Musical Theatre Major Guests on “Ellen Show”

Montclair State University musical theatre major and tap dancer Evan Ruggiero recently performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where DeGeneres presented him with a $10,000 scholarship from Shutterfly.

During his appearance on the show, Ruggiero discussed his battle with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that led to the loss of the lower half of his right leg. After being diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 19, Ruggiero underwent nine surgeries. When his cancer still returned, amputation became the only option.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Ruggiero says.

But that has never stopped him. A week after Ruggiero finished intensive chemotherapy in October 2011 he resolved to continue tap dancing – inspired by Vaudeville dancer Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates, who danced with a peg leg in the 1930s and ’40s. After long, difficult hours of practice to learn how to dance with the peg leg, Ruggiero returned to the stage, performing at a Children’s Resources Foundation benefit show in Miami. He went on to perform in the St. Louis Tap Festival, the LA Tap Fest and the Jersey Tap Fest. He also auditioned on American Idol, where he showcased his other talents by singing and playing guitar.

Ruggiero, who wants to pursue a career in theater, caught the eye of the producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show after a video of his performance at the LA Tap Fest circulated on the Internet. When he got the call from a producer asking him to perform a week later, Ruggiero was in the hospital again, this time for a staph infection. He managed to recover and make it to Los Angeles for the show, which was taped on his 23rd birthday. “It was an awesome way to spend my birthday.”

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