Forest Grove grad prepares for Disney
Graduating from Forest Grove High School in June, while most students are gearing up to head to college this fall, Davis Petersen has just signed a contract with Disney.
Petersen has spent a good portion of his short 19 years of life in a dance studio, whether that was tagging along to work with his mom, who owns Forest Grove Dance Arts, or taking classes at Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Now, the Forest Grove resident is getting the chance to take his talents to the next level.
Next week, Petersen will be on a plane to Florida, where he will spend nine months as part of the Disney Dream Cruise Line performing as Peter Pan.
"When I was growing up, I would spend my time at the dance studio, and then that's where I found my first love, which is tap dancing, and that's what got me into (dancing)," Petersen said. '"And then they said, 'If you want to get better, we would recommend you taking ballet.' (Now I will be) literally making money to dance and bring smiles on to children's faces, which is just going to be my favorite part."'
Based out of Florida, Petersen will be performing on each of the Disney cruises within those nine months, dancing and maintaining character as Peter Pan, with the other Disney cast from all over the world.
It's a big accomplishment for a small-town kid. But Petersen isn't the first from the Forest Grove studio to make it to the big leagues.
Paige Coppedge — a 2016 alumna of Glencoe High School from North Plains — encouraged Petersen to audition after spending time herself as part of the Disney crew on the Dream Cruise Line.
Coppedge had a friend who worked for Disney while she was in high school who told her about the performance opportunities, she said.
"So I was constantly checking (the Disney website), and waiting for the day that I was 18 and could (audition)," she said.
Coppedge, who now attends the University of Hawaii, has been dancing since she was very young, she said, with ballet being her speciality.
During her senior year, Coppedge auditioned and got a spot on the cruise ship.
"It was really fun," she said. "It gets hard, because you don't have any days off and you're really far away from your family and honestly, the rest of the world, but amazing. A dream honestly."
Following her initial nine-month contract, Coppedge signed a replacement contract where she finished out five months of a contract for someone who had left.
Coppedge said Petersen has the look and the outgoing personality type that Disney likes, as well as the dance talent, so she told him to give it a shot.
And Petersen took her word.
On the morning of Feb. 23, Petersen flew to Los Angeles, had two auditions, and flew back the same night. He even made it to school the following day, he laughed.
Five months later, on July 19, Petersen got a call from his mom telling him he got the role of Peter Pan.
"I was driving at the time, so my friend had my phone and (my mom) was like, 'Davis, are you OK?'" he said. '"And I'm like, 'I'm pulled over, I just need a minute to cry, I'll call you back in like five minutes.' They were all freaking out, and I was freaking out, and it was really cool."
Once Petersen arrives in Florida, he will begin training and preparing for the Disney cruise.
This will be Petersen's first time leaving the country, he said.
"It will be really cool to go some place to see other things and to get paid to dance and to see people light up. ... Is there anything better?" he asked.
As for the future, Petersen dreams to open up his own studio one day, just like his mom did. But before that, he wants some formal training in all genres of music.
Disney offers college scholarships, Petersen said, which he hopes to attain following his contract in order to study business at Disney University. The cruise may even open doors for performing in Disneyland or Disney World afterward, he said.
And his advice for other small-town kids like him with big dreams?
"Regardless of what people say, it is possible to be who you want to be. … Take your time and listen to the teacher, because they know more than you," Petersen said. "I would not be here without the teachers that have taught me so far."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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