determined to keep Christian level headed.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of him, as I am of Brandi and Ashley as well because they’ve been very supportive of him through this journey.”