At 9 years old, Taylor P. traveled from Arizona to Texas to fulfill a shared dream, dancing alongside the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during a DCC Dance Academy. At the time, who would have predicted that the little girl from Cave City would fulfill a wish her grandfather had for her, one that would take her from "happy camper" to one of America's Sweethearts?
Taylor visited with DCC.com to share the story of how her camp experience impacted her career choices and shaped her family's narrative.
Q: How does a young girl from Arizona get the idea to travel halfway across the country to attend a DCC camp?
Taylor: I was 9 years old at the time and my grandpa told me, "I will die a happy man if you do this." My whole family are die-hard Cowboys fans. My grandpa has been a die-hard Cowboys fan for decades, and he always admired the cheerleaders and how they carried themselves and represented the team. He thought it would be a dream come true if I had a passion for it, and I did! I'm just so happy that I can fulfill not only my dream, but his as well.
At the time, I was strictly in studio competition in Arizona. It was pretty hard for me to get away and go out of town to do something by myself, which wasn't with my dance friends. I had never been to the state of Texas. It was just me, my mom, my grandma and my cousin. They've supported me in my journey ever since. Family support has been a big part of it. I still have videos of it as well as pictures, and it still touches my heart to this day.
Even now, I remember a couple of new friends I met, and I remember my leader, Brooke. I'll never forget her because she was so sweet and represented the DCC in the most perfect way. As a kid, I always looked up to her and I still have great respect for her. After all these years, I see the videos and those pictures with Brooke and know that I made it.
That's what I want to be able to teach little girls: They can follow their dreams no matter how crazy those dreams may seem and no matter how young you are. Those dreams come true if you keep working hard and striving to achieve.
Q: It must have been very gratifying during your first experience as a rookie DCC Dance Academy instructor to realize that young campers are looking at you in the same way that you looked at Brooke all those years ago.
Taylor: It brings tears to my eyes to think about it. We're so much more than just dancers. The uniform is legendary and iconic and stunning, and I feel so special when wearing it. But we're so much more than looking pretty and dancing. We're representing an organization. We're showing young people that dreams come true and that you can be a good person by doing for others. It's truly an amazing feeling.
Q: Tell us about your dance career because even though you were familiar with the Cowboys, the NFL was not your first full-time experience with a professional dance team. How did you go from Cave City (north of Phoenix) to the NBA's Phoenix Suns to the Dallas Cowboys?
Taylor: I danced studio from the time I was 4 years old until I was 15. In high school, I was on varsity pom and the honors dance company. After graduating high school, I thought my dance career was over. I had no confidence in myself, not even enough confidence to dance in college. 'I'm not good enough to continue,' I thought. 'There's no way.' I went into a sad phase in my life because I was known as a dancer. That's who I was, that was my image. Dance was my heart and I thought that's what I represented. I felt like I didn't have the confidence to continue.
Q: So what changed?
Taylor: My mom said, 'Hey, come do this Phoenix Suns' prep class and get your face out there. It will look good on your résumé.' She said, 'You don't have to try out, but get back to dancing because it makes your heart happy.' So I did the prep class and decided to try out. I made the Suns and the whole time I was thinking, 'OK, I'm going to try to do the Suns for three years just so I can have this experience behind me and dance professionally, just to prepare for DCC.' The whole reason I did the Suns was for the DCC.
Q: How does performing at a Cowboys game compare to performing in an NBA arena for the Suns?
Taylor: Performing at a Dallas Cowboys football game in front of 90,000 people is a feeling unlike any other. I get goosebumps right now just thinking about it! It's a feeling you'll never forget because there's nothing comparable to it at all. The fans are so loyal and awesome.
Q: You used the Suns' prep classes to get your dance career back on track. While you were with the Suns, were you able to take advantage of the DCC prep classes?
Taylor: Yes, during my season with the Suns I went to every DCC class I could possibly attend. If I had a day off from the Sunday, I would fly to Dallas for a day or two, take a DCC prep class, then fly back and do the Suns. Starting in January, I flew once or twice a month leading to tryouts. After prep classes, I decided for sure that I wanted to try out for the DCC.
Q: At the prep class, you're exposed to the DCC's unique dance style. How do you describe that style, and how does it differ from what you did with the Suns or during your time in the dance studio?
Taylor: The DCC style is very pom-y and upbeat and uplifting. I think it's very important to have jazz technique and ballet technique behind you, so my studio background is very important. But DCC has a different style where you not only need to look like the girl next to you, but you've also got to have your own little spark, too. Have your own style. That's important. Don't lose sight of who you are and what your style is.
Q: If I'm unable to fly to Texas to attend DCC prep classes, are there some other ways I can prepare myself for DCC auditions?
Taylor: To prepare the best you can, keep going to classes in your state. Go to jazz classes and hip-hop classes. Be versatile and well-rounded.
The current DCC members, we're all over Instagram and we're happy to help you. Just send us a DM. I think it's easy to get hold of people within the Dallas Cowboys organization through social media, which is the beauty of it all.
Also, look up our choreographers and watch them and maybe teach yourself the routine. Videotape yourself and watch yourself on video. Watch yourself in the mirror. Anything that feels wrong or uncomfortable, do it again until you feel perfect in that move. It's truly the little things that make a big difference."
Q: What about the DCC kick line, which can be make-or-break in the second and third round of auditions? How did you learn the kick line if your background was not in drill team?
Taylor: What helped me was not only working on flexibility, but working on technique. Don't get in your head about how high your kicks are right now. They will work with you on that. Right now work on technique: pointed feet, straightened legs. The flexibility will come with the technique.
The jump split can be scary, but you learn it during DCC Training Camp if you make it through auditions. It can be scary, but once they teach it and you do it the first time, you'll have it."
Q: Honestly, the whole audition process seems a little scary!
Taylor: It's so important as you prepare for auditions to remember this: Do not lose who you are. Do not lose why you wanted to do this in the first place. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the fear of not making it, in the fear of losing your confidence. It's easy to think, 'Oh, this girl is prettier than me,' or 'This girl has higher kicks than me.' At the end of the day, it's about you staying true to who you are and fulfilling your own dream. Do not lose sight of that."
Q: Your DCC dream was a shared dream with your grandpa and your family. Did they get to travel to Texas to see you perform during your rookie season?
Taylor: My family was able to come for our Meet the Team event and the first preseason home game. When I saw them after the game, every single one of them had tears in their eyes, so it was a special moment. During the season, it's hard to be away from your family, living in a different state while they're back home in Arizona. I wish they were here for every weekend, but unfortunately that's not possible. But they're literally watching each game with their eyes glued to the TV. They'll text me, 'Oh, we see you!' or 'Oh, we see the edge of your boot!' We're sharing in the dream together."