Tori Simeone will be on the Staples Center’s basketball court when the Los Angeles Clippers play their home opener on Sunday, Oct. 30, and getting there was no easy feat.
The 23-year-old Kings Park native was one of 20 women selected to be a part of the 2016-17 Los Angeles Clippers Spirit, a professional dance team. She will perform with the Spirit during breaks in the basketball action at each of the Clippers’ 41 home games this season. Spirit team members also represent the Clippers’ organization at various public events. More than 300 women tried out for the Spirit in Los Angeles in June 2016.
“They made cuts pretty quickly,” Simeone said, during a recent interview, describing how it took only two days for the Spirit’s roster to be finalized. Those vying for Spirit positions needed to win over the judges not only with their dance routines but during one-on-one interviews, too.
“We have amazing choreographers who come in,” Simeone continued, describing the Spirit’s intense preseason preparations with dance luminaries such as Petra Pope, the Spirit’s creative director, and Jon Rua, whose resume also includes Broadway acting roles in Hamilton and In The Heights. Yet the groundwork for her current gig was laid in 2015 in Suffolk County,
“Last fall, I had the incredible opportunity to play Consuela in West Side Story at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Immediately following that, I moved out here in January to do another production of West Side Story,” Simeone explained, when discussing how she ended up residing in Studio City, CA. She played the role of Teresita in a West Side Story production at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, CA, before the Los Angeles Clippers opportunity emerged.
“I have a personal trainer and then I do SoulCycle on the days I’m not training,” she stated, as our conversation turned to the discipline it takes to be a professional dancer. “I continue to train in various styles of dance, while also taking voice and acting lessons. The dance studios I train at are Millennium Dance Complex, Movement Lifestyle and the Kinjaz Dojo. At these studios I get to train with the top dancers and choreographers in the industry.”
Simeone’s Long Island ties, however, remain strong. Her parents, Joseph and Lee Anne, still reside in Kings Park, and her father owns and operates a State Farm insurance agency in Greenlawn. She is the eldest of their three children. Her brother, Joseph, is a junior at Marist College in upstate New York and her sister, Maria, is a freshman at the University of Tampa in Florida.
“My parents are so supportive,” Simeone said, looking back at the five-year theatre and dancing career which began after she graduated from St. Anthony’s High School in 2011. “I grew up dancing at ‘Variations, A Dancer’s Studio’ in Huntington. This studio gave me the opportunity to train with amazing choreographers
and Broadway veterans such as Scott Wise, Liz Parkinson, and Debbie Hahn, which solidified my passion for pursuing dance as a career.”
Her original plan was to attend a dance conservatory in Pittsburgh but, soon after interning at Broadway Dance Center in New York City, she was signed by McDonald Selznick Associates, an agency, she added. That led to steady work which has now taken her to one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) highest-profile stages.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.