003. Rising Up Even When Half of Your World Vanishes with Evan Ruggiero

The Do a Day Podcast

Evan Ruggiero

Tap dance star Evan Ruggiero began dancing at the age of five in his hometown studio and by age ten, he was accepted into the famed New Jersey Tap Ensemble.

Upon entering his sophomore year at Montclair State University while pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, Evan was suddenly diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer of the right leg. His dream of ever being a tap dancer on Broadway was suddenly threatened.

Enduring nine surgeries in a six-month period in an effort to save the leg, the cancer returned more aggressively than the original diagnosis. He was faced with the ultimate decision of amputation in order to stop the cancer and save his life, as well as undergoing chemotherapy for sixteen months.

Eighteen months after the amputation, and only two days after receiving his “peg-leg”, Evan was tapping again. In 2017 he was awarded a Clive Barnes Award in Theatre for his starring role as Tom Jones in the Off-Broadway hit “Bastard Jones.” Credits include: Bastard Jones (Off-Broadway) The Toxic Avenger (Pittsburgh CLO), The Ellen ShowQuelli Che il Calcio (Rai Due, Milan, Italy), Yes I Can (Paralympic Games Film), Shrek (Pittsburgh CLO), Man of La Mancha (Pittsburgh CLO), Best Night Ever (Transcendence Theatre Company), Pretty To The Bone (NY Theatre Barn), Hans Christian Anderson (NYC reading), The Penalty (The Public), and Evan and The S’Evan Legs (Kennedy Center).

Key Points from the Show with Tap Dancer Evan Ruggiero

  • When you have a dream, the way it would play out in reality is never as it plays out in your mind at night. The same can be true for dreams we have for ourselves around various achievements we seek. This was especially true for Evan, but he kept his mindset focused on the end goal, and adjusted how to would achieve it without allowing for the “why me” to overtake the “what I will become”.
  • Even when you think you have your priorities straight, life may define new priorities for you. How you respond to that reprioritization is a choice. When you know your purpose, that can help you decide not just what your new path may be, but how you can process the shift in your path in the first place.
  • Sometimes, we face walls that get in the way of our goals in such a way that we see no possibility of getting past them. You can bang your head against it, or turn around and walk away completely. Or you may just need to back up, look right or left, and see if there’s a door you could walk over to and pass through. Evan did just that. (Or you can tap dance right around it)


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