Fresh from winning three national championships in Utah last week, Edmonds-based dancer Rickie Taylor and her Canadian partner Tony Cooperman will take part in the 34th annual Northwest Dance Extravaganza at the Nile Golf and Country Club in Mountlake Terrace this Saturday, March 17.
The all-day event includes performances and competitions. Taylor and Cooperman will be in the dinner show, featuring their signature Latin and ballroom dances. (Information and ticket purchases here.)
This is a welcome homecoming for Taylor, 17, who has spent the last couple of years in a whirlwind of change and challenge, including a move to New York City in January 2017.
After dancing with her former partner, Erik Linder, since she was four years old, Taylor says the pair went their separate ways in 2016. “Erik and I grew up together. We knew each other so well. People said we were like an old married couple.”
Together, they danced their way to early success, including appearances on The Oprah Show and Dancing With the Stars.
“So having a new partner was scary,” Taylor recalls. “I was nervous and excited at the same time.”
At an Ohio competition, she held try-outs with various potential partners who had to be able to compete in “the 10 dance.” While some dancers focus on just one category — ballroom or Latin — she dances a category that includes both — five different ballroom styles and five Latin.
Along came Cooperman, who shared her 10-dance preference. “I really felt that we connected,” she says. “Later, I messaged him on Facebook and said I’d like to dance with you.”
He agreed and messaged back yes: “We were in synch with our personalities and dance,” he replied.
Their move to New York City was a matter of necessity. “That’s where the coaches are, the classes, the dancers,” Taylor says.
At first, it was a big adjustment for both of them. “I had to grow up,” says Taylor. “My parents are a big help and so are Tony’s.”
Larry and Michelle Taylor, owners of Edmonds Auto Body, offer moral and financial support during this transition. “My mom came and stayed for a month, teaching me how to shop, cook, pay the bills. She still calls me five times a day to see if I’ve eaten all my vegetables. I think it might have been tougher for my dad but he knew I’d thrive in New York. I think mom saw it coming.”
As proud as they are of her, she likewise holds them in the highest esteem. “My parents have faith in me. They believe in me and trust me.”
Looking ahead, she plans to continue her education; she’s already earned a GED. “I’m thinking of business or physical therapy for dancers.”
For now though, more than a year into their new life, Taylor and Cooperman are doing well, both as Brooklyn residents and dance partners.
“Tony is three years older than me so he has more experience,” says Taylor. “I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s definitely improved my dancing.”
This summer, they’ll leave the under-21 competition category as Cooperman comes of legal age, but they’ll remain at the amateur level. “Turning pro is a big decision and most dancers don’t do that until they’re in their mid-20s or even 30s,” she says.
But first, they’re looking forward to the top-tier of dance competitions — Blackpool, England in May. “This is the most prestigious competition in the world,” says Taylor. “This is where your idols are, the legends of dance.”
Thanks to costume sponsors, they’ll have new “fancy” apparel to wow the judges.
“So, we’re full-on amateurs now, “ Taylor says, “just climbing that ladder, and improving with each class and competition.”
And having a blast doing it. “Kids my own age, they say how cool this is and what an opportunity. It is. I’m very grateful,” she says.
— By Connie McDougall