*The interview for this article was limited to Reagan To’s work outside of film and TV, in support of the SAG/AFTRA strike. For more information about her onscreen career, visit her IMDB.
Reagan To is a busy, bright, giggling kid with endless energy. But don’t let her sunny persona fool you into thinking she’s not fiercely focused. She might only be 12 years old, but To has more than one burgeoning career under her belt. All smiles, with some serious skill and an unbeatable work ethic, she is a phenom for sure.
Start the count. To is an award-winning Latin ballroom dancer (performing jive, samba, cha cha, rumba, and paso doble). She also dances standard ballroom (waltz, Viennese waltz, tango, foxtrot and quickstep). She trains in ballet, hip hop and jazz funk. She has modeled for brands like Nike, Old Navy and Forever 21. She plays piano and flute. Oh, and did we mention her voice acting career? You may have heard her voice on the hit Korean Netflix show Squid Game – To voiced the viral giant doll from the red-light green-light scene, as well as the main character’s daughter, in the English dubbed version of the show. Or, if you’re more of a Pixar fan, you would have heard her as the voice of “Big Kid Ember” in the recent animated movie Elemental. That brings us to, what, 16 different talents? Conservatively?
So how does a tween become a jack of all trades? “My mom used to be a ballerina for many years,” explains To. “I started taking ballet when I was four, then took a little break to focus on Latin dancing, and now I’m back in ballet. I’ve been doing Latin dancing since I was five years old.” This interview took place three days before To’s 12th birthday. She seemingly hasn’t wasted a second since she was a toddler.
With her experience in so many different dance styles, you can’t help but wonder if she has a favorite. “I’ve been trying to explore different types of dance. I like all of them for different reasons. For example, waltz is really slow and flowy, while in Latin, cha cha is quick, and sharp, and upbeat. But my personal favorite is definitely jive, because it’s the last dance, it’s the fastest, and it has a lot of energy.” When put that way, it seems like an obvious match.
That’s a lot to keep up with. What does To’s training schedule look like? “I dance pretty much every single day.” We caught her at her dance studio for this interview (she had a moment before her lessons). “I train every day for at least three hours in my different styles. It’s pretty fun.”
To started middle school this year, and has had to figure out how to balance her intensive training with her academics. But with talent like To’s, schools tend to find a way to work the curriculum around her schedule. “This year, I’m doing half the time at a public middle school, and half the time doing homeschool. My school is flexible with me. I’m really grateful that my district is helping me with that.” She also plays piano, flute and a bit of guitar. On top of being yet another skill, learning instruments helps her understand the musicality of the different genres she dances.
“I’m in level six in piano. I started when I was really young. My mom also plays piano, and my brother plays violin. We always practice together. I’ve also started flute, because I’m in the school band. I did it for fun, because I always like trying something new.” She would have to enjoy trying new things, to dance 13 styles and play three instruments. “My brother is the full-time musician. He’s a level 10 violinist. He’s pretty cool. He can play a full song right away if he just reads it. So he got a guitar and started to learn to play it, and I was interested so I started to learn to play a bit, too.” Curiosity is another secret superpower of To’s. She’s always ready to have her interest piqued.
It can’t be understated that To comes from a family full of artists. From her mother’s experience as a ballerina, to her brother’s aptitude for music, she is surrounded by creative endeavors every day. To sometimes even dances to her brother’s music. If she ever wanted to tack choreography onto her list of skillsets, he could be her very own composer.
In everything that she does, whether that’s acting, music, or her schoolwork, To says she’s learned from dance to always do her best. “When you put all your work and effort into it, you will get the result that you really want. And you can never give up. If you have a dream, you have to go for it.” To goes for every dream she’s got.
So what’s this dreamer looking forward to? A whole roster of dance competitions to conquer, including the United States Dance Championships, the Embassy Ballroom Championships, and The International Dance Festival. “USDC is basically nationals, and Embassy is world championships. The International is actually in the UK, in October, and it’s one of the largest competitions in the world,” explains To, bouncing in her seat. USDC has passed since the time of this interview, and To won both the National Latin Champion and National Ballroom Champion titles.
To has competed in the UK before, including at the United Kingdom Dancesport Championships this past January. “It was my first time competing internationally. I was a bit nervous, but I ended up placing third.” Her most recent trip was to the Blackpool Dance Competition (in Blackpool, England) inside the Empress Gardens Ballroom, which To says was “gorgeous. I placed seventh in the world, and I had an amazing time.” To was recently invited to be a part of Team USA at Blackpool, which is noted as being one of the most prestigious ballroom competitions in the world.
You can follow Reagan To on Instagram: @reagan_to.
By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.