It's easy to get lost in the feeds of Taylor and Reese Hatala, thanks to their mix of serious dance talent, endearing silliness, and knack for eye-catching short-form choreography. Seventeen-year-old Taylor and 14-year-old Reese are popping, wiggling, and throwing major face as skillfully as pros twice their ages—and they're doing it from their kitchen, bedrooms, and backyard at home in Canada, where they're currently #SocialDisDancing.
Casual as their vibe is, the Hatalas are strategic about their social presence. Those carefree-feeling TikToks are carefully crafted in a basement dance studio, then rehearsed and nit-picked to perfection before filming. It's a process that reflects the work ethic the girls have honed during professional gigs—from competing on "World of Dance" (both) and "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" (Reese), to backing Justin Bieber (both) and Lil Nas X (Taylor).
But the goofiness? That's 100 percent real. These down-to-earth dancers truly admire each other and love to joke around. They're refreshingly normal teenagers—who just so happen to be sensationally talented and social-media savvy.
For Taylor, it all started with a video. You've probably seen it—as have 14 million other people since it was posted in 2014: Taylor, barely 11, stands next to Laurence Kaiwai at The Kore Dance Studio in Canada, and hits each beat of Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" harder than her teacher. Digital and critical acclaim soon followed, as did multiple appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
Until that point, Taylor had been training at three Canadian dance studios—Kore, 3rd Street Beat, and Hyperflex Dance Studio. She started traveling more frequently to L.A. (with mom, Teresa), landed an agent at BTB Partners, and upped her bookings. She became a founding member of Will "WilldaBeast" Adams and Janelle Ginestra-Adams' company immaBEAST, and Adams remembers their first lesson: "I walked into rehearsal thinking she'd just be an average kid, and I took it easy on her," he says. "But when I went home and looked at her Instagram page, I couldn't believe my mistake."
Taylor landed a spot on Janet Jackson's Unbreakable world tour in 2015 and spent much of the year traveling with the pop idol. Around the same time, she and fellow dancer Larsen Thompson were also going viral as The Fraternal Twins. The duo starred in Ginestra-Adams' concept videos "IDFWU" and "Run the World" in 2015 (and appeared on the May/June 2015 cover of Dance Spirit).
All the while, another tiny powerhouse—Reese—was taking classes in Canada and L.A., preparing for her own commercial debut. "Larsen may be Taylor's dance sister, but real sisters? We stay together," says Reese. "I remember looking forward to the day we could start booking jobs together."
It didn't take long for Reese to catch up. She was soon able to jump into many of the same classes her sister was taking and land similar jobs. Reese and Taylor even competed against one another on "World of Dance" Season 1. "Reese may have grown up as 'Taylor's little sister,' but she's fought hard to secure her own identity," says Ginestra-Adams. "She hasn't shied away from being herself—and she's feisty! She's not afraid to make a mean face or step into the spotlight."
As Reese has matured, the Hatala sisters have worked together more consistently. Whether they're at a shoot or creating for their feeds, they make good use of their complementary skills. Taylor often takes a directorial role by default, but Reese brings her own voice, too. "Reese uses her face more than I do," says Taylor. "As I've auditioned for other jobs, I've learned to be more subtle. But Reese is so strong, and she can hit so hard." Adds Reese: "Taylor is a cleaner mover than I am. But I'm working on it."
One of the sisters' first joint projects was the 2016 video "Sister Dance Party," choreographed by Ginestra, who found them to be dream collaborators. "They focus like adults, retain choreography quickly, and, right from the get-go, learn the moves as you'll want them performed," Ginestra-Adams says. "In class, if there are ever a few kids in the corner talking, Taylor and Reese are never part of it. They know when it's OK to goof around, and when it's time to get to work."
And when it is time to goof around, Taylor and Reese definitely know how to have fun. "I love going out to eat after shoots or rehearsals with them and their parents," says Adams. "It's when the realness comes out. Reese spilling the beans on Taylor's boyfriend, for example!"
In a normal month, the girls typically travel to L.A. twice. They spend about 50 percent of their time there, despite still attending regular school in Canada. (Reese also still trains at two Alberta studios.) So when quarantine hit this spring, it was a pretty big shock to their systems. "It's certainly different," says Taylor. "We wake up, work out, do our schoolwork online. I'm also teaching online classes, and we're both taking lessons in popping." They're FaceTiming a lot, and meeting up virtually with friends.
And—like all of us—they're spending more time on TikTok, where they've seen their follower count increase in recent months. Their dancing-in-lockdown TikToks have a spur-of-the-moment look, which is true to form for the platform, but it's also deliberate. "It's what I like about our quarantine videos," says Taylor. "Everyone gets to see the rawness, the process, and we're using that to our advantage, to give our followers a look into our daily lives."
The Hatalas think a lot about their online brand. (Their father, Chad, helps direct their social media presence.) "I think we try to create things that are appropriate for our viewers," says Reese. "We want to stick to who we are—we're not going to post anything that's too old for us." Taylor notes that her style has changed as she has matured, and that it'll continue to grow with her as she looks to branch out into acting and modeling. Reese is also hoping to eventually parlay her dance successes into an acting career.
For now, though, Reese dreams of dancing on tour with a big star. And after quarantine, Taylor can't wait to get back in the studio and return to classes in L.A. Whatever the Hatalas' professional destinies, fans of this sister act can rest assured that Taylor and Reese plan on sticking together. Says Taylor: "Our strong sister bond has simply evolved, and it'll keep evolving."