WALT Disney once said ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’, and one dancer from North Richmond is a testament to that.
Katie Duynhoven, 24, has been working as a character performer at Walt Disney World since jetting-off to Orlando, Florida in January to pursue her dream.
She greets guests in both set and dining locations, and has now performed at all of the parks at Walt Disney World as well as a few of the Disney resorts.
Ms Duynhoven said the Walt Disney World property – which covers 27,258 acres and has four theme parks, two water parks, 25 Disney hotels and Disney-themed shopping, entertainment and sporting complexes – is “overwhelming”.
“I’ve been here eight months and I’m still finding new things to explore,” she said.
Ms Duyhoven lives in Disney housing on the property. “Disney takes really good care of their employees. We are given housing, free transportation and park admission, as well as major discounts on Disney dining and experiences. As soon as you get off work, you’re pretty much on vacation,” she said.
“The majority of my housemates are also from Australia. We do Disney things together as well as take trips to discover the rest of America.
“I also love hanging out with my work friends too. My Disney performer friends are always up for a fun time and everyone in entertainment genuinely supports each other. We all know how lucky we are to do what we do every day.”
Ms Duyhoven said magical moments occur every single day while she is performing and interacting with guests.
“A Disney performer’s role involves creating happiness and touching hearts, but guests don’t know that their reactions are also making magic for the performer,” she said.
“Often guests will come up and tell you the extra special connection they have with your character. On one occasion, it was a child’s last wish to meet ‘me’,” she said of her character.
“I make an effort to write all of these interactions in a journal because those moments are just so precious.”
Ms Duyhoven began dancing at KDz Dance School in Richmond when she was five. She was a pupil at Glossodia Public School and Colo High School, and danced at many local, regional and state dance festivals and eisteddfods during these years.
During high school, she went back to Glossodia Public School to teach dance to the younger pupils, and she also trained and taught dance at the Friction Dance Company in McGraths Hill.
After her HSC, she went on to gain a Bachelor of Dance Education from the Australian College of Physical Education at Sydney Olympic Park. When she returns from America in November, she will resume her training and teaching at Off Centre Dance Company in South Windsor.
“I have been very blessed with wonderful dance teachers and friends in the Hawkesbury. There is a lot of talent in this community and it has made me the dancer I am today,” she said.
“I’ve also had a lot of support from my family and friends too. I’m very lucky to have had so many people encourage me to pursue my dream.”