How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was four. I grew up in Cincinnati, OH. We have a studio there, and a really good friend of mine I grew up with started dancing the year before I did. My mom tells me that I initially started because I loved her costumes, and I wanted the costumes too. After the first recital, my mom said, “We’re never doing it again. Never again. This was way too much.” But I came offstage and was like, ‘Mom! I want to do it again.”
Ever since then, I just kept going and got on their competition team. They’re really great because I actually had the opportunity to start working professionally very young, because they perform with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Starting in 5th grade, I performed in their Christmas shows and Fourth of July shows at Cincinnati Music Hall and Riverbend, two beautiful venues.
When did you decide that you wanted to do this professionally?
I don’t know if I have a specific moment. For most of my childhood and even into college, I was a very shy, timid, introverted person. I would hide behind my mom, and I would not talk to anyone. I remember one time there was a dance class taught by one of the male ballet teachers at my studio--he’s incredible. He danced with the Cincinnati Ballet and he’s a fantastic person--but I went, and I was the only person that showed up for the class, and I remember just sobbing. I would not go in. I wouldn’t do it. My mom had to go in with me.
As I grew up at the studio, which is called The Studio, it became very much my home away from home. Dance itself and the people there gave me life and gave me passion, and I credit it for helping me find who I am as a person. For me, dance is so embedded in who I am as a person and it has helped me find myself. Dancing professionally was never really a question of doing it or not; it was just something I knew I had to do. I am so eternally grateful to that place and everything I learned there, because I think I would still be that very shy, not-able-to-speak-for-herself person, if it wasn’t for all the years that I spent there. I think that’s why dance is so important to me, because I know what it did for me as a person, and I know what it can do for other people, if it did that much for me. I just knew that I needed to do it.
What was the next step?
I went to Oklahoma City University. I knew I wanted to go to a dance program. I had auditioned for a couple of musical theatre programs, but my voice at the time was just not strong enough at all. I ended up not getting into any of those programs, which was fine. I learned about OCU in 7th or 8th grade. The owner of my studio had handed me an article out of a dance magazine about the program. From that point on, it was always in the back of my head. It really is the only program of its kind. I knew I didn’t want to do a ballet-modern program, because while I love that art form and have a lot of respect for it, I don’t have the same passion for it as I do for jazz and theatre dance. So I wanted to go into a program that had jazz and tap.
I loved OCU. For me, it was the best four years ever. I was very lucky that I was the type of dancer that they like there. It can be very grueling because there are weigh-ins, and there are very strict things that you have to get through--you have to get to specific levels and a specific weight, and I was just very lucky that those were never problems for me. I didn’t really struggle with my weight because I’ve naturally been more of a thin person. I didn’t struggle too much with levels either. For me, it was incredible. I learned so much. The instructors were incredible. I met some of my best friends ever to this day. I wasn’t interested in having the college experience of going to parties and football games. That would’ve been great, but that wasn’t what I was interested in. I was always very focused and knew what I wanted to do. I loved that OCU really pushed you and kept you very focused. We were dancing--I don’t know how many hours--a week, and when dance is what you love more than anything, it’s just incredible.
How did you move to New York?
New York was always the place I knew I wanted to go before I had even been here. I didn’t come here until I was a junior in high school and immediately fell in love with it. I wanted to do Broadway and go that route. After college, I ended up not having a summer job or anything to go to, and it was not my plan to move here as quickly as I did, but it just worked out that way. I ended up going home for the summer, and I worked, made a bunch of money, and moved here in the Fall of 2012.
How was the move?
It was actually really good. I was very lucky that one of my really good friends from college had already been up here for about a year. She had a room opening up in her apartment right when I was moving, so that worked out perfectly. Also, she had been nannying for a family for the summer but was going back to her other job in the fall, so I ended up coming and nannying for that family. So I was able to move with a job and an apartment, with someone that had been here and I was very close to.
How has it been?
It’s been good. It also has been hard with a lot of ups and downs. A lot of high highs and a lot of very low lows. I feel like I am finally at a place where I’ve learned the city and myself enough. And the industry--I am still figuring it out but have learned it well enough. It’s a hard adjustment just because I don’t think people realize--you learn in school, and you learn everywhere that it’s going to be hard and that it’s going to be a struggle, and you’re going to have to fight for things. But you don’t realize how hard it is until you get here. I was very lucky that I worked almost right away. I moved, and two or three months later, I got my first professional job, which was awesome. There was just lots of time in between working. I threw myself into auditioning completely. I would take a lot of class. Auditions always, for me, went well, but it was always that point of “Why isn’t anything happening?”
It’s also just been trying to find a good balance--finding other things to do in the city to make yourself happy while you’re still performing. I think that’s the biggest question people always ask. You’re trying to figure out how to do the survival job mixed with auditioning. I think, for me, it’s just been working on finding that balance. When I was at a point only focused on auditioning, and that was the only thing in the world that mattered to me, it’s awesome because you’re making lots of connections, but everything else just falls apart. When you’re relying on that for your happiness, I just don’t think that’s a healthy way to live. It’s been quite the adventure and quite the journey, but the city definitely teaches you a lot about yourself and pushes you to figure everything out and learn a lot.
How do you find your balance?
I think a couple of different ways. I’ve been in a serious relationship for the past two years. My boyfriend is an artist. He writes and does poetry, which is amazing, but he’s not in the industry. He’s actually a teacher. Having him for the past two years has been the biggest blessing. He understands what it is that I do, and he is one of my biggest supporters and loves that I do it and wants me to achieve. He is also that person that keeps me grounded and helps remind me that there are other things in the world and other things that matter that are important. We go off and do things in the city. His family is close by so we’ll go out to Long Island and do different things. That definitely helps me find a balance and pulls me out of the world, which is nice.
Also, this I’ve discovered very recently and is a whole new thing I am still figuring out for myself. I just started working with a company in the city called Motivated Movers. It was actually co-founded by another alumni of OCU. What they do is work with actors and singers to empower them to embrace their true potential as dancers. We provide a safe positive space to learn the art of dance, prepare their minds for auditions, and help them to step confidently into all artistic endeavors. Over the last month, I’ve started training, and I am going to be a resident artist and their operations manager, which I am incredibly excited about. For me, having something else that makes me feel fulfilled artistically and brings me happiness and joy in addition to auditioning and performing creates a nice balance. It’s something that I’ve been searching for ever since I got here.
What are you up to now?
I am doing the international tour of Beauty and the Beast, which I am very excited about. Ever since I got here, I have struggled with the whole concept that I haven’t had the opportunity to see the world yet. Some people went off to do cruise ships, and my boyfriend had seen so much of the world, and traveling was just something that I always wanted to do. I’ve also always wanted to do Disney and try to break into musical theatre, so literally, this tour was just all the things I wanted to do combined into one. I am really, really excited. I get to go to so many places that so many people wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. It’s really an opportunity of a lifetime. We start in Macao, across from Hong Kong, and then Taipei, and then we’re going to be in the Middle East. Bahrain, Qatar, Beirut, and Cairo, which I am really excited about because I always wanted to see the Pyramids and didn’t think I would ever get to see them. We go to Italy, Greece, Dubai, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, and we end in Tel-Aviv. That’s our last city. I got to go to Israel last year, so I’m really excited to go back. I am sure I am missing places. It’s going to be really cool.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
In the performing world, I would really love to break into the Broadway world. I would love to be able to make it so that I am performing here consistently and become a part of the triple threat community in the ensembles of Broadway shows. I am going to get so much of my travel out of my system over the next 15 months that I feel like I will have a totally different opinion about life and everything once I come back from this thing. I’d probably want to stay rooted for a while when I get back. I know that’s what I want to do performing-wise.
And there is a whole side of Motivated Movers and other non-profit work. From the skills that I’ve developed through performing, everything I’ve learned in college, and everything I’ve learned in the industry, I want to find a way to cultivate that and find a way to give it back to the community. I don’t know exactly what that is yet. I was so fortunate to grow up with parents and teachers that were so incredibly supportive of the idea of moving to New York and becoming a dancer, which a lot of people aren’t that lucky. I have this deep passion for what I do, and I want the rest of the world to be pushed to have that same feeling. I want to find a way to somehow be the person that tells people that they can do it. I don’t know what that is yet. I am excited to figure it out. It’s the first time I’ve found something that I am as excited about in addition to performing. That has never happened to me before. I’ve always been just tunnel-visioned on auditioning and making that happen. I am still there, and I am still so excited about that world, and I want to make the two mesh together. I would love to be able to make it in the industry, so I have enough of a name to be able to platform whatever this is I come up with. Whatever it is that I do, I want to be giving back to the world in some way.
Is there anything that you’d like to share with the world?
Remember that your path is your path. The point when I hit my lowest lows in New York was when I would be sitting on Facebook or talking to other people and feeling like everyone around me was doing so many things. I was working so hard, but nothing was happening--or I didn’t feel like anything was happening. You have to remember that even small steps are steps in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be some huge event to show that you’re successful and that you’re making progress.
Everyday I am on my specific journey, and what’s going to happen for me is going to happen for me. And that’s okay, because we’re totally different people, and that’s what makes the world such an incredible place. Just remember that you do what makes you happy and that you’re on your own path. You really can accomplish anything, as cheesy as that is, if you’re willing to put in the work and have strong enough drive and passion and want it badly enough. I am a very firm believer that if you keep working, you’ll get there, and the universe will align for you to send what you need.