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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 16:26

Port High grad Melissa Schlenvogt’s dream of dancing on the Disney World stage came true, and now she’ll be touring the world performing in Disney shows

     When Melissa Schlenvogt was 12 and visiting Disney World in Orlando, Fla., she was entranced by the show performed on the stage in front of the castle. She told her parents Pam and Lee of the Town of Port Washington, “I so want to dance on that stage.”

    Schlenvogt, now 24, has not only danced on that stage for the past year, she is about to embark on a Disney Live World Tour of East Asia and Australia for Feld Entertainment.


    She has been cast in the Three Classic Fairy Tales tour. The 18-member cast from around the world will perform Disney versions of “Cinderella,” “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” in the language of the country they are in.


    Schlenvogt said she’s fairly fluent in Spanish, but that’s not going to help her in China, Japan and Korea.


    “Those are tonal languages and the tones have different meanings in different countries,” she said.


    Schlenvogt is not allowed to say what Disney characters she plays. While on tour, the company will do two to three shows a day. Since there are only 18 members, everyone learns all the parts, Schlenvogt said.


    The cast will begin rehearsals June 2 in Orlando, then fly to Beijing, where they will continue rehearsing. They will tour China for 2-1/2 months and spend another week touring other Asian countries before heading to Australia for a month of shows.


    “In China and Japan, they’re very reserved, and I’m told not to expect applause,” Schlenvogt said.


    “Last year’s tour said they were told a sign of respect is silence, and it was so quiet they could hear a pin drop. I’m hoping that happens to us to see what that’s like.”


    She’s accustomed to people singing along, dancing and jumping around, taking pictures and videos.


    “I’m still in a dream state,” Schlenvogt said last week. She was home for her sister Megan’s graduation Sunday from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and had medical checkups and shots before heading overseas.


    She has a seven-month contract with Feld Entertainment, which has the rights to put on six Disney shows around the world. She will continue to work for Disney the other months.


    Schlenvogt’s path to the Magic Kingdom has been serendipitous.


    In 2003, when she was 12, she won third place for her solo number “Ambush” during a national dance competition at Disney World.


    It’s one of numerous dance awards, Schlenvogt — who overcame a shattered ankle and torn ligaments in 2004 — earned for her creative choreography and routines.


    After graduating from Port Washington High School, Schlenvogt majored in dance and communications at Hunter College in New York City. To help pay the bills, she worked at the Disney Store in Times Square, coached dance, volleyball and cheerleading teams and taught fitness and strength classes.


    A week before graduating in June 2012, a friend asked her to go with her to audition for a Disney show.


    “I didn’t know what to expect,” Schlenvogt said. “I wore jeans and a sweatshirt, and everyone is wearing really nice clothes. They kept calling my name, and I made it through to the last audition.”


    The next day, she got a phone call asking her to move to Orlando the following week.


    “I was graduating in one week and asked if I could come after graduation,” Schlenvogt said.


    “I went home  to Port Washington for a week, packed up all my stuff, then drove a U-Haul from Manhattan to Orlando.”


    She signed with Disney on June 17, 2012.


    “I’m supposed to work 40 hours, but it’s more like 60 to 80 hours,” Schlenvogt said.


    She started by performing in day parades at the theme park. Soon, she was in the Electric Light Parade and doing spot performances throughout the park.


    Last year, she was cast in the “Move It, Shake It” show at the Magic Kingdom castle stage. Only 18 performers are trained for the show.


    Her first time on that stage was so moving she cried.


    “I’m such a mess in all the pictures because I was crying so hard,” she said. “It was everything I expected it to be and much more.


    “When there are so many people watching you can’t see the concrete, just bodies jumping up and down, it’s incredible.”


    Her audition for the Disney Live Tour was also by happenstance.


    “I called friends to see if they wanted to go to dinner on a Friday night, and they said they were auditioning for Disney Live. I wrote down the time wrong, so I arrived late,” Schlenvogt said.


    “They were already doing a jazz, hip-hop mix, which isn’t my strong point. They would do a number, then do an improv, then the routine again and another improv.”


    They then did a ballet number, which Schlenvogt knew she did well.


    A few days later, she was notified she was an alternate. Then, she got a call saying there was an opening and told to fax her passport to Beijing before the office closed 30 minutes later.


    Although she performs almost every day at Disney, Schlenvogt said, she still practices on her own.


    “Doing the same thing day after day, your body gets lazy,” Schlenvogt said. “I do a lot of dancing on my own, especially ballet. Ballet is my first love and always will be.”


    Schlenvogt said she hopes to perform on stage for a long time.


    “Being on stage is an indescribable emotion — it’s all of me and none of me,” she said.


    “It’s where I feel most at home, but at the same time, it’s such a dream state like I’m not really there.”

 

 
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