Gary Taylor did not originally envision himself becoming a dancer, a choreographer or an instructor when he was growing up.

Now as the director of Winston-Salem Festival Ballet, he has done all three.

“The first time I was exposed to dance was my senior year in high school,” Taylor said. “Up to that point I had been a tennis player and a diver, and a musician. I was a trombonist.”

Taylor said he became interested when his friend, who had a sister that was in The Nutcracker, started asking for guys that wanted to perform in the show.

“He was asking a lot of his buddies around the area if they were interested in doing The Nutcracker,” he said. “My comment was, what’s The Nutcracker? I actually didn’t know what The Nutcracker was.

I had never seen one before. My exposure to dance was next to none.”

Taylor’s dad worked for Plantation Pipeline which caused his family to move several places when he was young. They eventually settled in High Point. Taylor received his professional dance training at UNC School of the Arts.

“When I got out and I started to perform professionally, I travelled around as a freelance artist for about a good 16 years,” he said.

Taylor’s son is also a professional dancer with the Connecticut-based company Momix, and is currently performing in Italy. He said dance has kept him so busy that he hasn’t had time to get back into tennis or diving.

“Dance definitely is all consuming,” he said. “It’s kind of like a sport in a way. Once I left school in those earlier days that’s all I did. So I left tennis, I left diving and things like that. It was just because it took so much time outside of school to invest in it.”

Taylor said he is inspired by all genres of music when thinking about choreography, and he looks for a good story to tell “I think everybody has their way of doing things, mine is based off of stories,” he said.

Winston-Salem Festival Ballet is in its fifth season. They feature 9-10 performances throughout the year and partner with groups like the Winston-Salem Symphony and Piedmont Opera. !