Dancing an average of 20 hours a week since the age of 3 may seem extreme, but it all paid off for one Ahwatukee Foothills girl who went on to travel the world dancing and become a legendary Radio City Rockette.

While attending Arizona State University, Stacy Paydo began teaching 20 hours a week at Victoria's Dance Depot in Ahwatukee instructing jazz, lyrical, ballet, hip-hop, tumbling and tap to competitive and recreational dancers.

"Working at Victoria's Dance Depot really created my passion for teaching," Paydo said. "I enjoy having an impact on the younger dance generation and I find it so satisfying to share my knowledge with my students."

After graduation she went on to dance for Princess Cruise Lines. The experience allowed her to dance while traveling the world, but after six months she was ready to be back on dry land and decided to try out for The Rockettes.

"I started working professionally when I was 5 and could never imagine doing anything else," Paydo said. "Of course, I knew who the Radio City Rockettes were - they are legendary - but it wasn't until my friend became one that I started to see it as a real possibility."

She decided to buy a ticket and travel to New York to audition.

"I stood in line with 500 other girls to audition," Paydo said. "It was two days of competitive tryouts with multiple cuts along the way."

After it all, years of experience paid off and Paydo made the cut.

She has been with The Rockettes for six seasons, dancing in Nashville, touring the Midwest, Canada and the East Coast, but she still enjoys coming back to Arizona.

"I loved working there and still go back (to Dance Depot) once a year to choreograph some of their competition numbers," Paydo said. "Ahwatukee is fortunate to have a solid dance community with a lot of options for quality instruction."

Last month the Radio City Rockettes made one stop in Arizona to kick off the 2010 Spectacular with an event benefiting their "Kick Across America" campaign. They will return Dec. 1-2 for the famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular show taking place in Glendale.

"I couldn't be more jazzed about hitting the West Coast this year," Paydo said. "If you have seen the older version of the show I urge you to go again. It is re-imagined, re-invented and like nothing you have ever seen before."

She says words cannot do justice to her job.

"I have too many special moments to count," Paydo said. "One of my favorites occurs quite often. I love looking out at the audience, and seeing a little girl staring up at us in wonder and amazement. It makes me smile and appreciate my job and reminds me of the joy we are able to give to people."

Allison Hurtado is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.


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