Sharing her amazing journey to become a Rockette
“Such an incredible 10 years.” That’s how former Radio City Rockette Megan (Schenck) Dragoo described her experiences in New York City during Coffee Club at the Woodford County Library last Friday, Sept. 20. “Performing is definitely my favorite job I’ve ever done,” said Dragoo, “but I feel extremely blessed to be able to have a second career with dance education and doing what my mom did, which is not only teach dance but instill good values into these children to be better members of their community and to be responsible …” Now a mother of three, Dragoo said she’s glad to be home at Jane’s School of Dance, where she and her two sisters grew up. Their mom, Jane Schenck, who has owned a dance studio for 48 years, opened her first studio right out of high school, Dragoo said. She remembers being picked up at school “in that old silver station wagon,” and staying at her mom’s dance studio until around 9:30 p.m. It was a way of life for Jane and her three daughters. The siblings all danced as kids, but it was older sister Joni and Megan who went onto dance careers in New York City. Like her mom, who became a businesswoman straight out of high school, Dragoo left for New York a few months after graduating from Woodford County High School in 1998 so she could pursue her dream to become a Radio City Rockette. “People would always ask me, ‘Where are you going to school? Where are you going to college?’ remembered Dragoo, and she would always tell them, “‘I’m going to dance.’ And I did.” She auditioned for the Rockettes in August 1998 and landed one of 16 open spots. “I’ve always said this,” she recalled, “that I was a very fortunate artist in New York … It was a series of fortunate events and not unfortunate events.” Dragoo danced with the Rockettes for three years before she auditioned for a revival of “42nd Street.” It was never in her plans to dance on Broadway, but after watching the show’s choreographer nodding with delight during her audition, Dragoo realized, “I might have this job.” And she did. “My performance education came from being a part of that show,” said Dragoo. “I was 20 years old when I was cast in ‘42nd Street’ – and watching those amazing performers and actresses and actors really provided an amazing learning environment for me as a performer.” Dragoo described being a part of the “42nd Street” cast that opened the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall as her “most favorite performance.” “I had danced on that stage so many times in my life – thousands of times, probably (with the Rockettes) … But I never danced on that stage with the house lights up and every seat full,” recalled Dragoo. “It gave me goose bumps. It brought tears to my eyes to do that. It was incredible. It was incredible. And we (42nd Street) won the Tony that year (2001).” Eventually, Dragoo was cast in a speaking role as Phyllis and most incredibly danced on the same Broadway stage as her older sister, Joni, in “42nd Street” after having performed together in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. “So we’ve had two stages in Manhattan where we’ve danced together,” Dragoo said. “This is the dream now,” said Dragoo of teaching at Jane’s School of Dance and running the business started by her mom. “But that was the dream then.” Her older sister still lives in New York City, so she goes back for visits, and said she’s often reminded of the physical wear and tear of a career in dance. “I’m getting ready to turn 40, and it takes me about 10 minutes after waking up to walk it off … So my body hurts,” said Dragoo. Her daughter, Kimber, who turns 8 years old this week, loves to dance. “She has a passion for performing. It’s very natural to her,” said Dragoo, who’d like to get more boys into dance. Coffee Club at the Woodford County Library happens twice monthly on Friday mornings at 9:30. Visit the library’s web site or pick up a copy of its printed calendar at the Versailles or Midway branches for upcoming Coffee Club speakers.