How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was about four at a little studio in Narberth, PA, called DancExpress. I took ballet and jazz classes there a couple times a week up until I graduated high school. But I was a competitive swimmer. I was swimming a lot. I’d have a two hour practice in the morning, go to school, and then do a two and a half hour practice in the evening. We even had practices and competitions on the weekends. So dancing was definitely secondary until I went to college.
I went to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. I was planning on minoring in dance just because I liked it. However, once I got there, I realized I was interested in all the classes that were required for the major anyway. I ended up majoring in dance and ultimately pursuing a dance career.
So dancing was never a thing that you wanted to do as a career until you got to college.
I didn’t even know you could do it as a career. I didn’t know anybody who was a professional dancer. I thought, to be a professional dancer, you had to be a ballerina in the New York City Ballet, or something like that. I didn’t realize there were so many options. I was introduced to theatre by my parents when I was little, but I never made the connection because I didn’t know anybody who was doing it professionally. It wasn’t until I started looking at colleges and found out you could major in dance that I realized it was an actual career option.
And you swam all throughout college too?
I swam all throughout college. I was captain my senior year. Swimming totally made me who I am today, so I don’t regret it even though it was really hard to balance it with dance. I was a double major too. I majored in psychology and dance and minored in arts administration. I like to keep busy.
When did you move to New York?
Right after I graduated. I’m from Philadelphia, so New York isn’t far. My mom grew up here, and my grandfather lived here for his whole life. We used to come visit him before he passed away. When I was in middle school we started coming up to see shows, too. I became familiar with the city since we visited so often. When I graduated from Skidmore, I did the Summer Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center. So I moved here for that and just stayed.
How long have you been in the city?
Since last summer. Almost a year and a half now. It’s crazy.
What are you up to now?
After the program, I started auditioning. I was really lucky to get my first job very quickly. I did a Christmas Show at Busch Gardens. Since then, it’s been kind of rough. I haven’t had another real contract since Busch, so part of me feels like it was just a fluke. It’s tough not to get down about that, but I think I just have to pay my dues. It’ll happen if I stay positive. So I’ve just been auditioning, working, taking class, and doing little gigs here and there.
Coming from a modern dance background, how’s the transition into musical theatre?
I’m really thankful to have the technical foundation that I got from Skidmore. Whenever I go to a dance call, and we’re doing a ballet/technique cut first, I’m fine. I tend to be less confident with musical theater, but it’s starting to get easier.
Singing is the worst part. With dancing, I’m basically doing everything I’m used to except with heels on. That’s not so bad. Singing auditions are the bane of my existence. I’ve been taking lessons for a year now with Amanda Flynn. I always sound great when I’m with her, but auditions are another story entirely. One time, at an audition, I opened my mouth and no sound came out! It was so horrifying. Thankfully, I can at least make sounds now. I’ve been to about five singing calls so far this season to try to gain some confidence. That way, if and when I get called back after dancing, I won’t freak out as much because I’ve done it before. I’ve come a long way with singing, but I still have a long way to go.
The more you do it, the more comfortable you get, right?
I met you in Times Square when you were working. Could you tell me a little bit about what you do?
I work for theatreMAMA, a theatrical promotions company. Most of the work that we do is with Broadway shows. Right now, our clients are Chicago and Finding Neverland. We go to out in Times Square and hand out flyers with discount codes. The Chicago costume includes a black jacket, red tights, a bowler hat, and character shoes. Basically, we dance around and try to get people to go to the show. It’s a great side gig because I get to see the shows we promote for free. Another big plus is that all the girls who work there are also performers, so we always try to help each other out.
Do you have any other survival jobs?
Earlier this year, I started doing marketing for a company called the guiDANCE network. It’s a startup. Jami, the founder, lives in Los Angeles. The company helps high school dance students find and apply to college dance programs. So it’s like a college counseling program, but for dancers specifically. A lot of college counselors that you get in high schools don’t know a lot about dance. Our goal is to help dance students with applications, auditions, and scholarships, and answer any questions they have about the college process.
How did you find that opportunity?
Jami posted it on Backstage.com. She was looking for people who have a degree in dance with arts administration experience. I thought it sounded perfect for me, so I applied. We did a Skype interview, and she hired me. Since then, my internship has morphed into an actual position. She lives in LA, so we do everything over the internet. I went to LA in July and met her for the first time, which was fun. We had a booth at Dancerpalooza, a dance convention. That was my first time in LA too, so it was a great experience.
What’s your favorite part about living in New York?
I really, really like to multitask and be busy. New York City is very conducive to that. I went to LA twice this summer. I liked LA, but everything was just so laid back. And you have to drive everywhere. I like how in New York, you get everything immediately. Unless someone vomits on your train. That happened to me the other day, and it was terrible. I was on my way to an audition. We sat there for like 20 minutes, and they made everyone get off the train during rush hour. But other than that, I like that New York is normally very fast-paced.
What’s your least favorite part of living in New York?
I know this is oddly specific, but cigarettes. I hate them so much. Working in Times Square, I feel like every other person is blowing smoke in my face. I wish that they were illegal, at least in Times Square.
What are your aspirations as a dancer?
To be able to support myself while doing what I love. Basically, I’m down for anything that is artistically fulfilling and hopefully will support me financially as well. I just want to dance. That’s my aspiration.
Based on your experience, what would be your number one advice to dancers in New York?
Definitely to surround yourself with like-minded, positive people. I know that I would not be able to do this without my friends helping me, being at auditions with me, or sending encouraging texts.
Your toughest time as a dancer?
Body image is a tough thing for a lot of people, especially dancers. The pressure to have a “good body” is everywhere in the dance world, but it’s different in musical theatre than in modern dance. In modern dance, different body types tend to be more widely accepted. I’ve struggled with my body image a lot in the past, but a few months ago, I went vegan. That totally changed my perspective on my body. Sometimes I still have doubts, but overall I feel so much better both physically and mentally.
What keeps you going?
My friends. I’ve been rejected a lot this week, and my friends have been there to cheer me up. In general, I just look at every audition as free experience. A free class. Even when I go to singing calls, I see it as an experience. People pay lots of money to get in front of these casting directors. An audition is a free way to get seen. I think that’s the best way to think about it even when you get rejected.
I have a little audition notebook where I’ll write down who was in the room, what I wore, what I sang, etc. If I’m cut, I’ll also try to take note of the type of people who got kept. That way I can try to figure out how to make a better impression next time I audition for that theatre or director. I try to make it into an educational experience. I’m always learning.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the world?
Give me a job [laughs]? Do what you love. If you really love something, you’ll be able to figure out how to make it your career. Don’t get stuck doing a boring job just to make money. Your passions should always come first.
Also, hi, Mom and Dad. I love you.