Sher Sheperd auditioned for Disney Cruise Lines three times before she was chosen as a dancer for Tap Happy Two at Tokyo Disney in Japan, placing ahead of roughly 400 accomplished competitors. She has since made a career teaching at her mother’s Hendersonville dance studio, Pat’s School of Dance, and traveling as a tap teacher on the convention circuit for Dance Educators of America. Bold Life recently sat down with Shepherd for a look at the highly competitive world of professional dance.
Let’s start from the beginning. How long have you been dancing?
Since I was 2 ½. I’ve really been here (at her mother’s studio) since I was two weeks old. My mom taught dance on the day before she went into labor with me.
So how did you get involved with Disney?
I auditioned in New York for the Disney Cruise Line and they were looking for one female lead tapper for Tap Happy Two at Tokyo Disney — and they needed her pretty immediately. They kept three of us and then asked if we could leave town in three weeks. So I filled out the paperwork and they made sure we had a valid passport and then they told us they would be in touch later that week. So I flew home from New York on Tuesday and they called Thursday and offered the contract. I left for Japan three weeks later
What was Tap Happy Two?
There was a male lead and I had the female lead. My show name was Mary Irene O’Hara and the basis of the show was that we were in New York — we were in the American Waterfront of Tokyo Disney — and the story was that Dan Flynn brought me into New York and we were dancing on the street and he was trying to promote me to get me into the Broadway show.
How many shows were there?
Five shows a day, five days a week. And they would change every day. We did one show with Pluto, and then a show with a band, the rain show, the regular set with just the two of us, and the stage show. In the summer we did a special event called Cape Cod Jamboree Nights. Special events there are huge. My mom remembers standing in line for the show at 3 in the afternoon and the show wasn’t until 8 at night, just because Japanese people are so obsessed with Disney.
You say the fans were pretty obsessive, how was that?
The security was high (at the Disney apartments) because there are so many fans. We took dance class on Thursday night and fans would come and stand outside the windows and try to look in. It was weird at first. But then, I got used to it and they were really nice. I still get cards around my birthday. They’re just obsessed with Western culture.
What would you tell kids who are aspiring to be professional dancers?
I encourage our kids to go dance. Just because I feel like so many of them have invested so much time. College is wonderful but I feel like you can put it off for a few years. When you can really only dance for so long.