Tori Evans learned her craft at Lana’s Dance Studio
By Kaylee Arca
It was the last weekend of July when singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performed two sold-out shows at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Lana Wright was one of the almost 60,000 fans in attendance. Although the stadium screamed for Swift, Wright cheered for her former student Tori Evans who danced on stage beside the artist of the decade.
Wright opened Lana’s Dance Studio in Morgan Hill in 1979. Now in its 45th year, Wright has mentored, coached, and taught thousands of local dancers with more than 25 students advancing to dance professionally.
These dancers have performed with NBA, NFL, and NHL teams such as the Warriors, 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and more. A few moved to New York and performed on Broadway or joined the Radio City Rockettes and Ensemble. Others performed on cruise ships and with stars like Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Enrique Iglesias, and more.
“After 45 years, it’s a well-oiled machine,” Wright said about her studio.
Morgan Hill residents may recognize Lana’s from its performance in the annual Christmas parade.
Every year, hundreds of Lana’s dancers dress in red Santa costumes and dance in pin-straight lines through downtown on a cold December evening to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
Wright’s former student, Evans, trained at Lana’s for 15 years.
“Tori grew up in the studio,” Wright said. “At age 11, she did her first solo then decided to get serious about dance.”
She began working and dancing professionally after graduating from the University of Arizona.
“Tori was always that ray of sunshine,” Wright said. “She’d always come in and have the best personality. I always knew Tori could accomplish her goals, if she really wanted it.”
Evans has worked with Cardi B, Mary J Blige, Jason Derulo, Beyonce, Maroon 5, and many more stars.
“All of the cards just fell in place when she auditioned for Taylor Swift,” Wright said.
Due to legal reasons, Evans had to keep her new job as Taylor Swift’s backup dancer a secret before opening night and cannot discuss it with the media. However, Tori was excited to tell her former dance teacher. She called Wright the morning after the opening night of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Arizona to share the exciting news.
It was a cool Saturday morning in March. Wright was at a dance competition at the Center of Performing Arts in San Jose when she got Evan’s call.
“Tori wanted to call me right after the show but said they were up until three in the morning. After the show, everybody was so excited and all together,” Wright said. “Tori called me and wanted to let me know the news before she posted anything on social media.”
The dance instructor recalled the phone conversation she and her student had: “Ms. Lana, you’re going to be so proud of me,” Evans exclaimed during the phone call. “I’m in Arizona, I was up late last night and we were all together and excited after the show, but I wanted to call you. I just didn’t think you’d appreciate a phone call at three in the morning. I wanted to share the news before posting on social media.”
Wright broke out into an excited scream when Evans delivered the news of her new job with Taylor Swift.
“Tori, seriously? I’m always proud of you and all of my dancers,” Wright said during the phone call. “This phone call means so much to me.”
Wright was not surprised Tori was chosen for this job, but she is overjoyed at the same time. Now, through social media, Evans is known as the ‘Taylor Swift dancer with the braids,’ and she loves dancing with Swift.
“Tori says that Taylor is remarkable,” Wright said. “Really the best boss and takes care of them. Taylor loves all of the dancers on the tour.”
The Eras Tour setlist includes 44 songs and runs for more than three hours. Evans can be seen dancing beside Swift for almost the entire performance.
“I’ve always loved listening to Taylor Swift,” Wright said. “Just seeing what a talent she is and how comfortable she is onstage in front of everybody is amazing. I think everyone now knows the name ‘Taylor Swift.’”
At the end of the day, Wright is proud of Evans and all of her dancers.
“It’s not just about the steps for me. It’s about morals and values,” she said. “We’re trying to reinforce what the parents are teaching their kids. We emphasize kindness and how to treat and respect each other. We all look different and that’s why life is so interesting. As a group, we come together and work together.”
Evans wrapped the first North American leg of the Eras Tour in August. She and the rest of Swift’s team will leave soon to start the South American leg in November. In 2024, the Eras Tour will travel to Asia and Europe before making its way back to North America in October.
Kaylee Arca is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter.