It feels impossible to put the magic of Jacalyn Tatro's dancing into words, but "old soul" is a good place to start. With her coiled-spring energy and crystal-clear technique, Jacalyn imbues choreography with a gravity and poignancy you'd expect from a veteran professional dancer, not a rising college freshman.
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Anne Forrest, her teacher of 15 years at Inspire School of Dance in Naperville, IL, saw the depth of Jacalyn's artistry right away. "Even when she was 3, she was ahead of the game," Forrest says. "But I really noticed how much talent she has when I started her first solo, at age 6. I'd taught her in class, but was amazed by how fast she picked up the choreography and how naturally performance came to her. And she works so hard for everything."
"Everything" includes netting New York City Dance Alliance's National Outstanding Dancer title as a Mini, Teen, and Senior; wowing at summer intensives at Francisco Gella Dance Works and Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and modeling for dancewear and costume companies—to name just a few highlights. With that resumé, you might be surprised to hear what Jacalyn's proudest of so far: "College auditions," she says. "They're something you work up to. I'm proud of the work I've put out there, knowing my training has gotten me where I am."
Jacalyn's set to enroll at The Juilliard School this fall and isn't taking the summer easy: She's attending two different intensives and two convention Nationals (as usual). On her post-college wish list? Dancing on Broadway, joining a company like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, diving into the L.A. scene, and, eventually, a choreographic career. "I want to improve and get as much information and experience as possible," she says, "so I can take my career path anywhere that I want."
"There's an innate gift in Jacalyn that allows her to make you feel like 'Yeah, she's been through that.' She's a superstar, like Michael Jackson or Robin Williams. She has their same magic ability to connect to the audience." —Anne Forrest, director of Inspire School of Dance
Birthday: November 17, 1999
Hometown: Naperville, IL
Must-see TV: "One Tree Hill," "The Good Doctor," "Friends"
Choreographers she's dying to work with: Peter Chu, Crystal Pite, Andy Blankenbuehler
Favorite movies: Singin' in the Rain, Chicago, What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Hidden talents: "I can pop my shoulder blade out, and I make really good Donald Duck noises."
Something no one knows about her: "I collect Minnie Mouses! I've been a Disney fan since childhood. Whenever we go to California, we drop in at Disneyland."
Three things she can't live without: "My music, Whole Foods, and matcha"