From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we've started a new interview series, #SocialDisDancing. Over the next few weeks, we'll be catching up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. We had the chance to speak with Taylor Shimko, who's been a Radio City Rockette for more than 10 seasons. (Be sure to check out Taylor's takeover of our Instagram for an inside peek at her day in the #SocialDisDancing life.)
Where are you spending this period of social distancing?
I'm at home in New Jersey, with my parents and my boyfriend.
What were you up to right before social distancing was advised?
Me and my fellow Rockettes had just finished filming our Fosse video that we posted online, featuring our "All That Jazz" routine. I was so excited to be back on the Radio City stage, dancing with all of my friends.
Right after we finished working on the video, I headed down to Florida to celebrate my birthday with my family. Pretty much as soon as we got back from that trip, we had to lock down and prepare for social distancing.
What do your days look like right now?
I'm trying to keep a schedule. I still set an alarm every day, even though I sometimes don't have much to do—it's important for me to have some sense of normalcy these days. So I wake up, and spend an hour of the morning mostly to myself. I have coffee, and I read. I've been tackling quite a few books, which I'm really happy about. Right now I'm reading The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley, and I just finished Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. I'm trying to get a book done every week. I also try not to use my phone in my first hour of being awake, because I feel like I've been spending so much time on social media, just scrolling through my feed whenever I feel bored.
After that, usually some time around mid-day, I'll take a dance class or a fitness class online, and then take a few laps around the block with my dog. It's important for me to stay active. Around four o'clock I'll start cooking dinner: I'm in charge of dinners for my family, which can be a little challenging, just trying to get all of our food interests lined up. I'll eat dinner with my family, and then rinse and repeat, and do the same thing the next day.
How has your dancing been impacted by social distancing?
It's definitely been interesting, trying to navigate this whole "dancing at home" thing. I don't have a home studio, but I was able to clear out a spare bedroom to get some space. I've been using this time to focus on things like technique and flexibility, since I don't really have the space to do expansive movement. I'm stretching a lot, and working at the barre a little bit slower than I would in a normal class setting—really focusing on fine-tuning my technique.
Have you been taking any virtual classes?
Yes—it's been so fun! I obviously tuned into my fellow Rockette Katelyn's class on Instagram Live last week, which was so awesome. She taught the choreography from a section of our dance from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, "Christmas Lights." It was so great to feel like me and my fellow Rockettes were all dancing together again.
Something I've realized is that we're sort of lucky right now, to be able to train with people we wouldn't normally. I've been taking classes online from Tiler Peck, Mark Meismer, and Suzi Taylor. That's been pretty cool.
You're also going to be teaching on the Rockettes' Instagram Live this week. How are you feeling about that?
I'm so excited to do it—I've never done an Instagram Live before! I'm feeling up to the challenge of trying something new. I'm going to be teaching a part of our choreography for "Sleigh Ride." Obviously, it'll be a little bit of a challenge not to be able to see my students while I'm teaching, but after seeing all of the positive feedback for Kaetlyn's class last week, I'm eager to teach my own class.
I'm thankful that we're offering online classes. It's such a cool chance for people to learn some of our precision choreography and see what it's like to live in our shoes for a day.
How do you think the dance world will look once this is over?
I'm really hopeful that the appreciation for the arts will increase through this time. Also, I'm absolutely positive that once we're able to create again, and dance more freely, and really perform, we won't take it for granted. I think that in some ways, this can be a positive experience—we all have time to ourselves, so we can bring forward our best work once this is all done.
Who's the first person you want to see after social distancing?
I actually have two answers. First, I'm of course itching to get back into rehearsal and back to dancing with my fellow Rockettes. We've been able to Zoom and hang out virtually, but it's just not the same.
And then, I also want to see both of my grandmothers! They're both living alone right now, so I know they're desperate for some physical interaction, and I miss them both very much.
First dance class you want to take?
I'll probably head to Broadway Dance Center and take Josh Assor's theater jazz class.
First place you want to go?
Just New York City, as a whole. I live in New Jersey, but usually, I take trips into the city very frequently for work, for dance, for everything. I've seen pictures of NYC lately, and it's not the hustle and bustle that it usually is. I'm excited for when things go back to normal and I can head back into the city again.
Any last words of advice for your fellow dancers?
Don't get discouraged that we can't be together in the studio. This is a really good time for all of us to focus on our own well-being, physical and mental. When we come out from the darkness, it's going to be so spectacular.