Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you started dancing.
I started dancing when I was four years old. I started in ballet lessons. My mom put me into that because I was always bouncing around the house whenever they would play music. I would hold onto the refrigerator door handle and pretend that it was a ballet barre. I don’t even know how I knew what ballet barre was without having taken class but I must’ve seen pictures. So it all started there just at a little dance studio in Michigan. Ballet, tap, and jazz, and just grew from there.
Did you go to school for dance?
I went to University of Michigan and I majored in dance.
When did you move to New York?
I moved to New York pretty much two weeks after I graduated from college, which was a scary, strange experience. I remember the girl I was going to move here with. We came to New York on a couple days we had off right before we graduated. We found an apartment in about two days. Of course, we got scammed into something that was much more expensive than we could’ve afford and it was tough like that for a few years.
So you were locked into a lease?
I was locked into a year-long lease and we paid these huge broker fees-it was a three-bedroom. I had a very, very small room and I was paying probably triple what I could afford. But it was in a very safe neighborhood at the time--it was on the Upper East Side. It was, in a way, good for me to be with someone that I knew, and to be in a place where I felt really safe. And it was easy to commute and figure things out. Coming from dance major, I didn’t know what kind of dance I wanted to do professionally. I had done mostly ballet and modern dance before I came here and so I just tried to find how to find auditions--I didn’t know anything. I just auditioned for everything right away. I had the most success in musical theatre auditions so that ended up being a path that I took as opposed to doing like a modern dance company or something like that.
It must’ve been scary that you didn’t have an idea of what you wanted to do and you just came here.
I knew I wanted to dance. I had known for a long time that I wanted to move to New York City after college. Like, ‘I am going to do dance major in college and then I’m going to go to New York and try to be a dancer,’ because of some part of me, without really knowing or having done any research. Because at the time, when I was in high school--15 years ago, the internet wasn’t the thing like it is now. That’s just what I imagined--because that’s what you saw on TV. That’s what people do. They go to New York, and that’s where most opportunity is. I mean, I knew that there are a lot of modern companies here, both established ones and small. I knew ballet companies here but I knew I wasn’t really on that path to get into something as big as New York City Ballet, but that it was here, and there’s a lot of young and new things happening here too. And I knew that there was Broadway here. But I didn’t have any experience with that.
There was a tour of Movin’ Out that was still going on at the time. And that particular show, the audition call just said dancers. it didn’t say dancers who sing. The call just said dancers, because in that show, they don’t sing. So I went to that audition and the casting directors ended up calling me in in the next week for a different tour. And I had to sing. I had sheet music for one song. And I was asked to stay and sing and I was just a mess. A complete mess. I cried after the audition. Brandon was here that summer when I first moved here for an internship, and he had just gotten out of work for that day. And I called him crying and we met. I remember getting a burrito and a margarita and just crying about it. Like all night. Because it was really scary. I mean the same thing happened--I auditioned for Radio City Rockettes and I continued to do that and realized what a difficult thing it actually is. To do and to get. And the first time I auditioned for that, I remembered calling my mom and my grandma and crying to them on the phone about how people say it’s hard, and it really is. It really actually is. I can’t believe it. I didn’t really realize that it would be as hard as people say it is until I experienced that first major rejection. Now it’s eight years later, and I’m still here.
You said the first singing call that you had was super scary. So I guess singing wasn’t something that you expected to do or wanted to do?
I think about this a lot now that I’ve come so far with it. One of my dance teachers said to us one time. She was singing along with our song, and she wasn’t that great of a singer. She said, “Oh I’m a terrible singer. It doesn’t matter though. That’s why I am a dancer.” And decades ago, 70’s, 80’s, even in the 90’s, dancers weren’t really expected to sing, at least not really well because they would hire separate singers and dancers. So, I grew up with teachers who had that mentality, even when I was in college. I remember my advisor--and I mean these teachers were great. I learned a lot from them. But I remember my college advisor saying, “Oh, you need to go to at least one Broadway cattle call as a dancer just to have that experience.” And she was like, “I am not worried about you booking work as a dancer. I am sure that you’ll get commercial stuff.” But they didn’t know how that world had changed since they experienced it in maybe the 80’s and early 90’s. And that a lot more is expected of dancers than just having technique. So I learned a lot. For me, it took a while. I am a late bloomer. But I kept at it and I slowly figured out what worked--to make money, so I can stay at my overpriced apartment.
How did you get through that difficult time?
When I first got here, things were really crazy. After that singing experience, which probably really wasn’t that bad, the casting director told me to get a vocal coach and to work on my song. So I started taking voice lessons, which was just another expense. But it was that kind of thing where I’m spending this much money it takes me entire night working at the restaurant as a hostess, which is the first thing that I got. To be able to pay for voice lessons, and that’s before I can have enough money for rent or food. It was really important to me that I learned and that I succeed with it. But I had a huge wall, a barrier of feeling behind. And I let that get to me for a while. But eventually, now 8 years later, everything is fine. Everyone still has fears of auditioning and whatnot. But it’s better.
To survive at first, I worked at a restaurant that was on my corner. Right at my safe little area. I didn’t know how to waitress; I didn’t know how to work at a restaurant. Someone ordered a Drambuie and I went to another waitress and said, “What’s a grand buoy?” I’m trying to be a dancer--I don’t know what kind of dancer I want to be, and I also have to learn like 800 kinds of beers that are common here in New York that no one drinks in Michigan. And I was 22, so I had only drank like five kinds of beers anyway. It’s exactly like a cookie-cutter story of a girl from the midwest, who had no idea about anything, coming here.
It’s like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Pretty much. And honestly, I didn’t have much gumption as her, but I had enough to make it. I found stability in certain things. I worked at a yoga studio. That was good. That kept me calm, and I was getting free classes there so I could stay in shape. And then I’ve had Brandon the whole time. Our relationship luckily started right at the end of college, like six weeks before we graduated. And he’s always been extremely supportive. Of course my parents have been supportive too, but to have someone else out of family really believing in me enough, I think that’s a huge part of why I was able to get through that really hard time. And why I am now able to continue.
Could you tell me little bit more about your relationship with Brandon?
To layer on the story, we were long distance for the first four years that I was here. He was here in the summers for internships and he was in pharmacy school back in Michigan. He had already gotten into that and signed up for it before we even started dating. So we made that work, which seems crazy now, but we made that work. And then past four years, he was lucky enough to get his first job in Brooklyn, so he came here. That was really lucky, because in his residency, he had to match. Those cards all fell into place, which--you know, everybody wants everything at the same time, but I look back and I feel grateful for the way that things have happened. For some people, it might be kind of slow pace, but that’s what has worked better for me. If I had gotten tons of work, and had a crazy life, like touring or being on cruise ships and stuff like that right away when I came here, I think that the relationship that I have with Brandon would have suffered. Can’t say for sure, but the way that things have been has worked out.
What are you up to now?
I got to do a show in Brooklyn. It’s a theatre company that I’ve worked for before and they needed a replacement, so I did that. January until now, audition crazy central land. I’m going to be doing a show in Long Island. May 5th, I start rehearsals then it opens Memorial Day weekend and it’s just until June 6th. It’s a real quick one. And then I’m on hold--on standby--for the next show. So that’s like a maybe. So the craziness of all of this is I find out everything at the last minute.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
I am at the point where I really want to take my career to the next level. I’m working my way towards getting my equity card. I’ll be about half way there after I do my next contract as far as points accruing. The main goal is to be on Broadway. I also want to be a Radio City Rockette. That was my first audition that I came to the city to do. I learned how difficult that style was for me. And I’ve been working on it since then. Last year, I got to the end, to the finals that I was on standby. This year, crazy things are happening with that, and they’re not having the open call in the spring, so we’ll see. In my mind, I know my age, I know what the number is. But I have to forget that and just think about how I feel--how strong do I feel. Physically. Mentally. And I feel stronger than I ever have. Especially compared to when I was 22. It’s probably not going to be this year--probably nobody new is getting it this year, but next year, I’ll be ready. Especially if they decide to open a new tour.
Have you auditioned for the Rockettes every year?
Almost. There have been couple times where I was away doing shows that I didn’t audition. They have two a year. I tried to count it once, but I don’t like to think of numbers anymore. I’ve gone in a lot. There’s quite a few times where I went in just for the heck of it, like any old audition without really thinking, “This is different from most of the musicals I auditioned for.” Couple years ago when I had that, what they do is completely different from what I’ve done in shows. So I started really watching their videos and taking the kind of classes that the actual Rockettes take. I’ve had some lessons with the coach in that particular style. That helped me to get to the end last year. This year, I don’t know. It’s the business. You never know. At the end of the day, with all of this art at the commercial side of it, the business side of it, is the bottomline. If the company decides something isn’t making enough money, then you know, it’s their decision. Whether or not they’re going to keep it, or how big of a cast they’re going to have. You have to not take those things personally.
Where do you see yourself after finishing performing?
I am still kind of in dream world about the more distant future. I know for sure that I want to teach. I’ve always known that I want to teach. If I hadn’t been a dancer, I probably would’ve been a school teacher. Elementary. Like those little guys over there. Because, I don’t know, I think that the more I learn from what I’m doing from this career, the more that I can give. Whether that ends up being teaching children. I know for sure I’d like to be a yoga teacher. Haven’t done that yet, because timing hasn’t worked out for training and things. But I do enjoy teaching, so for sure I will be doing that in the future. I am not sure if I’ll ever really stop dancing. I might be like those YouTube videos you see of 90 year old woman boogieing down. And you know, Chita Rivera is still performing. I feel like I am a late bloomer and I may actually hit my peak at the time when most people retire. So we’ll see.
What’s your favorite part of living in the city?
It’s kind of a weird thing but my favorite thing about living here is that I don’t have to drive. I am not really a very good driver. And I like that when I’m tired at the end of the day, you do have to walk and whatever, but when you’re in the subway, you sit, and if you fall asleep, you won’t die. And then of course all the obvious things. It’s amazing and there are so many fun things to do. When it’s bad, it’s really bad, and when it’s great, it’s really great. And there’s just so much opportunity here. Especially as a professional dancer. It’s like the place to be.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the world?
I think I went on enough tangents that I covered just about everything that I have to say about dancing in the city. If anyone--if you have even the smallest desire to come here, no matter where you are coming from, you should do it. Different things are right for different people. Some people say you have to give it a year, give it two years. But if you’re here for three months and you really hate it, it’s okay to hate it and leave. And for other people, like me, it can take maybe four or five years to really feel like, ‘Yes I’ve made the right decision.’