Last, but certainly not least, we’re featuring our third senior who graduated this year: Dalton Harrod! He’s been an integral part of the SHUFFLES family since he joined us several years ago, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!
“What can I say about Dalton? If I would sum it up quickly I would say that Dalton is one of the things I am most proud of in this life. I have been teaching Dalton and Kellan (another one I am so proud of) for years. Seeing how he has grown into such a talented young man is pure joy. I remember seeing little Dalton when he was 7 tapping in the back of the class when I taught at Lyric Academy. I could tell that there was something special. He had always been a great actor and singer but watching his little feet move I knew there was a great dancers in there as well. After the class was over I would always spend hours with him after just going over steps and making sure he could do them. He has never complained the entire time I have taught him and is always so respectful. His perseverance with dance and performance despite some of the hardships he and his family has faced is inspiring. Seeing him come so far only makes me thirsty to see what is in store for him in the future.” – Richard Riaz Yoder, SHUFFLES Instructor & Choreographer
SHUFFLES: When did you start dancing at SHUFFLES/ How long have you been part of the SHUFFLES Family?
DALTON: I began dancing at the age of two, in a studio in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma called Dance Unlimited. I fell in love with a Gene Kelly movie (An American in Paris) and I turned to my mom and said, “Mommy I have to do that. I want to dance like that man.” So when my family decided to move to NYC, and I needed to continue training, I was doing a play at the Mint Theatre and a fellow cast mate was a student at SHUFFLES. She told me I had to come meet Gail and Buddy and audition for the show Peter Pantomime. That was when I was twelve, and I’ve been apart of the SHUFFLES family for six years now.
S: What has your experience been like?
D: Life changing. I was pushed here at SHUFFLES like I hadn’t been before. The staff there made me tap faster, act bigger, and completely jump into this style of dance and acting that I wanted to perfect and be apart of so desperately. It was a place where I could take a risk, and not feel judged for making that choice. I got to work with Gail, Shelby, Jessica Blair, Jessica Azenberg, Katharine Ponza, Phillip Attmore, and Richard Riaz Yoder (who I had trained with for years in Oklahoma City, and then continued training with at SHUFFLES). I was so honored to learn from all these different people and learn their nuances and style.
S: What’s your favorite SHUFFLES Memory?
D: Walking into the studio the first time, walking into my first class and learning crossing double pullbacks. It made my brain hurt to try and learn those, but I pushed myself and kept trying and kept trying. I must have gone across the floor twelve times before I got it. Gail was there saying, “You got this. Dalton, breathe.” I had been in this studio for thirty minutes and Gail already knew how to calm me down when I was so frustrated at my feet. I knew then I had to keep training here.
S: What was your favorite SHUFFLES performance?
D: Taps Entertainment and Keep Calm and Tap On were so special to me. Taps Entertainment because I got to recreate these numbers from An American in Paris, and emulate Gene Kelly, which was a dream. And Keep Calm and Tap On because I got to emulate more of my inspirations from Charlie Chaplin to Dick Van Dyke style of performing. They pushed me and I had the most incredible time. Oh also, being able to perform with my brother has been a dream come true. Ever since I saw Singing in the Rain (another obsession of mine) I had always wanted a little brother to dance with so I could have a Cosmo Brown to my Don Lockwood, that came true at SHUFFLES.
S: What do you think you’ve learned most?
D: I have learned to always keep pushing. Don’t accept good, accept greatness. As performers, you will never know too much and never know everything so having that constant want to keep learning is key. I have been blessed with the tools that SHUFFLES has given me, and am so grateful for the things they’ve taught me. Now it is just a matter of applying that and keep pushing myself even further.
S: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger SHUFFLES students?
D: Always listen. This staff is some of the most incredible group of artists and teachers with an infinite wealth of knowledge. Don’t worry about how your costume looks, or whether or not you look good on stage at that moment; live in it and listen to your teachers. Most importantly, as Buddy says before any show or rehearsal, just have FUN!
S: What’s next?