Taylor Jaggers’ first experience with dance was not love at first sight.
When she was 3, Jaggers, now a junior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, disliked dance lessons so much she convinced her father to take her for secret ice cream dates and long rides in the truck so her mother wouldn’t know she was skipping class.
Now the 20-year-old Rison native has found her calling as a performer and dance instructor.
After she graduates in 2019, Jaggers plans to become a professional dancer and open a dance studio. Jaggers already found a love of teaching as a dance instructor at MK Studios in Pine Bluff.
“There is a special relationship between a dance instructor and student, and I see that now that I am a teacher,” she said. “Dancing impacted my life so greatly. I love sharing that, and I love seeing the effect dance has on kids.”
Her experience in dance gave her an advantage in the talent competitions while performing in pageants the past two years. Jaggers earned the opportunity to compete in the Miss Arkansas Pageant by winning the Miss Grand Prairie Pageant at Stuttgart in January.
In June, she was one of 44 young women who competed for the title of Miss Arkansas. The goal of her platform, “A Chance to Dance: Working to Achieve a Sound Body and Mind,” is to give an opportunity to experience dance for kids who cannot afford lessons.
“Dance has many benefits,” she said. “Kids build lifelong friends through dance. Dance keeps kids physically fit. Dance helps to prevent Alzheimer’s, which is special to me because my grandmother had Alzheimer’s.”
As part of her platform, Jaggers teaches dance classes at the Boys and Girls Club in Pine Bluff. Local businesses in Pine Bluff also sponsored a 9-year-old girl so she could take dance classes.
Jaggers’ mother, Lynda, was amazed at the reaction children gave her daughter during classes.
“They would run up to Taylor and hug her,” she said. “Taylor just blossoms in front of them, and the kids just light up. It’s pretty amazing to see her have a positive effect on kids.”
Through the Miss Arkansas Pageant, Jaggers won two scholarships. She was selected as the recipient of the Fine Arts Marketplace Interview Award and a $1,000 scholarship. The award is given to contestants within their field of study who are the most prepared for their future career.
Jaggers also received a $500 scholarship for being one of the top five fundraisers for the Children’s Miracle Network. Several women from Jaggers’ hometown of Rison helped her raise money by making and selling washcloths.
Jaggers and the other contestants visited Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which serves as the state’s Children’s Miracle Network hospital.
“It was really eye opening to see where the money you were raising was going to,” Jaggers said. “To know that we have an impact on the lives of so many kids we haven’t met is incredible.”
For someone who now spends so much time participating in pageants, Jaggers’ first experience was not encouraging to her mother.
Her first pageant experience as a 1-year-old ended with Jaggers’ mother carrying her across the stage when the normally cheerful and friendly toddler refused to greet the public.
Despite a rough start to pageant life, Jaggers is eager to compete and is already preparing for her next pageant in August.