Longwood native and Lyman High grad Katy Tate is performing with the biggest names and living her dancing dreams on the nation’s most prestigious stages
Katy Tate was all of three years old when she took an interest in one of the most expressive of careers – that of a dancer. By sweet 16, the Longwood native was choreographing for others, at 17 left for L.A., and she has since achieved dazzling professional success, working with everyone from Bette Midler to the ultra-demanding Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.
But Katy must confess: she is not instinctively outgoing.
“I am an introvert by nature,” she says. “When I was a kid, I was shy to say what I was feeling.”
During a grocery shopping outing with her mom, Katy, not even in kindergarten, saw a dance studio and told her mom she wanted to try it. She quickly found a way to express all those feelings she had learned to bottle up.
“When you’re dancing, you can live out your fantasies – you can pretend to be someone who is confident, even if you are not,” says Katy. “The person on stage is not always that person.”
Katy attended Altamonte Elementary and Milwee Middle School. Immediately upon graduating from Lyman High, Katy moved to Los Angeles on scholarship with the Tremaine Dance Center, with whom she maintains a close relationship today. Katy quickly landed a number of dancing roles on the West Coast, appearing in television shows, commercials, and music videos.
She also found time to return to her roots, studying dance and psychology at Rollins College (“I’ve always had an interest in the human condition,” she says) and appearing at such venues as Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Pleasure Island.
Between frequent visits to her family in Longwood, Katy has lived the past 11 years in Las Vegas, a city that she says “is a lot different from what I expected.”
Despite the casino-and-glitz naughty vibe that Vegas once rejected, then re-embraced, it’s a thriving arts town these days, Katy says. She moved there to perform in the show Fashionistas, before landing a role as a dancer in Bette Midler’s The Showgirl Must Go On. Katy found herself wowed by The Divine Miss M’s work ethic and professionalism.
“She was there when we did all the work – she didn’t just come in and insert herself afterward,” Katy says. “She’s a pretty amazing lady.”
The career of a professional dancer bears a huge resemblance to that of a pro athlete – the super-intense physical and mental training, the stamina and concentration required, the frequent moves to where the jobs are. And then, despite pouring every inch of your fiber into your line of work, there is the inevitable onset of age and wear and tear on the body.
“It’s a huge jolt,” Katy says. “It’s scary. It’s hard to come to terms with.”
Fortunately for Katy, she began preparing early in her life for a richly textured career. Her interest in choreography ensures Katy will land on her own two feet.
“I am quite lucky,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed making something in my mind come off in real life. I’ve always had a vision of a whole cast of people.”
And just as many gifted athletes turn to coaching, Katy has found directing young dancers immensely rewarding, describing the feeling as “almost mother-like.”
These efforts have not gone unnoticed. At a recent event at the Renaissance Orlando hotel near SeaWorld, the esteemed Tremaine Dance organization honored Katy with its Outstanding Alum award for 2016.
Despite decades of success and accolades, Katy says she still feels nervous before each performance, whether as a dancer or as the coach/choreographer behind the scenes. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Maybe if you’re not nervous, something’s off,” Katy says.
She is currently dance master at The Beatles LOVE show performed by the Canadian-based Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage Resort and Casino. Katy’s job is to make sure dancers with a wide array of backgrounds and experience stay safe in this highly complex – and not risk-free – display of dance and acrobatics set to medleys of Beatles songs in the Nevada desert.
“It’s not child’s play,” Katy says. “There is danger involved, and we train extensively.”
While in many live performances dancers are responsible for a single “track” or series of moves, at Cirque du Soleil the lineup changes daily, so everyone in the cast of 64 must be prepared to shift to multiple roles.
“Every day you’re faced with something you would never expect,” says Katy. “It keeps you on your toes.”
For Katy, being on her toes is where she has always belonged.
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