Music theatre alumnae behind 'DanceOn' success
Amanda Taylor ’06 and Lace Varn ’07 are at the forefront of an online musical revolution.
By Megan Mcclure
As music theatre majors at Elon, Amanda Taylor ’06 and Lace Varn ’07 never dreamed they would one day work with pop icon Madonna to create one of the most successful channels on YouTube.
But that’s exactly what happened when Taylor, inspired by the popularity of TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and the viral nature of dance videos on the Internet, came up with the idea for an online “programming brand exclusively dedicated to dance.”
Since then, the DanceOn network has taken YouTube by storm, racking up more than 2 billion online views and 10 million subscribers. The company has received a multimillion dollar grant from Google, taken on a partnership with Madonna and brands such as AMC and Coca-Cola, and relocated from New York City to the West Coast. Not bad for an enterprise that just a few years ago was operated out of the tiny New York apartment Taylor and Varn shared.
Users have flocked to DanceOn to watch original programming like the wildly successful “Dance Showdown” series, which follows teams of Internet celebrities and professional dancers as they face off against each other in a dance competition. True to Taylor’s vision, the channel also serves as an important online community where dancers and choreographers from around the globe can showcase their talents and creativity, promoting their own careers by uploading new routines or dance tutorials. “Something I will always feel is an important mission is elevating dancers and embracing the international dance community,” says Taylor, who now serves as DanceOn’s chief executive officer. “We’re aiming to make a persistent platform where dancers can be the star the same way athletes or music artists become famous.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Varn, the company’s vice president of brand partnerships, who credits the channel’s widespread appeal to its ability to connect people across various backgrounds and abilities. “You can be a famous dancer who is actually creating a trend and really defining what’s next in pop culture, or you can be someone who just wants to participate and have a good time with dance,” she says.
Both Varn and Taylor fondly remember their time at Elon, where they met in a jazz class taught by Nina Wheeler. The two can quickly rattle off the names of other faculty—Catherine McNeela, Linda Sabo, Hallie Hogan—who also made an impact on them during their time on campus. Now, they hope Elon alumni and students will take advantage of what they’ve created with DanceOn.
“It’s a really powerful thing we’re providing,” Taylor says, referring to the resources DanceOn offers to dancers who have traditionally faced difficulties such as short career cycles and relatively low compensation when pursuing the profession. “The dance and music theatre programs at Elon are so strong, and we want people to be aware that the opportunities for dance artists are evolving in a really big way. There are companies out there like DanceOn that are really accelerating careers.”
The duo are already planning for DanceOn’s future, hoping to further expand the channel’s reach by launching additional original programming and giving users more options for curating and personalizing the content they view. No matter where Taylor and Varn choose to take DanceOn in the future, it’s clear that millions of dance lovers around the world will follow their lead.
For more, visit DanceOn.com.