Written by Kerrie Alexander
IF you aspire to be part of the professional world of ultracompetitive dancing, then you better be prepared to work hard for it.
Hervey Bay’s Tahnee Salata did just that.
Most people don’t know what they want to do with their life until their later years but for Tahnee, who started dance classes at the age of three, there wasn’t a doubt that dancing would be her obsession.
Following in the footsteps of her mum Mandy, also a lover of dance growing up, the two were able to be side-by-side at training and dance concerts throughout the years at the former Jaye Smith Academy of Theatrical Dance in Hervey Bay.
The studio is now owned by Tina Sparks (Sparks Dance Centre), where the 27-year-old has been a much-loved dance teacher throughout the years.
Her journey to becoming the phenomenal dancer and professional performer she is today started with moving to Brisbane after graduating school to study with the Conroy Performing Arts Centre, training six days a week from early in the morning until late at night.
Doors started opening for auditions and getting selected was tough, but the then stubborn 18-year-old wasn’t about to give up on her dream.
Even if her body and mind was physically exhausted.
“I didn’t start off with many yes’s … but they did tell me that there’s about 10 no’s to every yes you get in this industry but it actually just made me want it even more,” Tahnee said.
“Nothing good ever comes easy and gives you that extra opportunity to train harder and work towards doing what you want to do. It gives you an extra push.”
The ‘yes’ did eventually come and Tahnee landed her first professional contract, performing with Bindi Irwin as Jungle Girl at Australia Zoo.
“Every school holiday, I would get my chance to perform and it was so much fun.
“I was still doing that gig up until about two years ago.
“Bindi is such a great role model and I got to know her on a personal level as well having known her since she was 14. It’s been an awesome experience and family to be a part of.”
At 19, Tahnee was contracted as a lead dancer role in the Barbie Anything is Possible live show in Dubai, which was her first overseas contract.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I think I was more excited than anything.
“I had done two years professional full-time dance training at that point, so it was so good to have something to show for all the hard work.”
But the best was yet to come.
Even before leaving home, Tahnee dreamed of performing on a cruise ship, specifically through the Caribbean.
After accepting her contract to dance in Dubai three days later whilst packing, she received the phone call that changed her life.
“I don’t know why the Caribbean, I just thought it would be the coolest job ever and that was just in my sights.
“That’s what I was working towards.
“I got the phone call from my agent to tell me that I had landed a contract with Norwegian Cruise Lines onboard the Norwegian Gem that would sail out in April the following year and it was a cruise throughout the Caribbean … I didn’t believe my agent at first.
“I don’t think I stood still for the next three hours. There were no words for it and I just couldn’t believe it.
“I remember the first thing I did after yelling the news to my brother and our other roommates at the time was call my mum and dad then my grandma and poppy, it was a family affair.”
“It kind of gives you that bit of fire inside your belly when you know this is just everything I ever wanted, and it had come true.”
For the next five years, the versatile dancer thrilled cruise ship passengers with themed aerial acts, tap, jazz, lyrical, ball room – you name it, Tahnee danced it.
“I just loved performing on stage; it was the highlight of my career. I got to travel the world.
“I would do one show, go to sleep, and wake up in a different country.
“When I look back at it now, it was very cool. I had no idea that it would be that good, and it was.”
Tahnee was selected as Aerial Captain on board her first cruise contract, and many other lead roles were to follow including Dance Captain, Show Captain and Universal Swing.
“The more versatile you are, the more roles you get,” she said.
“Every little bit of the skills and the style that you learn is one more thing for you to get picked for a job over someone else.
“In the world of dancing, you are competing for a job for the rest of your life nothing is ever guaranteed.”
Those years spent performing on the cruise ship continued to open other career pathways, including a year spent in the UK, living the “performance life” while travelling through Europe in her spare time.
Tahnee modelled as well as performed in film clips, TV commercials and as movie extras in a variety of films, including the Harry Potter Series “The Fantastic Beasts crimes of Grindelwald”.
It was yet another learning curve for the young dancer who, over the years, has developed a thick skin in what is known as an extremely cut-throat industry.
“It was a whole other experience over there. It was great, but it was very hard,” she said.
“It wasn’t just hundreds of dancers competing for the one job, it was thousands.
“It was a great eye-opening experience, but it just makes you realise that you’re a very little fish in a very big sea.”
Tahnee said it just reiterates that fact that as a professional dancer, you always need a backup
“I have been lucky in the fact that I had continuous contract connections with Norwegian cruise lines, Pen 2 stage productions and Bindi and the Jungle Girls etc to go back too, or I when I came home back to Hervey Bay I was able to teach.
“It’s all about making those honest, hard-working connections and friendships that last a lifetime.”
Tahnee was amongst many others in the performing arts sector that had no choice but to pack their bags and head home during the Coronavirus crisis.
“I was living and working in the Genting Highlands Malaysia, opening the first ever Fox Studios IP Theme park as Show Captain and Universal swing; a project I had been a part of for about two years.
‘It was a shame I didn’t get to finish it.”
The pandemic has put Tahnee’s dancing career on hold for the time being, but she’s okay with that.
She is now settled back in Hervey Bay for now and enjoys working with her partner Sam Peaker on his family owned and operated business Hervey Bay Whale Watch, Quick Cat II as well as Barista Work for Espresso 3.31 cafes.
She is also thankful to be back closer to her parents, David and Mandy, who she says have always been her biggest supporters.
“Mum was always backstage with me one show and in the audience the next and dad was always in the audience when I was younger right up until I graduated full-time performance college.
“They have both travelled the world to see me perform.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without them or any of my family to be honest.
“I used to always be told by my college teachers that I must bring the half of Hervey Bay to my
Concerts as there was always so many of my family and even friends there supporting me.”
As far as her bucket list goes, Tahnee can without a doubt tick off everything she set out to
achieve and says she has learnt a thing or two along the way.
“I always said to my friends and family I was going to be on a cruise ship in the Caribbean and
“I also said I was going to be a backup dancer for Beyonce but that hasn’t happened yet,” she
said with a laugh.
“One of the main lessons I have learnt is that if you’re doing what you love, no matter what it
is and it’s your passion … then you’ll be happy.
“Performing is performing and no matter what you do it’s admirable at any level.
“As long as you’re on that stage there’s nothing else that really matters or compares.”
To see Tahnee in action, head on over to YouTube and search Tahnee Jade Salata –
Dance and Performance Reel. It will take your breath away!