Watch 11-year-old Taylor Hatala dance and the word “phenom” comes to mind.
The little girl with the fierce hip hop moves is already the star of a viral video that’s been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube and she was recently invited to perform on “Ellen.” Dancing to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” she twists, jumps and pounds the floor with skinny legs that sometimes move quicker than your eyes can follow.
Ask Taylor how she feels about her viral fame, and she giggles.
“Everyone always says that, but I always deny it because I just don’t think of myself as famous. It’s weird to think about,” Taylor, who lives with her family in suburban Edmonton, Alberta, told TODAY Parents. “I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen at all.”
“It’s surreal,” her mom Teresa Hatala added.
Taylor started dancing at 3, when her parents began taking her to preschool tap, jazz and ballet classes. At 6, she tried her first hip hop class and was hooked. Taylor’s teacher noticed right away there was something special about the little girl and suggested she perform solo during a recital. That’s when Taylor and her family realized dancing might be more than a hobby.
“We just saw a spark… that magic came out on stage,” Hatala recalled.
“As I got older, I realized it was more than just fun for me, it was something that made me happy. It was a passion,” Taylor said.
She estimates she practices four hours a day, seven days a week, though her mom is quick to add she gets plenty of time for school and friends. Taylor describes herself as “nervous-excited” when she’s in front of an audience.
The young dancer has performed in videos posted on YouTube before, but it’s the “Anaconda” clip — choreographed by and co-starring dancer Laurence Kaiwai — that has propelled the girl into the spotlight.
Her mom says the exposure has been wonderful, but she’s also wary about some of the criticism the family has faced over the music choice. Hatala points out Taylor is dancing to the clean version of the Nicki Minaj song and that she and her husband monitor their daughter’s dance routines for any moves that might be too risqué for an 11-year-old.
“We know what kind of child we’ve raised and we know what good values we’ve instilled in her,” Hatala said. “She’s humble and grateful, she’s a kind kid. Regardless of all the stuff that’s happening around her, she’s still our same kid.”
As Taylor enters adolescence — an age when girls often feel awkward and self-conscious — Hatala attributes her daughter’s poise and self-assurance to the family’s commitment to be supportive, positive and nurturing. Instilling confidence in kids is key, she added.
As for Taylor, she’s dreaming of becoming an entertainer: she wants to professionally dance, act and sing when she grows up.
For now, she’s still over the moon about being invited to dance on “Ellen,” an opportunity that she called a “dream come true.”
“I was nervous at first, but then when the crowd started getting up and dancing that’s when my body kind of just relaxed and I was like, OK, it’s all good, let’s just dance,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to break out of your shell.”
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