Gracie Verkamp, 181 Street Station, A

It was a cold winter day.

It was a cold winter day.

How long have you been dancing?

I was three when I first started--I am about to be 24--so 20 years.

When did you decide you wanted to dance for a living?

I did competitive dance growing up my whole life in Nebraska and when it came time to decide where to go to college my parents were like, ‘What do you want to do with your life? What do you see yourself being passionate about?’ Well, dance is all I've ever known and it's what makes me happy and makes me driven in life. So I started looking at universities and couple people from Omaha had gone to Oklahoma City University. I applied for the program, auditioned and got in. And I am here now.

What year did you graduate?

2013 from college

What did you do right after?

Cruise ships. So I went home, did a few auditions. We were apartment hunting in New York, which is always a challenge. We got a broker. My roommate’s parents were from Boston so they came up and took us about a week to find an apartment, sign on it, and move here. And then a couple of us got offers for cruise ships and I took off for a year.

For a year?

Yeah, it was on and off. I did a three month contract, and then I had a month break, and then I went out for 9 months.

What places did you get to go to on your cruise ship contract?

We rehearsed in Florida, so we were in Tampa for a month and then my ships were out from Miami. The first contract was Miami, Caribbean, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and private islands that Norwegian owns. And then my second contract we did the same itinerary, but then we did a re-positioning where it went through Costa Rica, Honduras--we went through the Panama Canal, which was a really big deal, because everyone travels for that cruise to go through the canal. It was the 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal, so it was really cool. And we went up the west coast, stopping at several ports in California and then for our main chunk of the contract, we were based out of Seattle. So we were in Seattle every Sunday and we got new guests and then we went through Alaska for five months, which was really great place to see a place I never really desired to--you know usually if I am in a vacation I usually go to the beach. But it was a really cool way to see that part of the country. We came all the way back down and finished in Miami. All the way up and all the way back down.

When a ship relocates, does it carry regular passengers on board?

We had some guests on with us from Miami all the way up to Alaska. So that ended up being a 30-day voyage. It’s a lot of retired, older people who want to travel, see the world. I had no idea people did that. I thought there were just seven-day only or three-day cruises, but you get to know the passengers. They become your fans for shows. They recognize you on the ship, which is really nice when you’re far from home to meet people and they actually understand what you do.

Was it difficult dancing on a ship?

Like with the movement? At times. I luckily never ran into crazy weather. We never had terrible storms but there would be moments where you’re on stage holding a pose and you feel yourself and your cast do a little sway and have to tighten everything in your body and just hold still as much as you can. I found it sometimes scary if we’re doing partnering work. My cast was very tall, so obviously my partner was taller than I am--I am 5'9”--so sometimes they would throw me up and I was never dropped or anything but you know it’s just scary if they throw you up, the ship moves, they have to adjust--luckily nothing bad ever happened but there’s always that fear of ‘hopefully I come down the same spot I went up’

Imagine doing that in a swaying ship.

Imagine doing that in a swaying ship.

So what are you up to now?

Auditioning. It’s nice that I am finally back in the city and in the audition scene. I’ve never really been here for long for unforeseeable amount of time. So spending majority of my time in holding rooms, being seen by as many people as I can, and hoping for the next best thing.

When did you get back?

I got back in the beginning of January. So getting established, and I am teaching dance classes in TriBeCa. Their ages 1 1/2 to 8. It’s music theatre, and they’re such cute little babies. It’s singing, dancing, acting classes which is really nice just to do in between performing and all that.

What would be your dream show or role?

Ideally, the long-term goal is to be a Radio City Rockette, either in the Spring Show that’s opening soon or the Christmas show. That would be ideal. But really, I’d love to tour with a musical. Broadway would be amazing as well. Just to be performing on stage and doing what I am trained and love to do. It’s the place to be in New York. So many opportunities are here.

We hope to see Gracie as a Radio City Rockette in the near future.

We hope to see Gracie as a Radio City Rockette in the near future.

What’s your favorite style of dance?

I have a lot of respect for Ballet. Just because it’s the foundation of everything. I find it beautiful and graceful. I also love theatre. That’s why I am here. It’s amazing that so many theatres around the country come to New York to see the talent that’s here. So mainly what I am auditioning for now is music theatre. But I love all styles. It’s great that we can go to dance studios here and take tap, jazz, ballet, and contemporary.

Back to basics.

Back to basics.

What’s your least favorite part of living in New York?

Ooh, that’s a loaded question (laughs). I am originally from Omaha, NE, so I am quite a bit of ways away from home. So I obviously miss my family. I think the hardest part is--this might sound silly-- but after auditioning and being on your feet all day in heels you still have to commute home. You have to go up steps like these after being in heels jumping around all day. So I think just traveling and trying to catch trains. You never know if they’re going to be delayed underground.

Omaha is a complete suburbia so I am used to having my car. Trains can be very convenient at times, but I have to allow myself to have at least an hour to get anywhere because I am very punctual and I don’t want to be late for anything.

These escalators at 181 Street Station were being repaired for sometime.

These escalators at 181 Street Station were being repaired for sometime.

Your favorite part?

Since I spent so much time away--you know you’re in school for four years and I had always known I wanted to move to New York--so I just had that anticipation. Then I got here, and I went on the ship. Now that I am finally here, when I first got back, it was the energy and the buzz of the city you can’t--I personally can’t find that inspiration anywhere else. Everytime I get back in, I am in the cab from the airport coming back to my apartment at such a positive, motivational energy that I feel in the city. You take class, and you are surrounded by people--if you take a class at places like Broadway Dance Center, you could be in a class with someone who’s 18 or someone who’s 40 who has done two or three Broadway shows.

Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to share with the world?

With the world?

Hopefully. (laughs)

Let me think. I think just keep pushing forward. “Use frustration as motivation”-- that’s what my dad always tells me when I’ve had a rough day in the city or just exhausted from projects that are happening. He’s like, “just use the frustration as motivation. Everyday is a new day filled with opportunities and you never know what the day can hold.” Is that good? (laughs)