How did you hear about Dancers of New York?
I heard about it through your wife, Alicia, on Facebook and lots of OCU friends being featured on it. I thought it was pretty cool. Every person you photograph opens it up to a new network of people and a new network of friends. That’s pretty exciting.
Tell me a little about how you started
I am from Texas, and my mom enrolled me in dance classes at the local recreation center in Arlington. I actually didn’t do my recital that year because it was in the middle of a mall. There were strangers, and I didn’t want to dance for them.
How old were you?
I was four. I quit for several years and then my mom had me beg year after year to make sure I really wanted to do it again. And I did it again. She signed me up for a dance studio this time when I was 7. I went through with the recital.
How did you grow up to be a dancer?
I grew up at a competition studio. I was really lucky that it was a studio that did competition-conventions instead of just competitions. Whenever we went to the competitions I also got to take classes from industry professionals and got to learn a lot from them. And see that people could make a living as a dancer. I saw them teaching and performing and read their bios from the program. That sort of opened my mind up--I could be a dancer. When it came time to choose what to do for college, I had other interests. I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to pursue dance in college, but I started to narrow down my options, and it became what I wanted to do throughout that application process. Then I went to OCU, and the rest is history.
Could you tell me a little more about the time you had to decide where to go for college?
I still wasn’t sure that I could have a career as a dancer, because at the time I wasn’t involved in musical theatre. Now I am involved heavily. That’s how I am making my career. I thought, to be a dancer, you had to grow up to be in a ballet company and be a prima ballerina, and I just didn’t have that ballet training. I was a jazz and tap dancer. That’s what I loved. I figured, “I am not a ballerina, so I can’t do this.” Most colleges are ballet and modern-based, and I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of success there, because I like tap and jazz. I thought about being an interior designer, elementary school teacher--still things I am interested in.
How did you realize that you wanted to dance?
My mom went to the University of North Texas. I was looking at their interior design school. I was filling out the application, and you had to have a portfolio. I was like, “I haven’t done any interior design as a senior in high school.” I am sure I could have put one together. I had taken one class in high school but it made me realize “What do I do? I dance.” Yes, there are other things I could do, but that’s what I had experience in. If I want to pursue it, I should do it now when I can and while I have the support of family. I was kind of like, “I don’t really have experience in much else because I spent my whole life at the dance studio.”
How did you find out about OCU?
A girl from my dance studio went there. She was a grade ahead of me. And it seemed like a good fit because it was like three and a half hours away from home--just far away enough to feel like I am going somewhere for school, and I could drive home on the weekends if I wanted to. And I really liked that they had tap. That’s my favorite kind of dancing. Just the fact that I could keep pursuing tap in college was probably the biggest factor. There aren’t many other schools that do that.
How was OCU?
OCU was good for me. People come out of there with different opinions of the school, and they had different experiences, but I had a lot of success there. I think a lot of that had to do with that I appreciated the rules they put in place for us. I knew that some of them may not apply to the real world, but just them teaching us to follow the rules--be responsible, be on time, be professional--I knew that it was going to transfer into the real world. Whether it was the specific--you have to wear a classic leotard--nobody wears those in the real world, but I knew the theory transfers into the real world. And it has.
I was a strictly a rhythm tapper before I went to OCU, and we did a cappella dances that are really down and dirty. OCU taught me to dance in heels and be a musical theatre tapper. That’s literally how I made my career. I’ve only done tap shows. I’ve gotten those because I can have the stylistic upper body that goes with the tapping, which I didn’t know was a thing in high school. We were all about just the feet and just the sound. OCU was my introduction to “Oh, there is dancing that goes with tap. I get it.” That’s what I’ve been making a living out of.
What happened after graduation?
I got my very first musical, which was exciting. I hadn’t done theatre--even community theatre in high school or for the school show. I was always at the dance studio. I got my first musical at Music Theatre Wichita. I was really excited about that. That was a game changer. They bring in all college students for ensemble, but the leads, they audition in New York. MTW brings them in, and they’ve been on Broadway. It’s a crazy learning experience putting up five musicals in one summer. You just rehearse one show while you are performing a night show. That opened my eyes a lot. I’ve heard people there who had been musical theatre majors in college. They had just graduated and already booked their equity national tour, and I was like, “Oh, if I want to do this, I need to get into motion.” I felt a little behind. They hired me to be the woman in green in Singin’ in the Rain, the Cyd Charisse character. That was a dance-only role. I knew that dance was my strength. I can sing, I can act, but I hadn’t gone into that very much. I realized that I needed to step up my game in those departments that summer.
How did you learn to sing and act?
I was in choir in high school. I took voice lessons in high school as well. I was pretty happy with my voice, but I was studying classical. My high school teachers had me sing Italian arias. Once I was in OCU, I was in voice lessons, and that same thing happened. It was with a teacher that still wanted to work on my technique. And I knew that I wanted to be with a professor that would help me find new music and work on belting for musical theatre. So I switched voice teachers halfway through, and that really helped. I was with Brian Hamilton, and he worked with me on belting technique. That really helped me. I still use some of the music that he gave me when I am at auditions.
When did you move to New York?
I moved to New York last January. It was January 7th. It was the coldest day on record that winter in New York. It’s been almost a year and a half. I was able to move here because after MTW, I did a cruise ship and I saved up all that money. That made it easier to move here and focus on auditions.
How did you like the cruise ship experience?
It’s not for me. I liked it and enjoyed it, and I am glad I did it--it did allow me to move here. I think it’s a great first or second job especially right out of college. I didn’t like being so far away from my family and my boyfriend. We were in South America. It also depends on where your cruise is. Where you port makes a huge difference. That was really cool, and we got to go to Antarctica. That was crazy but it was lots of very rural ports where there’s nothing to do but go on a nature tour. It was cool the first time, but then we were there every two weeks. It just got very monotonous, and you know, I got a little homesick. I know some people love it, and some people want to go back on them again and again. They pay off their student loans and buy a car, etc. For me, it was a good way to make my little fund for New York City. Now I can move on.
What are you up to now?
I was able to focus on auditions, so my first year here, I was barely here. I was out of town doing shows on and off, and I would come back here for two weeks or a month, which I felt really lucky about that. Now I got back here in February, and I have to leave at the end of June. So this is my first long chunk of time in the city. I got a part-time job--it’s my first New York part-time job, and I was proud of myself for getting it. I work retail at Joe Fresh on 34th Street. I tell people it’s the Canadian version of Gap. It’s a Canadian brand and they have locations in New York. It’s very basics, classics, that sort. I just want to be able to be here and enjoy the city for a chunk of time when I knew I had that amount of time. I am doing that, and I am babysitting and taking time to actually live here. Lots of dancers in New York are dancers out of town all the time--they get their shows, fly to their regional theatres, and come back.
I am going to do a production of Holiday Inn at the Muny. I am excited about that. It’s going to be the second production--I was in the first production as a swing. This production I am going to be in the ensemble. They’re adding more people, and they’re going to get to learn the show. They’ve already made changes and sent us the script. It’s going to become this new bigger thing. I am going home to teach dance camps so I can be with my family for a little bit this summer before I head off. Then I am on a national tour for a whole year.
What are your plans after?
I know I want to focus on getting my equity card. Maybe looking into getting an agent. I’ve had a lot of success on my own, but I know that that’s a sort of different path to go on about getting more serious about your career. I was going to take my card at Muny, but I got a national tour. I am in a place where I really want to do a national tour, and the show is a dream show of mine. So the two combined, it was too good to pass up. That would’ve been my second chance to take my equity card because I could’ve taken it the first time I did Holiday Inn. I was really excited about that, but I really wanted to do a tour. So when I get back, it’s right back to focusing on [getting my equity card]. I am hoping that if I already had two chances, hopefully the third chance is right around the corner.
You know, a lot of people have different feelings about equity. Some people try and try to get their cards and can’t. Some people get their cards right away and wish they hadn’t taken it. I am sort of in the middle, where depending on who I am talking to, people are like, “You didn’t take your card? Are you crazy?” or “Good. You are making the right decision. I haven’t gotten work since I took my card.” So I feel like it’s different for everyone. It’s a personal decision. I am excited to keep heading in that direction when I get back because it is important to me.
I feel like that’s a very touchy subject for a lot of people.
It is. I’ve had some very interesting conversations about it. I feel like, “Who knows what’s right?” No one knows.
I think it’s just like anything--even with schools. Maybe some schools aren’t right for you. Maybe you should go somewhere else.
And you would’ve never known. I could’ve been a completely different person had I gone to some other school that I was interested in. But yeah. I think for me, as long as I am working in a show that I am happy with, then I am happy.
What’s your favorite part about living in the city?
Probably the amount of stuff to do. You’re in the right spot for all the auditions. Before I moved here, I would fly in from Texas. There would be a week where I found like four auditions, and I wanted to go to all of them. I would fly in and go. That’s really not the best plan. So just having access to all of the auditions, all of the classes, and being able to dance or take a yoga class has been really nice. I like walking everywhere and walking around the parks and all that. Being from Texas, I drive everywhere when I am home. Last couple times I’ve gone home I started realizing that I miss walking. So I would go take a walk around my neighborhood or something.
Who’s the coolest person you’ve met / seen in the city?
I’ve met a lot of cool people. I made a lot of friends. I won’t discount that. I think the coolest moment I had making eye contact with a person was when I went to see Pippin last year. I got rush tickets, and I was on the front row. Patina Miller looked down at me and did Fosse dance moves into my soul. I was shocked. She reached towards me and made eye contact. That was probably the coolest starstruck moment I’ve had here. I had watched the Tony’s and all the YouTube stuff on Pippin. You could feel their sweat.
What’s your dream as a dancer?
Right now I am sort of going with the flow. I think that’s why I like being a dancer--because you can do that. My big picture goal is that I want to work enough and build enough reputation as a working performer that people will want me to teach their children because I’ve been on Broadway. I do want to be on Broadway. I know that for me right now, I am not going to want to still be living here and performing on Broadway when I am 50 or 60. I know that I have a passion for teaching, and I want to be the kind of teacher that has amazing stories to tell and has amazing experiences to draw off of, so I can give students real world knowledge rather than--you know, you could give them dance technique, but I want to be someone who can share crazy, cool life lessons with them. I’ve always been inspired by Tiffany van der Merwe at OCU. She always told the best stories and always had the best ways to draw your emotions. And so many other teachers there--Brian Marcum with stories from Broadway, Diana with stories from tap companies in Chicago--so I want to be able to do that. Share my experience. That’s why I am pursuing this so I can gain those experiences. Also so I can have fun along the way. That’s the end goal.
Anything you’d like to share with the world?
I’ve heard so many times people say, “If you can do anything else, do it. Don’t be in musical theatre or don’t be a dancer unless it’s the only thing you can do and unless you can’t live without it.” I know this is not their point, but I feel like that’s selling myself short. I could be doing a lot of things. I still have a lot of other interests and things I am good at. I am choosing to do this because I love it and because I am able to. I think that’s important to remember. This isn’t the only thing in the world, and this isn’t the only thing going on. It’s important that I am doing it because I love it. And that helps me not get sucked up into thinking that if I don’t book that job, it’s the end of the world. There are so many other things out there. I like thinking about that. I am able to do this because I have a supportive family. I am pursuing it because I can. And I feel really lucky about that.