Hayley Hillman of Brandon graduated from Hillsborough Baptist High School in 2018 and was the class valedictorian. She started dancing at Brandon School of Dance Arts (BSDA) at the age of 2.
“I’ve been dancing for 19 years,” Hillman said. “I graduated in May of 2018 and started teaching dance at BSDA three days a week. In the fall of that year, I auditioned at some theme parks in Orlando and was hired by both, so I cut my teaching at BSDA down to one day a week and then danced full-time between the two parks.”
Hillman wanted to work a few years right out of high school so she could save enough money to put herself through college.
Hillman still lived in Brandon, even though she worked at two parks in Orlando. Her dedication to her jobs and her passion for dance is what motivated her to wake up each day at 5 a.m.
“I had to be at work in Orlando at 6:45 a.m., so I would wake up at 5 a.m. and be on the road by 5:15 a.m.,” Hillman said. “On Wednesdays I would get off work at 2:30 p.m. and then drive straight to BSDA to teach dance classes the rest of the night.”
She had a grueling schedule, but Hillman had her dream job, so she didn’t mind it. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Like most people in the entertainment and service industry, Hillman was furloughed.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” Hillman said. “I miss my friends, but I miss the magic the most. I loved dancing with the little kids that came to the parks.”
Hillman also was contracted with a cruise line to be a dancer. That opportunity has since been put on hold due to the pandemic.
“I was supposed to leave this past July for a nine-month cruise contract, but that got postponed for a year,” Hillman said. “So, now I’m back to teaching a few days a week at BSDA and I’m also a nanny for a local family here in Brandon.”
Hillman received word a few weeks ago that her furlough from the two theme parks will be indefinite.
“Since I’m able to teach, I still have some connection to dance,” Hillman said. “I also take classes at different studios to stay active and keep up my technique. I hope eventually to be called back to the parks and I know it will be completely different, but as long as I can dance and create magic, I’m okay with whatever the new normal will be.”