Kayla Radomski Gives an Unmasked Look at Working Behind the Scenes on 'The Masked Dancer'

Kristyn Burtt

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Photo credit: Claude Schneider.

Kayla Radomski has been in the public eye since 2009 when she came in fourth place on the fifth season of "So You Think You Can Dance." Since then, her career has led her to projects like "The Little Mermaid Live" and a high-profile "Hullabaloo" dance scene with Leonardo DiCaprio in "Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood."

Even in a pandemic, which has decimated much of the dance industry, the 30-year-old performer has been fortunate enough to work on two FOX projects that seem ready-made for a quarantined world — "The Masked Singer" and "The Masked Dancer." Radomski worked behind the scenes last year on both shows as an assistant to choreographer Tucker Barkley, and will soon be returning to create on the upcoming season of "The Masked Singer."

How have you weathered the pandemic so far?

It's been an interesting ride. At first, we all thought it was going to be a couple of weeks. It was a time to regroup and relax because we tend not to do that ever, so it was nice. We were painting and playing games and then it just kept getting longer and longer and work wasn't happening. I feel really lucky because there were a few things I was able to work on that kept me going in the industry, but it's been hard for everyone. I feel the craziness with being trapped at home and wanting to stay safe, but still wanting to continue moving forward in our careers. It's been a wild ride that's for sure.

"The Masked Dancer goes to great lengths to keep the contestants under wraps. What is it like working under such secrecy?

They do such a good job, keeping it under wraps. Our dancers don't even know who's in these masks half the time with "The Masked Dancer." There was one partner for each contestant, who was able to be in the room with them and know who they were. The other dancers behind the couple have no idea. They're playing the game right along with America, trying to figure out who it is. They're thinking, "Who am I dancing with right now?"

It's fun being in on the secret because we get to know who's in there and are in very close contact with them. It's such a fun show because you start rehearsals with the artist and you see their faces. Anytime someone comes in the room, they either have to put the shield on or they put their big animal head on and it's like this normal body with this big head.

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Photo credit: Michael Becker/FOX.

What are rehearsals like for the contestants?

The artists may know a little bit about dance or they may know nothing. At the first rehearsal, we're feeling out what they are comfortable with and how their bodies move. We get to see the growth and the confidence that you help these people build to be able to go up on stage. It's so natural to us, but it's foreign to them. It's really magical to be a part of because it's like taking a kid under your wing and telling them, "Go fly now."

But it's wild because you run into bumps and some people say, "I don't want to do that," or "I can't do this," or "I have this injury." It's like putting a puzzle together and making sure that they feel comfortable and the network is happy and the creative team is happy. So you're trying to fine-tune everything to make sure everyone feels great about the product that we're putting out because we want the show to be successful.

So you and Tucker have to be flexible with the choreography you are creating?

You're answering to a lot of people and it's your vision movement-wise, but you're playing to a whole creative book that has the story they want to tell. I think it takes specific kinds of people who can say, "OK," and not attach your ego to it. In the end, it's a whole team that's creating this piece and this number — your ego should be on the back burner. It doesn't matter because you just want it to look good and make sure everyone feels great about it.

Watch the full video interview with Kayla Radomski:

How hard is it for the contestants to dance with those masks on?

Some of them see better than others, but there were times where they can't see anything and then the lights flash into their mask. I can only imagine what they're feeling when they have this big thing on their head, on top of this gorgeous costume and then doing steps that they probably don't know.

I imagine it also puts a lot of pressure on the contestant's partner. They have to make sure their celebrity is comfortable and safely guide them around the stage.

Kudos to our dancers! We have the best team on that show. They're all so reliable. They're so willing to help and make people feel comfortable and they've become such a family. Whatever needs to happen, they'll do it — so I'm so grateful for our dancers.

It's wonderful to see so many "So You Think You Can Dance" alumni working on the show with you — Koko Iwasaki, Teddy Coffey, Kiki Nyemchek and Valerie Rockey.

It's so nice to see that we all have come from this one show and have been able to continue doing what we love to do and be successful and share our gifts in various ways. We would watch Kiki's choreography and think, "How do you even come up with that? You're a genius." It's a little family and it's sweet to know we've all come from the same place and we've experienced the same show.

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Photo credit: Claude Schneider.

What are the biggest differences between working on "The Masked Singer" and "The Masked Dancer?"

With "Masked Dancer," we had more time with the artists to work with them on the number. With "Masked Singer," it's a lot shorter because they're not doing as much choreography. It's not reliant on the choreography. It's about getting to your spot and if you remember this move, that's great. But with "Masked Dancer," you're just moving — there's no voice, there's nothing else. So we had a little bit more rehearsal time with them and training time to make sure they felt comfortable. Luckily, we had some cushion time where if artists wanted to come in an extra day or an extra hour just to run through it, we were able to do that. They planned it out really well. We had a lot of prep time ahead of time.

Has the last year with the pandemic changed your perspective about your career at all?

It's made me even more grateful for the opportunities that I've already had. I know people who haven't been able to do anything in the pandemic, I'm so lucky to continue working and doing something that I love. But it has made me step back and appreciate these opportunities as small or as big as they are. They are few and far between, and you never know what's going to happen the next day to where you may not ever be able to do it again. It's just made me even more grateful than I already was.

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Kristyn Burtt is a commercial dance journalist, TV host and producer. She was the West Coast correspondent and host of "To the Pointe" on Dance Network for five years. Her coverage of "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and "World of Dance" is popular with dance fans across the globe. Kristyn's love of dance began early in her life. She trained at the Boston Ballet School, danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in "The Nutcracker" and won a dance scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently serves on the American Dance Movement’s Marketing & PR Committee and is a member of the Television Academy and SAG-AFTRA.

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