Lion King actor a former student of dance teacher
Students at the Arlington ISD Center for Visual and Performing Arts had a roaring good time when Simba from the national tour of Disney’s The Lion King made a surprise visit to their modern contemporary dance class Monday afternoon. Darian Sanders, who’s known as Simba on stage, dropped by to impart wisdom on the students and sing a couple classics, too.
The Broadway show is on tour with appearances across the nation, including Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Courtney Mills, the modern contemporary dance teacher at the CVPA, taught Sanders in 2005 in the Phantom Regiment marching band. When Mills heard Sanders was coming to town, she immediately reached out to him to see if he was able to speak to her class.
The Kentucky native talked about his full-circle journey from marching band to Broadway. Coming from a family with a musical background, Sanders originally wanted to be a music director. After devoting himself to full-time ministry, he never expected to end up on Broadway, or even acting at all.
“Every new phase in my life has begun because of someone seeing potential in me,” Sanders said. “I had to remain open, present and aware every step of the way. So what you’re doing in school and extracurricular activities now is laying your foundation and setting yourself up for success. How you do things matters, and the structure you’re creating will be beneficial later on in life.
“Everyone’s journey is super special to them. No matter where you are now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be somewhere else later.”
When he realized he had a talent for acting, he began taking ballet classes at 30 years old to make himself available for more roles. Sanders started his Broadway career at 33, which is practically unheard of, but it makes his story unique.
“Knowing him when he was a young kid and working with him then was amazing, but watching him grow into Simba on Broadway is phenomenal,” said Mills. “Just seeing one of my former students being so willing to come talk to my students about his journey has me over the moon. He’s such an inspiration, not just to the kids, but to me as a teacher.
“I just want my kids to know they have the potential to do anything. All of our journeys can go any way if we just remain open to the idea of what it can be.”
Sanders is inspiring Mills, students and families across the nation with his courage, passion and journey of self-discovery through his role as Simba and his personal testimony.
“All of us have a different story to tell, so we don’t need to try to be anyone else,” Sanders said. “The moment we each realize how we’ve been created is what makes us unique, we are allowed to give the world that. The world needs each one of us to be who we are uniquely wired to be because what we bring to the table is something so special.”