This Dancer's Life: EVERETT TARLTON

Make no mistake about it: There is absolutely no way to avoid instantly liking Everett Tarlton - it's useless to even try. In fact, resistance is futile. The boy possesses so much innate charm that anyone - whether you're a director, a choreographer, an actor or even a critic - simply cannot resist him. And audiences? Those poor souls have no hope whatsoever.

That's all well and good, of course, and you might find yourself thinking that what with all the charm, good looks, stage presence and talent that Mr. Tarlton has to back up his impressive resume...he's probably able to rest on his laurels. But when you get to know him better, you discover that he backs up every one of those enviable attributes with hard work, perseverance, ambition and determination.

Everett Tarlton, you see, has got the goods. Today, you have your chance to know him better - the talented young man who's busily making a name for himself in Nashville theater as an accomplished dancer and choreographer who goes beyond what might be expected in pursuit of a career in his chosen art form.

What was your first introduction to dance as an art form? I came to know dance as a lifestyle when I was very young. Back in the early 1980s, when my father or my brother would have his buddies over for drinks, poker, etc., they would crank up the huge stereo record player, an old eight-track (yes, an eight-track), or just crank the local radio station. This was the only time I ever remember it being okay to play music that loud in the house...when they amped the music...I would DANCE MY FACE OFF! I found power in movement. It didn't matter what I was doing, how I looked, or who was watching (they rarely paid attention anyway) as long as I was MOVING - a trait I thankfully haven't lost some 20-some odd years later.

As art, I came to dance through choreography: I actually started making up dances three or four years before I ever set foot in a real dance class.

When I was 12, I was part of a singing group at my elementary school. I was fooling around in rehearsal - like ya' do - and started making up silly dance moves to go along with our songs. The next thing I know I'm the show's choreographer...I didn't even really know what a choreographer was! But I did it, it was fun and the audience clapped. So, this tradition carried on throughout high school for a few years...until I thought, "I should probably get some kind of training to do this thing I had been doing for years." So I did.

What was your first real job as a dancer? In 2005, I worked for Unto These Hills on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. We depicted the story of The Trail of Tears and performed these crazy-cool contemporary versions of classic Native American dances and ceremonies. I had worked for the drama the previous year as an actor, but after performing in some of the companies second season shows, I was invited to return the following year as an actor/dancer. It was truly an amazing experience both professionally and spiritually. Imagine doing tons of performances all summer...nestled in the Smoky on the very land where the story that you are telling took place. To call it magical would be a negligence. I really found myself there. It was there that I met my incredibly talented friend, Pam Atha, a household name in Nashville, and at that time choreographer of Unto These Hills. I was very honored to perform for Pam (and also quite terrified)! When I first laid eyes on her brilliant choreography, it became apparent that her ability to tell stories through movement with spirit and soul was unparalleled! Atha inspired me. She even yelled at me once...only once! But I always remembered my spacing after that. She also gave me a little nudge when she cast me to understudy the shows poster child, which had already been previously cast, The Great Eagle Dancer. Again, I was honored! I've been keeping my mind open to dancing professionally ever since.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in dance? In 1996-1997, I had the opportunity to sing and dance on stage in Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios with my high school's show choir. It was my high school music instructor, who I choreographed for, who got me into my first private dance lessons, telling me I had a natural talent and I should explore it further. When I got on those big "important" stages for the first time...dancing, singing, and acting my tail off...I knew this was the type of thing I wanted to do. I was hooked! Dance, theatre, film, stand-up, I liked it all, and I wanted to do it all.

Who is your idol? I came to dance through primal instinct, music, and pop culture...not from the ballet barre. Hands down my biggest dance inspiration: Michael freakin' Jackson. To this very day, if M.J. is feet hit the floor. Plus, Michael and I share a birthday!

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? What are the best parts of working here? I've lived in a few cities in the Southeast, all with moderate success as a working performer. No matter the city, I had an overwhelming urge for somewhere different, something wasn't right. I grew up pretty sheltered in the mountains of East Tennessee, so I figured leaving the state for a larger city was the next logical step for a career in arts and entertainment. After living nomadically throughout the southeast, however, I found myself putting my energies toward Nashville. I thought, "Where does a born and raised Tennessee boy go to make something out of himself?" Nashville, of course! This is probably the most lucrative decision I have ever made. Not only does Nashville offer a plethora of performance opportunities, but it also combines the backwoods country atmosphere I grew up in with the urban feel I always longed for - all in one spot!

What is your dream role as a dancer? If you could dance any role, what would it be and why? Most of my dance dreams are based in playing the role of choreographer. My first love is creating dances! I'm an actor and a director at heart, and I love to use dance to tell stories.

What is the biggest spot on your resume? I don't know about "biggest spot"...that's a bit relative... but I had a blast cutting a rug as a VIP party guest on an episode of Nashville. I got to be on the same set with Christina Aguilera, which was rad! Also, I had the pleasure of performing with Broadway's Rachel Potter and The Voice's Patrick Thomas in a corporate gig last January (along with my colleagues, friends and Nashville theatre staples DeVon Buchanan, Mallory Mundy and Justin Milele). This experience was so much fun it was criminal. Gigs with jumbo screens, film crews, and lots of spectacle really make you feel like a rockstar. The fact that you might not irrelevant.

What role/work is your most favorite? It is impossible to pick one show or work. I have a fondness for good old-fashioned evenings of dance or dance concerts; where a group of dancers and choreographers pool their talents under a common banner and create a menagerie of pieces for an audience to enjoy. My favorite memories have come from these types of productions.

What's the biggest misconception people have about dancers? That dancers are graceful all of the time. If I had a dollar for every time I fell over or ran into something and someone said, "Aren't you a dancer? Aren't dancers supposed to be graceful?" We are not! Offstage, in my experience, dancers are a bit clumsy. Oh yes, on stage, every foot, arm, and hand may be perfectly in place - but in two hours that same person will be walking down Church Street tripping over air.

Who would play you in the film version of your life story? Hopefully me! I ain't dead yet!

What's your favorite work created for dancers to perform? My dear friend and proclaimed soul sister Cara Harker - a fellow actor, dancer, choreographer, and now head of East Tennessee State University's dance program - cast me in this wacky little show called Memoirs of a Mythomaniac (or Tallulah Dies)...we usually just called it Tallulah Dies. Tallulah Dies is a comic, yet tragic, look into the mind and past of a compulsive liar...Tallulah...or is that her real name? I was a contributing choreographer and played Tallulah's therapist and later her Prince Charming. What was interesting about this show is that it was a "dance-ical." That's right, just like a musical but instead of songs...inserted into the script were dances. Imagine performers bursting out into dance in the middle of a therapist session - wacky, right? Well, it was just wacky enough. The show was entered into the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2011 and we unexpectedly brought home the coveted Producers' Pick of the Fringe Award that summer. Needless to say, we drove home with smiles on our faces. This was probably the most interesting and original piece of dance work I have had the pleasure to be a part of.

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the world of dance, who would you choose and why? Michael Jackson, Bob Fosse and Paula Abdul - all for obvious reasons.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own dream...what would you say? Believe you can. Act as if you already have. If you hold it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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