Last, but certainly not least, we celebrate our third graduating senior from 2016, Emma Kantor. She’s been an absolute joy in the studio and we know she’s got many years in the spotlight ahead of her. Check out her SHUFFLES journey below!
SHUFFLES: How long have you been part of the SHUFFLES family?
EMMA: I started tap at SHUFFLES when I was 5 years old and have been part of the SHUFFLES family ever since. I have been at SHUFFLES for 13 years total.
S: What has your experience been like?
E: My SHUFFLES experience has been truly life changing. I came to SHUFFLES as a young girl who thought dance would be a fun activity to participate in after-school with my friends. I left SHUFFLES with a positive understanding that my passion for dance and theater will guide me throughout the rest of my life. I’ve had stressful experiences like adding in a new dance or changing choreography days before the final tap show. These experiences have prepared me for the real world and have given me an understanding of what it will be like on Broadway, learning a complicated dance and performing only days later. However, I’ve had more experiences laughing with my friends when we made mistakes and then finally feeling deeply proud after fixing all those mistakes so we could have a dance that was exciting and clean. All the hard work we did in class always paid off.
S: What’s your favorite SHUFFLES Memory?
E: My favorite SHUFFLES memory was learning the “stop time” combination from Shelby on her first day teaching class. When I first met Shelby I was young and thought it would be funny to tell her my name was Oprah, and she continued to call me that for the rest of the class. “Stop time” was very challenging but we all immediately fell in love with the combination and worked extra hard to make it perfect. Parts of “stop time” have been in our dances every year since then; it has become a SHUFFLES tradition. I can proudly say I was present when the tradition was created.
S: What was your favorite SHUFFLES performance?
E: I have multiple SHUFFLES performances that stand out in my memories. Playing Peter in the first ever Peter Pantomime was an incredible honor. I remember auditioning when I was nine years old, hoping to be cast as a lost boy or hopefully as a supporting role. I wasn’t expecting much, as I was considerably younger than the other kids auditioning. But after my audition, I felt very confident, and I was anticipatory for the next morning when the cast list came out. At 8:00 AM my mother walked into my room and said, “Good morning Peter!” and I will never forget how ecstatic I felt in that moment. Playing Peter was difficult for me – a girly girl with an undeveloped soprano voice. But I took on the challenge and devoted my next couple of months to work-shopping this show alongside a talented cast and an incredible production team. I am so thankful Gail and Buddy gave me the opportunity to play Peter not only for the first but also the second year of Peter Pantomime. It was a magical experience and I am grateful to know the tradition of the show continues today. Another one of my favorite SHUFFLES performance was “Busker Ally” in “Keep Calm And Tap On”. This was the year The Company at SHUFFLES was first created and we were all honored to be a part of the original Company. This dance was the first number of the show and it introduced each of our characters individually. I played the crazy Busker who thought she was the Queen of England. My favorite part of the dance was the acapella section where we used only spoons and our taps as percussion. It was really hard to learn all the tricky rhythms, so when we finally got it down it felt amazing!
S: What do you think you’ve learned the most?
E: At SHUFFLES I’ve learned the importance of having stage presence and truly engaging in whatever it is I am doing on stage. No matter how talented a tapper you are, you must find a way to connect with the audience. Learning to be comfortable on stage came simply from spending as much time on a stage in front of an audience as possible. SHUFFLES gave me amazing opportunities to perform every year, but I also took advantage of any other performance opportunity I could find.
S: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to younger SHUFFLES students?
E: The advice I would give to younger SHUFFLES students is to not give up when you are having trouble learning a combination or you are in a class that is challenging you. I’ve learned that a challenge is a good thing because that’s how you improve, and with time and practice, something that once felt difficult will come with ease. Everyone has trouble with a step or combo, and it’s a different one for everyone. Just because you have difficulty with a step at first, does not mean it’s impossible to learn!
S: What’s next?
E: This upcoming school year I will be attending the University of Southern California. I am beyond excited to study Dramatic Arts and Dance at the school of my dreams. To top it all off, my best friend and fellow Company member, Athena Ripka, will be studying alongside me at USC, a dream we have shared since we were five years old. I will be auditioning in LA whenever I have free time, and I can’t wait to experience the Hollywood scene and learn new techniques for camera while auditioning in LA. However, I know NYC and Broadway will always be my home after college. In my opinion, NYC is the greatest city in the world, and I am blessed to have grown up here.