How did you start dancing?
I started dancing back home in Melbourne, Australia when I was about 3 years old. I wanted to be like my big sister. She was six at the time and was a very good ballet dancer. I wanted to be just like her, so I started dance classes. I grew up in the competition scene in Melbourne and changed dance schools three times in the course of my studies at home. Through dance classes I also began singing and went into musical theatre, which I never suspected I would. I ended up at Patrick Studios in Australia, which has really come to the forefront of the Australian dance scene in the past few years. It was very intense and difficult progam, but it’s where I learned the most about what it really takes in order to be a professional dancer—the type of training and dedication it takes.
How did you decide that you wanted to pursue dance as a career?
I never intended on it. Once I finished high school, I was planning on keeping dance as a hobby and studying communication design - I really enjoyed all things creative and graphic design growing up. I auditioned on a whim for The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York with no intention of actually going if I was accepted. I just thought I’d audition for the experience. About half way through my final year of high school, I got a letter saying that AMDA needed my transcripts to finish my application. I had completely forgotten about it, and I didn’t have anything to send them because I hadn’t finished high school, so I just sent them my school report from the previous year. A few weeks later I received an acceptance letter with a scholarship offer to study in the musical theatre conservatory program. I still had no intention of going. Over time, I thought about what I’d do after high school, it was all sort of up in the air, but studying at AMDA seemed a concrete thing I could love and enjoy doing, in an area that I already excelled in at home. It started off as 10% going, 90% not going, and then my percentage of going started creeping up as I weighed up the pros and cons. Eventually is was a certain 100% and the decision had been made to come here and tackle America.
What do you think pushed you that way?
Performing is the only consistent thing in my life that I’ve done my whole life and that I’ve enjoyed doing my whole life. If I could make a living doing that, it would be the absolute ultimate, and I am currently doing it. It might not be like that forever, but I guess it was the realization that I had the potential to study this and be good at it in a professional context. My entire childhood, I built my foundation of dance, and it’s simply been the constant. I realized that it should remain the constant if it makes me happy.
How was moving to New York?
It was interesting. I’ve always been quite independent growing up, but when I moved to New York I was really on my own. I didn’t have a family to go home to at night, I had to buy food, make food, get on the subway, and find my way around. It was a big change, but it was definitely what I needed for a fresh start. Most people at home finish high school, go to university, live at home, work a part-time job - it can be quite a regimented thing. Looking back now, moving was the best thing I could’ve done. I’ve spoken to so many friends who are home and attending university, and the more I hear from them the more I realize how that really wasn’t for me. I think I needed the change to encourage me to really go for it--commit to the career I wanted to have. When you make that sort of a transition, especially from Australia, it’s such a big sacrifice for you and your family on so many levels that you have to make the most out of it. You’re here now, so don’t look back.
What’s the Australian dance scene like?
It’s come a long way in the recent years. But there isn’t much opportunity as there is over here. Especially during peak audition season, I am looking at Backstage, and there are 7 auditions I could go to in a day. Back home, it’s more like, Matilda is coming, and everyone you know will be at the audition because that’s the next big show coming to Australia. There are so many talented dancers and performers, but I don’t think there’s a large enough industry to facilitate all of them, which is disappointing. There are so many gifted people who I don’t think ever really get to fully work in the industry because the opportunities are somewhat lacking. But I do believe the industry is definitely evolving for the better, give us time.
Are there a lot of performers from Australia in the city?
I think currently many Australians are coming over here to study and pursue performance careers, I’m hearing more people in the streets that sound like me more often. I actually auditioned for AMDA because one of my friends who I danced with at Patrick Studios Australia came over here to study the course I just graduated. So I keep in contact with her, she’s a wonderful support. I know another guy, also from Melbourne who’s currently in King and I on Broadway. He’s an American citizen, but grew up in Australia.
It seems like there are a lot of talented performers from Australia doing big things here in TV, film, and theatre.
That’s really encouraging, I think we’re coming up in the world. A lot of people I know from Australia have worked hard to maintain a certain skill level back home, and when they come over here they know that it’s going to be more competitive. Therefore, they continue to keep up a strong work ethic, which I think holds them in good stead. It’s inspiring to see people like Hugh Jackman who came through the Australian musical theatre industry, and seems to be doing bigger and better things every day. It’s nice to know that it’s possible. I had a musical theatre teacher at college who thought Australians were aliens sent to America to take over the performance industry--good news for me [laughs].
One of my goals is to have Hugh Jackman on here. Hopefully he’ll see this and it’ll happen.
Yeah! I believe he lives in Chelsea. He's not too far. It'll happen.
As foreigners, you have to go through a lot of paperwork for immigration. Could you talk a little bit about what that’s like?
I obtained a student visa in order to study over here. I think the rule is that if you study here for a year, you can get a one-year work visa, which is an OPT visa. It allows you to work in the country in the field that you’ve graduated in. After that one year, if you want you can apply for an O1 visa, which is for athletes, actors and people in arts under the banner of ‘outstanding performers’. That’s approximately a three-year visa. You have to prove that the work during your OPT year is enough to substantiate a career here for the next three years. So it’s about showing them who I’ve worked with and what I’ve done with my time here. You compile all that information into an application that is sent through lawyers to immigration. They’ll either deny you or grant you a visa for as many years as they believe you can maintain work. It’s a very lengthy, frustrating, and difficult process, but I can’t complain because I asked for it. I could be home right now and trying to make things work over there, but I chose to come over here to study, work hard and build a career. So I can’t complain, I willingly put myself in this situation, and I’m glad I did.
Was it something that you were aware of before you went to AMDA?
It was. I have a friend who has gone through the whole process. Whether or not the visa goes through, I think living here, having learned and experienced all I have, and having taken such an array of exciting opportunities has been well worth it. But hopefully it does.
It’s crazy that once you graduate, you basically have one year to shine because sometimes people don’t find their breakthrough for many years after they start their career.
I think it’s also the major driving force in not getting lazy. If you decide not to go that audition one day, you might very well be missing out on work. There are too many opportunities that could be missed if you become lazy. In that sense, I am very fortunate that I have a job that’s contracted beyond my existing visa.
What are you currently doing?
I am currently on the National Tour of 42nd Street. It’s been incredibly inspirational and eye-opening as my first professional job as a dancer. There are so many people around me that I’ve learned so much from purely because they’ve been doing this a lot longer than me and have so much to give on stage and in the rehearsal room. It’s been a big learning curve, all for the best. I am really enjoying getting to see parts of America that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, we’ve stayed at some beautiful places. I’m really just having fun.
And you got to work with people like Randy Skinner.
Yes! Which is amazing. I just saw Dames at Sea the other day. I have so many memories where I was like, “How did I get here? How is it possible that I am in this position?” I try not to think about it too much because it’s quite baffling--the turn of events that have brought me here. I hate to use the word “blessed” because I think it’s overuse detracts from its meaning, but this truly is a blessing. It is such a blessing on my life that I can tour the country and work with these people who are so renowned and talented and rich in knowledge and experience that I can learn so much from.
What are your aspirations?
At this point, it’s a sort of step by step process, especially given the visa situation. I don’t really have that one role I’d love to play or one ensemble that I’d love to be a part of because really I’ll take what I can get! If I were able to live in NYC and maintain a career as a dancer and a performer, I’d be happy. Of course, who wouldn’t love to be on Broadway? But more important to me is maintaining a career and being able to make a living doing what I love. And then of course Broadway, one day...maybe. Just for fun [laughs].
What’s been your favorite moment in your dancing career?
I would have to say that it was at our first preview for 42nd Street in Yakima, WA. We were so ready for an audience. The overture had started, and we were getting ready for the first time-step. When the curtain went up, people started cheering. We had a phenomenal reaction from the start, and at the end of the show we came on for the bows, and the audience was immediately on their feet for the ensemble, which was so lovely because it doesn’t always happen. Then we performed the encore, and I was just standing there in the final bow thinking, “How am I here? How did this happen?” It was very exciting. It was so bizarre to think about how people had paid money to come and watch me do what I love to do and enjoy it so much. That was fun. That was a very special night.
What’s been your toughest time as a performer?
I feel like the toughest times were during my training. Because I came from a school where there were so many talented dancers, I got in the habit of comparing myself. I’d get so frustrated that my legs just wouldn’t go as high as I wanted them to. I’d stretch but my body just wouldn’t go there. So the toughest thing was learning and accepting the limits of my body—what I can and can’t do—and making that work for me. You may not able to kick as high as the next girl, but you might have a style that she can’t embody. It’s an ongoing challenge, reassuring yourself that how you dance is enough and not comparing yourself constantly.
What would be your number one advice?
I kind of feel like I can’t give advice because I’m still learning so much myself.
But on finding yourself as a dancer—if you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re at a point where you’re so frustrated on your weaknesses, then you need to get back to where dance makes you happy. Get back to the happy place. Focus on your strengths and build up from that and have the mindset of continual improvement. Sometimes It’s hard, but it’s certainly doable - and you’ll be a happier dancer for it.
What’s number one thing that you miss about Australia?
Breakfast. In Australia, breakfast very much an institution in itself. You’ll go to any given brunch spot or cafe and there’s always a dish with smashed avocado with toasted sourdough, poached eggs and crispy bacon on the side. We construct dishes as a breakfast phenomenon, and it’s so much fun to just go and get brunch. I miss that, but thankfully, being on tour I’ve found some very cute cafes that are sort of similar to home.
And of course, family.
Is there any last thing that you want to share with the world?
Eat a good breakfast. It’s a great way to start the day.