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Taylor Shimko

Interview by Uriah Young



QFTD:  Congratulations on being a Rockette! For those unfamiliar with your company, how would you describe the Rockettes, and what is it like being part of such a distinguished group of dancers?


Taylor: Being a Rockette is a dream come true. I have trained since I was three-years-old for this opportunity of a lifetime. The Rockettes are legendary in the dance world and have been a part of New York City's history since 1925. I feel a constant challenge from the director and choreographer of our show, Linda Habermann, and feel that each year I must out-do my last season. The Rockettes are most widely known for their presentation, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which is held every Christmas season at Radio City Music Hall. During rehearsal, we rehearse six days a week for six hours a day, and once the show opens, we perform six days a week with up to four shows a day. To say that this job is hard is an understatement; I go through so much emotional and physical stress during the Christmas season, but it's all worth it!

QFTD: I can only imagine the competitiveness of the auditioning process  What did you have to do to become a Rockette?

Taylor: When I was a senior in high school, my best friend and I skipped school to attend the open call audition at Radio City Music Hall. Once arriving at the venue, my friend and I got in line (which wrapped around the block) and patiently awaited our turn to get in. There were nearly 1,000 girls of all ages that showed up for the audition that year! After waiting, the coordinators took a group of about 80 girls into a room. The first round of choreography was short and simple, a little mash-up of choreography from a few of the show's routines. They made a cut, and we both made it through.  The next round was tap, and after another cut was made, we had to perform a jazz routine. When it was all said and done, approximately 20 girls survived the audition process. We had made it.


QFTD: Surely, your success did not happen overnight. Tell us about your path to becoming a Rockette. 

Taylor: Dancing has been a part of my life since I was a small child. I trained at The Dance Academy in Holland, PA, where I grew as a dancer and as a person. Throughout my years at The Dance Academy, I was trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acrobatics, hip-hop and contemporary. By age ten, I was winning competitions as a soloist and decided to put my dreams as a dentist aside to focus on becoming a professional dancer. I experienced quite a few auditions in my youth, such as the West Side Story audition when I was sixteen. This was my first "real" audition, and I made it to the end of all the call backs with five girls remaining. I never heard back from the production company, but I still felt that this was a major accomplishment and another stepping stone toward my dream.


QFTD: Your dance company performs at multiple events each year. What's your favorite?  


Taylor: My favorite annual event that the Rockettes take part in is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The women that perform in the parade are selected based on cast, and the rehearsal process is grueling. Although I have yet to be in the parade because of my conflicting cast, I still find it an important and memorable part of every Christmas season. Many girls who aspire to be Rockettes do so because of our performance in the parade. This is one event that the Rockettes are known for outside of the Christmas Spectacular.

QFTD: Who would you say had the biggest impact on your dancing career?


Taylor: When I look at my success and my dance ability, I must credit the one person who I feel has shaped my dancing the most, BJ Byrne. BJ has been my mentor and choreographer at The Dance Academy since I was 13-years-old, and to this day, he still helps me grow as a dancer. I remember being afraid of him when I was younger, but now I appreciate his presence in my dance career. He and I worked together during classes a lot during my senior year of high school; I spent my time at the studio Monday through Saturday. BJ always pushed me to a breaking point, but because of that challenge, I was ready for the professional world once I graduated high school. BJ and I still keep touch, and I return to The Dance Academy once in a while to take his classes.

QFTD: I bet it's pretty cool dancing in front of packed audiences with the bright lights shining down on you. What are some things you enjoy about being a Rockette?


Taylor: Being a Rockette is a very rewarding job. Besides the Christmas Spectacular, we participate in many special appearances each year that I am lucky to have been a part of. Just this summer, we performed during the MLB Home Run Derby, danced on the Colbert Report, and participated in the opening number of America's Got Talent! Aside from the special appearances, another aspect that I truly enjoy is learning new choreography. For the last four years, our director has been working on a new Rockette production that will finally debut in Spring 2014. For the past two and a half years, I have be fortunate enough to be hand selected to work on the behind-the-scenes work for this new show. Not all of the Rockettes participate in this work, only a select few. I have now learned the show in its entirety, and hopefully, if I make the cast list, I will be a part of the new production this coming spring.


QFTD: I have my fingers crossed for you, Taylor. One final question: for the aspiring dancer reading your interview, what advice would you give to achieve success in the dance industry?


Taylor: Being a professional dancer is not an easy job; they don't call us "starving artists" for nothing. My advice to anyone aspiring to be a professional dancer is to be patient. Training takes a lot of time and effort, and sometimes dancing may not come naturally to you. There will be struggles, but if you book your dream job, in the end, it will be worth it. And if you don't book your dream job, the fight will continue. Some girls audition six times before they become a Rockette; not everyone is so lucky to get the job on their first try. Above all, stay humble and continue to work hard. Hard work pays off in the end.


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