How did you start dancing?
My mom is a dancer and was my dance teacher growing up. My mom and her best friend opened a dance studio before I was even born. I was actually born on the recital day. My mom always says with a smile that I was “born to dance.” She still teaches at the dance studio to this day, and my birth was the only time she has ever missed a recital in 30+ years of teaching there. That’s where it all began. I was raised there in a stroller and as soon as I was able to walk, I was dancing--at about age 3.
What’s it like to have a dance teacher mom?
She’s definitely not your cliche dance and stage mom, which I love. And luckily she was a really cool teacher. She wasn’t the tough one. Her best friend, my second mom, was much more strict. We would goof off in my mom’s class and get away with talking a little more. I always enjoyed it and loved the experience of her being my teacher. My sister was raised dancing there as well; it was so fun. It was a family affair 100%. My mom’s best friend and my other dance teacher’s daughters were all raised there with us.
Any fun moments you remember from growing up in a studio?
A couple of days before the recital, our moms were busy with tech rehearsal. My sister and her friend were playing around and found scissors and cut each other’s hair above their ears. Both moms came and saw what they had done and freaked out because they couldn’t get their hair in a bun now for recital. We all laugh a lot about it now. The pictures are amazing.
How did you decide to become a full-time performer?
I remember being in kindergarten—I still have this paper that asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. I wrote “I want to sing and dance on Broadway.” Performing was just always what I wanted to do. I truly don’t remember having any other interest.
I was raised in Wichita, KS, where Music Theatre of Wichita, a professional theatre company, is. My mom worked there as well, so that’s how I got into theatre. She worked at their summer stock theatre for years before I was born. Once I was old enough to audition, at age 6, I auditioned for the summer stock shows and was cast in Oliver! My mom was cast in Oliver! as well, so she was actually my stage mom and my real mom at the same time. It was so cool for both of us. Music Theatre of Wichita really showed me what it was like to work in theatre. Ever since I started doing that, I knew for a fact that I was going to move to New York and that I wanted to be a dancer. There was no question about it. And I haven’t had a doubt about it since.
Where did you to go after high school?
I went to OCU for dance performance. It was the best two years. My best friends to this day are the ones I met in college. I definitely wish I could have stayed longer, but I’m so grateful for the years of training I had. I was there for two years and left mostly due to how costly private college was. I thought maybe I could start over somewhere else, but I didn’t want to spend a total of 6 years in school when I could be working and dancing in my prime years—in my 20’s.
I made the scary decision to move out east. I got a summer stock job working on the Jersey shore at Surflight Theatre. They offered me the whole summer from May to September. It was my chance to get out to the East Coast and get closer to New York. It was only two hours away. It really gave me the push to make the move. I had an awesome experience and ended up working with a choreographer named Paula Sloan, who then offered me a job to go on my first tour, The Music Man. That’s what eventually got me to New York City. Knowing that I had a job happening made it a little less scary. And finally being in New York was mostly exciting for me. I would have loved to have graduated and stayed for four years for many reasons, but I wouldn’t change it for anything now. It has been working out nicely. I’m so grateful.
How long have you been in the city?
I have been in the city for five years now. It’s really crazy to think about how fast time has flown by. It was five years in October of this year. But I have been traveling a lot of it, so it doesn’t feel quite as long. I’m getting old and feeling old too [laughs].
What are you up to now?
I am in Trip of Love, which is an Off-Broadway dance spectacle. We like to call it a “dansical” because it’s so dance heavy. It’s a 60’s revue show of song and dance. There’s no story, and there’s no script. It’s just hit after hit and is full of 60s dancing. We do a lot of twisting and jerking among many other iconic 60s dance moves. It’s been really fun to experience and be a part of the show. When I auditioned, I really loved the vibe of the room and the choreography. It felt like where I should be. It felt right. The whole casting process was fun. It took many months to cast the show—he was very particular about the cast that he wanted to find. He wanted to know that each person was perfect for the show. That was cool that he handpicked each one of us and thought long and hard about it. Makes it feel really special to be chosen. It was a good experience, but it’s always a relief when the audition process is over and when you get the call.
What are your aspirations as a performer?
People always ask me what my dream show is but I never have a real answer for them. I always think about if I have a dream show or a dream role I want to play, but my dream is just to experience everything in this business. I want to do anything and everything in the city. I want to do musicals, commercial dance, movies, TV, this gig, that gig, anything. I love being challenged in different ways, and I love new choreography and different styles. I just always want to continue to grow. I don’t feel like I have a goal I am trying to reach. I am just trying to always be a happy and healthy dancer in the city and continue living out my dream and see a smile on those audience members’ faces. That’s what I aspire to do. Especially with everything that’s happening in the world, it’s really nice to go to work and look in the crowd and see smiles and laughter and happiness. It keeps me pushing through when those dance moves are feeling hard [laughs].
I saw that you did some work with Shaun T. What was that like?
It was the coolest experience. He’s so fun, down-to-earth, goofy, silly, and sassy. He would always be messing with us. We would have to cut and do another take because he was goofing around. It was so fun. I did the Insanity Max 30 Infomercial first, which wasn’t quite as enjoyable because that was a much more extreme workout instead of dancing [laughs]. That was difficult, but it was a really cool experience. We filmed in a loft in SoHo that was just gorgeous. That job I actually didn’t have any interaction with Shaun T. But from that, I booked his new workout video called CIZE—the end of Exercise—it’s a new workout video that is dance-based. You learn about six dances throughout a specific time period. They’re all cardio-based, so you shed weight quick and get in great shape. But you do it having fun, and you get to learn how to dance.
It’s really what Shaun’s passion has been. He would tell us that ever since college he has been wanting to create a workout program that is dance-based. It was really special to be a part of that because it meant so much to him. It was a huge milestone in his career for sure. He used to talk about how happy he was to be making it happen and to have us all there and a part of it. That was a great feeling. The people were amazing. The other dancers were so fun. It was just a really, really great experience in my career. Friends and family still randomly tell me that they’ve seen me on TV in a commercial for these programs. My aunt texted me and said “I think I saw you talking on TV.” I will always want to work in theatre, but I’ve wanted to learn what the commercial dance side was like, and that was a little taste of it. It definitely left me wanting more.
What is the toughest time you’ve had as a dancer?
Definitely when I was injured for a year. It happened on the Memphis Tour, which I was with from 2011-2012. I was on there for a significant amount of time before my injury which I’m grateful for. There was a freak accident on stage. We were double dutching-- which is jumping rope with two ropes—at the double dutch call half hour before the show. We were just doing our regular thing like normal. The rope—which was pretty thick—struck the top of my foot hard enough to fracture a bone. I didn’t realize it was anything serious at the time. It just hurt really bad, so I stumbled away. The more I sat, the more swollen it got. I tried putting my foot down and it felt very numb and sensitive. Long story short, I had to call out of the show and go to the hospital. Got an X-ray, ended up getting an MRI, then seeing a podiatrist later that week. Turned out that I had fractured my second metatarsal, and I pulled a few ligaments in the area. Exactly what a dancer does not want to hear. From there I had to leave tour to recover.
I thought I’d be healed and ready to go in a couple of months, which is what we originally thought. But it ended up taking a year. I was in New York for a whole year recovering. Half of that time I wasn’t walking. I was in a cast, then a walking boot, then these goofy shape-up shoes—all of these different steps on the road to recovery. It made me question my whole career and my whole life path. Again, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t dance. It has always been my one true passion. It made me think a lot: “What if this ends? What if I can’t dance tomorrow? What do I want my life to be about? Where do I want to go from here?” And I never really found anything that would make me quite as happy as performing. It was a hard mental battle throughout the whole year realizing that this is my one body I am given, and I’ve got to take care of it and make sure that it stays healthy. That was definitely the most challenging time I’ve had as a dancer so far. But I am definitely back feeling stronger and more grateful to be dancing with a healthy body. It also gave me a new sense of love for dance. Throughout that year there was a lot of ups and downs, but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and worked to stay as hopeful as possible.
What kept you on track to still be a dancer?
Originally at the time, my goal was to return to the tour before it closed. That definitely pushed me and kept me going. But the day came when the tour closed, and I still was just barely walking. I had come to peace with not returning by this point though. I knew plenty of dancers and close friends who had been injured before who had told me their stories, so I found comfort in that. They always gave me positive encouragement about how it will get better even though it seems like it never will. You will dance again—despite all these things that you battle with and you worry about. I was pretty hopeful that things were going to get back to normal. I took it day by day and kept my passion and my love for dance alive. I was just so ready to get back out there and do it again. I missed auditioning, which is a weird thing to say. No one ever says that, but somehow I missed auditioning [laughs].
How were you able to support yourself financially while you were injured?
If you are to get injured, you hope to do it on a job where it will be covered. I was injured onstage doing something our union calls an “extreme risk” move. I was covered 100% by worker’s compensation and Actor’s Equity, which was such a blessing. They covered everything injury related--including transportation to and from all of my doctor visits, PT sessions, dance classes—and on top of that they compensate you similarly to what you would be getting while working and uninjured. Luckily I was covered up until the day that I started working again. That was definitely the only way I could’ve survived in New York City as an injured dancer. It really was the best way to be injured [laughs]. That’s how I ate, slept, traveled, and had a roof over my head.
What would be your number one advice to people out there?
I would definitely say if you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else, just go for it. You’ll never regret it. And if you end up having another life goal or interest—which happens often, especially as we get older—you’ll always be able to say that you gave it a try and you lived out those years of your passion and dreams. Being able to dance is a wonderful gift—don’t let it go unused. And don’t be intimidated by this big city. It’s really not as scary as it seems. There are a lot of lovely people here—working dancers as well as not working. There’s always a moment when a performer will not have a job—it’s the nature of the beast. But there’s always people to find comfort in, and there’s a great theatre and dance community here helping each other out.
Is there any last thing that you want to share with the world?
I love the word love. It’s in every situation—in our career, in our relationships, with strangers on the street, people on the subway—love makes the world go around. It’s such a wonderful thing to share and give. I want to always do everything with love.