Former Disney World performer finds work for laid-off employees at Pa. dance studio

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I started working at Disney as a dancer when I was 16 years old," said Sam Sinns, owner of Twirl Dance Studio in Delaware County.

When Sinns is not spinning around the dance floor, he sits at his desk in a room filled with Disney World paraphernalia. A statue from The Lion King commands attention with its inscription, "Recognizing 20 magical years with the Walt Disney Company." But Sinns twirled away from the magical tourist destination to start his own dance studio in 2016.

"When this pandemic came, a lot of businesses shrunk and ours actually expanded," he said. "But my friends lost their jobs because the shows closed and Disney closed."

Sinns' next move was a no-brainer. He called up his talented co-workers to alleviate some of the extra work that came along with running a dance studio. This created work for video editors, a costume designer, and a graphic artist among the former cast of Finding Nemo: The Musical. Sinns himself was part of the ensemble for 10 years, starting at the beginning of the show's run.

"Disney kind of just put everything on pause, and I think that's when I really started to tap into my video editing skills," said Charles Stevens, who filled in part-time as the sharp-toothed shark, Bruce, on stage in Orlando.

Sinns connected with Stevens to produce a virtual Christmas recital. Thanks to Stevens' editing skills, students appeared on-screen together despite performing in different locations at different times. The finished product was sent to nursing homes across the country.

"We want to showcase what all of these students have done, combining it all together into one seamless video production," said Stevens.

Both performers are hopeful that Disney World will reopen some of its larger attractions as the year goes on, but are understanding about the challenges they face.

"It makes sense, it's a big cast," said Stevens about the temporarily closed Finding Nemo musical in Animal Kingdom. "For as many cast members as there are, there's just as many tech people backstage, costumers backstage, that it would be really hard for us to safely do the show right now."

Still, many attractions in Disney World's theme parks are currently open with safety precautions in place.

Back home, Sinns says local dancers in Newtown Square are warming up to the idea of interacting with their friends in-person again.

"A lot of my kids have big dreams and it's fun to be a part of that and it's exciting to see where these kids go in the future," he said.

To learn more about Twirl Dance Studio and Disney World, visit their websites.

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