Dancer Dee Tomasetta returns triumphantly to Michigan

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

When you’re young and supremely gifted, luck has a way of finding you.

Dee Tomasetta, who plays Peter Pan in “Finding Neverland” coming to the Fisher Theatre Feb. 6-18, had just moved to New York two years ago when a blizzard closed the city down.

U-M dance grad Dee Tomasetta stars as Peter Pan in “Finding Neverland.”

But the 2014 University of Michigan dance grad came to Manhattan to launch her career, and she had a dance class that day. She wasn’t going to miss it.

“Just five of us showed up,” Tomasetta, 25, said by phone Tuesday from Memphis, where she’s performing. “But I met a lovely choreographer who wanted to work with me. And later that week I got a call about appearing on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ”

To put this in context, Tomasetta had been in New York exactly one week — and had already scored a gig on network TV. That turned into seven or eight appearances, with the Massachusetts native often dancing behind the musical guest.

“I’ve worked with Dakota Johnson, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West,” Tomasetta said. “Now that I think about it, I should have been more star struck.”

But in many ways, that was where the young woman who started dancing at 2 (“But I didn’t take it seriously ’till 8”) always knew she’d end up, and what she’d be doing.

Dee Tomasetta is a 2014 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

“I fell in love with New York at 7 when I first went there for a dance competition,” Tomasetta said. “I told my parents, ‘I’m going to live here someday.’ ”

She was in second grade.

Her instant success in New York wasn’t limited to SNL. Tomasetta also appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” and spent one glorious summer high-kicking with the Radio City Rockettes.

“Oh my gosh,” she said, “the Radio City stage is so magical. The first time I was on it for a rehearsal I was just so overwhelmed.”

In “Finding Neverland,” of course, Tomasetta not only gets to dance and fly, but also play a boy. So when she emerges from the stage door after a performance, she said, “Nobody even knows if I’m in the show.”

Two boys once asked who she played, and when she told them, their little faces fell.

“Peter Pan is played by a girl?” they asked, stricken.

“I’m afraid I wrecked their dreams,” Tomasetta said.

Dee Tomasetta says she does “like 55 jumps per show” and at the end of a performance, “I’m exhausted.”

Not surprisingly, playing Peter Pan is quite an athletic challenge.

“I do like 55 jumps per show,” she said. “I counted. And these are big jumps that soar across the stage and make the audience believe Peter Pan is flying.”

And at the end of a performance? “Oh my goodness,” Tomasetta said. “I’m exhausted — and even more on two-show days like Saturday and Sunday.”

But grit and persistence are traits Tomasetta’s cultivated all her life. Just ask her former professors at Michigan.

“I watched Dee grow from a very talented first-year dancer to the ultimate professional,” said Angela Kane, a U-M dance prof who was department chair when Tomasetta was a student. “The fact that she’s been working continuously since graduation is a sign of Dee’s enthusiasm, versatility and resilience.”

Another U-M dance professor, Judy Rice, says Tomasetta’s gifts go beyond athleticism and brilliant technique.

“Dee is truly special and so gifted,” she said. “There’s a light and a force, and it just oozes out of her.”

Rice laughs.

“When you see her do Peter Pan,” she added, “you’ll understand what I’m saying.”


(313) 222-6021

U-M dance grad Dee Tomasetta stars as Peter Pan in “Finding Neverland.”

‘Finding Neverland’

Feb. 6-18

Fisher Theatre

3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

Tickets start at $39 (fees not included)

(800) 982-2787