And now she is dancing with “America’s Ultimate Variety Show” at the Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge.
She said it’s “crazy” to get to do something “I love and get paid to do it.”
The Smoky Mountain Opry show offers “tons of stuff,” including comedy, dancing, singing, acting, aerials .. “literally everything you can think of,” she said.
Summer started dancing at age 3; however, “it (dancing) didn’t hit until I was 4 or 5 when I started tap. I liked the sound of the tap shoe.”
She said as she got older she realized you can compete and look toward the next level of dance.
After graduation, the next level was teaching dance in Cleveland and Chattanooga with Ginger Brown.
She had also performed in the Gatlinburg street festival “Tunes and Tales” for seven years. The festival included clogging and storytellers.
“It was nice to perform and meet people from everywhere,” she said.
In January 2013, at the urging of friends, she auditioned at the Hatfields and McCoys.
“They weren’t adding dancers,” she said.
“I had heard the Opry was a variety show. Maybe that is more my forte. I had grown up with all styles of dance,” Summer said.
Out of 40 who tried out, only Summer and a boy were cast.
She noted everyone in the cast gets “along great.”
Summer said the producers — David Fee and Jim Headrick — came in the second day to meet the new members.
“You don’t usually see head honchos in business, but they (producers) get really involved with the performers,” she explained.
“They want individuals and they want us to standout for our talent and ability,” she said.
“I didn’t expect it to work out as well as it did. It just came together,” she said of her experience at the Opry.
During the holidays, the Smoky Mountain Opry had a special Christmas show.
Now the Ultimate Variety Show is gradually transitioning over the months from one show to another.
“Every time you come, you will see something different. And being a live show, it is never the same,” she said.
Since she is a dancer, she is in sections of the show that feature dancing; however, she also does a little background singing, has worked as a magician’s assistant, pulled drapes and been inside the props.
One of her favorite tasks was working with the animals in the show.
They had tigers as a tribute to the Broadway show “The Lion King.”
“I got to pull the drapes off the cage. The tiger would follow me around the cage,” Summer said.
The animal handler would give tips on dealing with the tiger,
When she was not there for a show, the tiger would not follow her replacement.
She said “the tiger bonds to you. You get to see them act like little kittens playing. ... You also get to see the wild side.
“I loved working with the animals,” Summer said.
While the handlers had trouble keeping the tigers from sitting down, they had the opposite problem with the rare white lion.
“We had the white lion in rehearsal process for three months. They we gradually added people in the audience. The lion was always running around.”
Summer noted, “I like the live variety show. You get to see so many layers ... They are so great.”
Smoky Mountain Opry is located at 2046 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. For information on tickets, call 800-768-1170 or online at www.smokymtnopry.com.
Summer is the daughter of Kevin Collins and Deborah Collins. She is the granddaughter of Joyce and WW Johnson, Pat Collins and Bill Collins.