Savannah Arts Academy dancer lands coveted spot with Radio City Rockettes

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The dream of performing on one of the world’s largest stages has finally come true for 22-year-old Johanna Piper.

The Savannah Arts Academy 2015 graduate says she’s been striving to earn a coveted spot with the Radio City Rockettes precision dance company since she was in the 8th grade.

She found her happiness in dance early on in life, despite her father getting her involved in all kinds of activities as a kid.

“Through the years, I quit everything else except for dance,” Piper told News 3, adding that something about it gives her such a release.

“It’s honestly been a dream come true, and every day has been such a new experience,” Piper said via Skype interview, dressed in her red and white Rockette uniform, just days away from her first performance.

“It’s so crazy to think that this is something I’ve been working toward for so long, and now it’s actually here,” Piper said.  “It doesn’t feel real.”

(Image: Facebook/Johanna Piper)

But it is real, and her days of fantasizing about her time on the big stage are long over.

After two years of auditioning for the famous dance company, she finally got her big break when she tried out in her home state.

“In April, I auditioned here [in New York City], and then I also went to the Atlanta audition, because they had one there for the first time in a really long time,” said Piper, who had already been living in New York City at the time.

She graduated from Pace University this past spring.

Piper flew down to Atlanta for the audition, making it through the entire process for the first time ever.

“[It’s] like two days of cuts, callbacks and learning a ton of choreography,” she told News 3. 

After one more audition in New York last August, Piper says she got the call that changed her life.

“I have been talking about getting this job forever, and I think we were all kind of in shock and disbelief that it happened so soon after graduating,” Piper said of her and her Savannah-based family and friends.

They’re all thrilled for her, she told News 3, and 15 of them flew up to the Big Apple to watch her grace the stage this weekend for the opening night of the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular.

Two of those fans traveling up north to see Piper perform are Gretchen Greene and Trina Dunn. 

Savannah native Johanna Piper poses at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Image: Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos)

The mother-daughter dance instructors both helped guide Piper along the path to her dream as they taught her over the past 15 years at the Gretchen Greene School of Dance in Savannah.

Greene herself was a Rockette from 1969 to 1971.

“[When she called with the news], she was so excited, and I just know the feeling, because I’ve been there,” Greene told News 3. “She was crying and I was crying, we were just so happy, it was just a dream come true.”

Piper has helped teach dance at the school since her junior year of high school.

“She started assisting even earlier than that, and every break in college, she would come home and help the kids here,” Dunn said. “She’s obviously a great role model.”

(Image: Facebook/Johanna Piper)

Piper says she loves working with the younger dancers, and whenever she comes to Savannah, she still visits the dance studio to help them.

“I just try to tell the younger girls all the time to just go for what they want, because I never thought I would move to New York and go to college here, and then get the job of my dreams,” she said.

“It’s so true that if you keep working towards what you want and stay focused on your goals, that they can really happen,” she added. 

“I just hope that happens for all young dancers and that they’re all inspired by stories like mine, and like other people, who reach for what they want, and then it actually happens.”

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