Tarah began dancing at age 4—one year before she discovered the sport of gymnastics. More than just a childhood whim though, Tarah had a passion for it, and show much natural ability for the styles of dance to which she was being introduced. It wasn’t long before teachers, audience members, family, & people around her began to see that Tarah was excelling here. She took Tap, Ballet, Jazz, and even an Acro class (where the gymnastics thread of her life begins). She had flexibility, coordination, and practiced constantly, with a diligence rarely seen in someone her age. She danced at home, in the supermarket isles, in the car, on the way to school, at school, and on vacation ...anywhere that would lend her a place. She even began to wear leotards under her school clothes each morning to save time changing at the dance studio. As dance began each fall, Tarah was often placed in a group above her ability level so that she could be challenged and rise to the occasion. She was a chameleon; She would try & imitate any dance move she saw.
Tarah's confidence grew a little more each day. From her first performance of “Animal Crackers,” (at 4)--to each of her National Championship wins. It was clear... she Loved the stage. She took command of her group and shined. Her considerable charisma and ability to light up an auditorium was already evident, though at this point, not much thought was being given to Tarah’s future as a dancer. She was still very young and her family knew little about the world of dance other than just to take her to the classes she loved so much.
Tarah was just 8 when an event occurred that would change her life forever. Un-like the constant “switch-a-roo” of gyms to find a coach that could take her to the top, just one young lady by the name of Deanna Dillard would catapult Tarah to her peak potential. Deanna began teaching at Tarah's dance academy, and having been a dance performer and renowned competitor herself, she knew the scope of dance competitions very well and knew just how to guide this young girl. Her main area of expertise was Tap…but she could teach anything. Luckily, she was assigned to teach Tarah’s tap class and could tell by the end of the first day that she had found something special. Tarah picked up moves quickly, did them with strength and precision, and was a hard worker with a great attitude. Deanna had found what she believed to be a dance prodigy, and one capable of doing much more than just dancing in classes—a dead-end road for Tarah without a more challenging way for her to showcase her abilities.
After observing her in class, Deanna approached and asked permission to give Tarah private lessons. There was no way to know at the time that this was a life altering decision, so Mom just said they would...“think about it.” Later, (asked if she was interested in doing this sort of thing) Tarah responded with great enthusiasm. She loved to dance and was very happy with the idea of being on stage more! And soon enough the consequences of this decision and the tremendous opportunity which had befallen her, were about to become quite evident. Deanna opened Tarah’s eyes to a world of dance competitions and later, shows. Performing not only Tap, but also Lyrical, Jazz, Acrobatics (and various combinations thereof), meant not only hard work, but buying all the costumes and accessories to make this new undertaking possible. Deanna’s innovative ideas (like tapping while jumping rope, a lyrical to upbeat-contemporary music, elaborate hand-made costume designs, novelty numbers using Tarah’s flexibility/acrobatic tricks, etc), along with Tarah’s special abilities as a performer, led to a long and extensive winning streak. Sometimes the extreme creativity resulted in disqualification from contests, or being moved from one category into another to make the dances “fit” the sometimes narrow judging criteria. Deanna was ahead of her time, but she made Tarah a force to be reckoned with. Once word spread, other contest entries would often even withdraw from the competition if they found out far enough in advance that Tarah was competing in their division.
At 8 years old, after only a couple months of lessons from Deanna, Tarah won her first regional championship with her Tap routine, “Yellow Ribbon Medley,” and a few months later, traveled to Las Vegas to capture her first National Championship (on her 9th birthday), for her specialty number, “Journey Through America.”
With each new season came new dances, new ideas, new costumes, more dance and acro skills…and more wins. By the time she was 12, she had a room with floor to ceiling trophies, 9 national titles, 20 regional titles, and 3 overall National Champion-ships, plus over 140 1st place plaques. At one of the National competitions, the judges gave her a standing ovation! At another, her first Los Angeles talent agent found and signed her. (Thus began the treks to Los Angeles for auditions and the beginning of her acting and singing careers). All this time, she was still spending four hours each day in gymnastics training, was a full-time public school student (with straight-A’s), and was performing more than once a week at one competition or another. She still took time to play with her friends, brother Devon, and animals (kitties/hamster/ferret)...but those free moments were sometimes few and far between in the heart of the school year and her competition season. A typical day would include school from 8:00a until 3p, followed by a 3:30-7:30p gymnastics training, with studio dance lessons or private practice chasers. Homework was done in the car from place to place and at home in the late evenings.
Luckily for Tarah, she was able to get most of her work done during school hours due to her work ethic and a large number of flexible teachers. Homework, thus, was not a tremendous encroachment on her time--until mid high school that is--(Pre-Calculus, Physics, and Biology homework would sometimes take her well into the early morning hours to finish)! Sometimes, a trip to Los Angeles during the week for an audition would break up the schedule. On weekends, it was performance time again where Tarah would typically have at least one competition each day as well.
Around the age of twelve Tarah decided she was ready for the next phase of her dancing career--live shows. With her years of on-stage experience, countless credentials, audience savvy, ability to choreograph, and ever-increasing knowledge of the business, she had little to gain by continuing to compete in contests anymore. So soon after the decision, Tarah began performing with a wide variety of top-notch companies throughout Junior High and High School, including dancing for the world-renowned Phase Four Studios, the Val Vista dancers, Eurasian Dance Company, and even being called upon sometimes to perform her own live shows from various contacts she had made. She danced in Vegas as one of the co-stars in “The All-kid Revue,” and even toured in the mid-west with the rock group, “B.C.C.” as well.
More and more, Tarah was feeling like she just couldn’t wait to be finished with the constraints of going to school, so that she could live in California and pursue a professional career. She graduated high school at the age of 15 with a 4.05 GPA, and after finishing her 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, (training dance & gymnastics all the while), she wasted no time (and We mean NO time!) hopping right into the professional side of performing. Graduating at age 19, Summa Cum Laude, she started her first full-time professional gig as a co-starring member of the Palo Duro Canyon Theatre’s summer production of "TEXAS." She had literally one day to get out of the dorm in Oklahoma, relocate and move all her belongings to Texas, settle into an apartment with roommates, and start rehearsing. Wheeeew!!! “TEXAS,” the musical, is billed as the “best attended outdoor theatre in the country” by Time Magazine. Tarah danced, sang, acted, and tumbled her heart out in front of some 170,000 people over the course of her three-month contract. In August, she moved back to Arizona for a month to collect her thoughts as to where to go from here. She was also more than ready to see her family, whom she was missing very much. It was the longest she had been away from home yet!
There were many possibilities at this point. Tarah was done with school, competitive dance and gymnastics, and her other time constraints. So now the question was: which avenue of performing should she pursue first? Tarah decided she'd focus primarily on film and television. She thought perhaps her youthful apperance and physique would be in high demand over in LA. But, being the consummate dancer and gymnast that she is, she could not just leave her athletic background in the dust. Opportunities came along and because of her love to perform, she accepted many of them! When Tarah moved to LA in October of 2002, she took a job performing as a principle company member in the world famous Crystal Cathedral’s “Glory of Christmas” production, while she got her headshot/resumes together and settled into her new life. Here, like with “TEXAS,” she played to 2000-3000 people each night.
The more Tarah performed, the more she knew this is what she always wanted to do. The awesome ability to inspire so many people each day was a phenomenal high. It was in January that her first Television Series took flight. "All-American Girl" was the show that would create a countrywide interest in Tarah and had just the kind of mass influence over American youth that she was searching for. This 13-episode ABC series pushed Tarah hard. Never before had she had this kind (or amount) of “on camera” time, and she soaked it up like a sponge! The way the cast was assembled: a nationwide search done by industry professionals who scoured the country to pick the 45 top girls from the hundreds of thousands who auditioned. Girls they felt had the most talent and potential to thrive in a variety of areas. From the creators of American Idol,” Tarah was not only selected as one of the top 45, but also made the cuts to 24…to 15…to 12…and finally to the top 10! She was asked to perform tasks each week including singing, public speaking, athletic challenges of all varieties [including basketball, ocean swimming, & rope climbing], plus, an intelligence test, and (of course)...dancing!! Here, she was acknowledged by contestants, producers, and choreographers alike as being overall the most enjoyable to watch. Though Tarah found the show to be a bit chaotic at times (both in idea and in schedule), she really enjoyed the bulk of it. Later, she continued on to become a recurring contestant and semi-finalist on the ABC show, "Dance Fever," and closed 2003 by became the World Dance and Performing Arts Champion.
(Credit MGM Grand for their 13th Annual International Competition).
Tarah hoped the show would act as a catalyst for things to come, giving her an increase in name-face recognition...and it did. She never tires of having someone come up and let her know how much they enjoyed her performance. Several agents had also seen her on the show and, after careful interview, she chose the one that viewed her future most similarly to her own ideas.
Looking back, Tarah considers herself extremely fortunate to have been able to experience the events that have come her way. The sacrifices were great ...the long hours of practice, constant shifts in schedule, etc. ...Plus the endless struggle to become a better performer and rise up to even her own self-imposed high standards. But Tarah feels blessed and it is one of her foremost principle goals to share the magic through performance with audiences around the globe, to inspire youth, and partake of life’s many wondrous opportunities.
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