How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 2 years old in Chicago. I fell in love with it. My parents tried to put me in other sports, but I always cried, so they figured dance was the one that I would stick with. And sure enough, I have. I am 23 and still dancing.
My mom actually danced growing up in Atlanta. She danced at Six Flags in their shows. My aunt also danced--actually my grandma danced as well. So it definitely runs in the family. Although I was born in Chicago, I grew up going to Fleetwood Dance Studio in Atlanta, the studio that my mom went to. The studio is still up and running. Mrs. Lynn is amazing and still successful. She is the one who told me about Marymount Manhattan College where I went to school. I can't thank her enough for that, as it truly shaped my career into becoming a dancer.
How did you decide to dance professionally?
It started at the age of 10 when I came to New York with my dance studio. I fell in love with the city and promised myself that I was going to come back and “live my dream." I really knew when I entered a contest as a freshman in high school and lost. I was devastated. The next morning I had the Orlando Ballet audition, and my mom was like, “You need to go. You love to dance.” But I was complaining that I was too sad to go. I ended up going to the audition. During the audition, I was completely taken over by dance. I made it in and ended up going to the summer intensive, and it was one of the best summers of my life. I met friends that I still talk to now. That pretty much sealed the deal. If I am sad or unhappy, I dance and everything is better. When dancers say that dancing makes everything better, it’s true. I feel like that was the point where I knew dance was going to be my career path. I knew at an early age that dancing meant everything to me, and it still does.
Also, the feeling that I get when I get to perform on stage in front of people is an indescribable experience. Sharing something so special and entertaining people is a gift that dance gives back to me, and it completely consumes my soul. That feeling alone is something that I cherish and thrive off of each time I perform. That's the reason I continue to dance and perform for people.
What was the next move?
I had one option. I had no backup plan. I didn’t apply to any other schools. I only applied to Marymount Manhattan College. My mom, my sister, and I flew here in February for the audition, and I had the stomach virus. I was so sick, and the next day was the audition. I somehow managed to dance the best I’ve ever danced. I was accepted on the spot. They told me right then that I had made it into the dance program. I was elated. I was so excited. We ran out of the studio, and I hugged them so tight. There we were, in the freezing cold, jumping up and down, calling all my family members. There was a huge snowstorm, and the school almost canceled the audition because of it. It was crazy. Something I won't ever forget. The pictures from that moment are hilarious. I know people thought we were crazy. If I didn’t make it in, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now or what I would be doing. I applied nowhere else. It was either Marymount or the unknown. I couldn't be any happier with how everything turned out.
How was your experience at Marymount?
Marymount was amazing. I learned so much more in the past four years than I could’ve ever imagined learning. Being in New York city for school was something that I really had no idea what was going to happen. It has been the best four years of my life. The opportunities that came about--meeting all of my amazing teachers who ended up being mentors and friends whom I still talk to, of course, and getting training that you only can get at great dance schools is something that I will cherish forever and ever. Most of my teachers who I had at school also teach at Broadway Dance Center or Steps, so I can still take their classes, which is awesome. I keep in touch with a lot of them. Moving to New York when you’re 18 out of high school, when you have your family and closest friends back home, is a huge learning opportunity that I picked up very, very quickly. It was such an amazing experience, and it’s been a year out of college, which I can’t believe.
What are you up to now?
I am teaching. I teach in Jersey at this great studio, Defying Gravity. They have taught me so much as a teacher. Coming out of college and being taught, now teaching is again another learning experience for me. I have gained and grown so much as a person in the past year, and I am so grateful for all of it. I also babysit a lot. That’s a great thing I do. I have met amazing families who become part of your family in the city. I dance at Broadway Dance Center and Steps. And audition. I am still auditioning, hoping to land a job in the near future.
Where do you see yourself going?
I am auditioning for cruise lines and national tours. I would really like to travel. I would love to dance either on a boat sailing around the world or on a national tour of a musical. I just need to get my foot in the door. I feel like once that happens, everything is going to be kind of smooth-sailing. I am putting myself out there as much as I can and auditioning until I reach my goal.
How was the transition from Atlanta to New York?
The transition was completely unexpected. I had such a comfortable life in Atlanta. I was dancing in school and out of school, and I was also a cheerleader. Moving here was on my own, and I was living in this huge city that just completely swallows you up. Everything that I thought it would be was completely different--in a good way. I was in the dance department, and it was way more modern and ballet based, which was awesome, but I am more of a musical theatre, jazz dancer. In that perspective, I had to learn all over again how to do a new style of dance, which was challenging, yet fun. The teachers expect a lot out of you because you are a dancer in New York City, which pushes you to be the best you can be every single day. It trains you to act professionally at such a young age, which I really liked about Marymount. You can have so much fun with your friends and your teachers, but they expect a high level of professionalism. It also teaches you how to grow into an artist. New York was a huge learning experience in such a short amount of time. I grew up very, very quickly and I couldn't be more thankful for that.
What’s the number one thing you learned from school?
One of the many lessons I’ve learned from Marymount is to never hold back. I took jazz the last two years of college, and they always tell you to give it more. I never fully understood what they meant until we had our one-on-ones. They asked me, “Are you hiding something? Is something the matter?” I was like, “Nothing’s the matter. I am fine. I am so happy.” And they said, “Quit putting a barrier between you and the person you’re dancing for or with. Give the dance your all. If you think you’re giving your all, you’re not. You need to push ten times more than that and lay it all out on the dance floor. Don’t regret anything when the dance is done.” That’s what I take with me everywhere I go.
What’s your favorite part of living in the city?
My favorite part about living in the city is that there are so many people who travel here. In any given week. you can see someone from home that you haven’t seen in forever or who’s visiting. It’s so fun to see faces you haven’t seen in a long time and catch up with people who are here. It’s just a lot of fun. Also the opportunities here are incredible. New York really gives you a boost of energy that no other city does. If you want to pursue anything, New York really helps you by giving you a burning passion that drives you every single day no matter if it’s a good day or a bad day. New York gives you a boost of confidence that helps you keep going. That’s what I like about the city.
What’s your least favorite part?
My least favorite part is kind of the same as my favorite part. It’s always so busy and loud. Sometimes you want to have a zen moment and be by yourself. You feel guilty because everyone is always on the go, pursuing their dreams, their jobs, and pushing forward. If you feel like you have a moment that you’re not doing something, you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Am I doing the right thing?” You second guess yourself, which you need in life sometimes to see if you’re really doing what you love. But New York can make you feel bad in that you always have to be 110%.
What’s the hardest part about being a dancer?
I’ve auditioned a lot, and I haven’t booked anything yet. A lot of people, when you are a senior in college, tell you that the year after you graduate is by far the hardest year you’ll ever experience. I can totally see that. When I get cut from auditions, I just think to myself that this audition wasn’t meant for me--they’re looking for other talent, which I fully understand. I always think something is going to click when the time is right. With the right opportunity, I am going to get my foot in the door, and it’s going to take off. I sometimes get down on myself because I set such high expectations, but I need to realize that I am a little fish in a huge, huge pond that is full of amazingly talented people. My talent will shine at the right moment and I will be hired for a job that I have been working so hard to get to. I let myself have that moment of “Man, that sucks,” or “Bummer.” And then I am like, “Let’s pick it up and let’s do it again.” That’s what living in New York is all about. You just gotta keep going, no matter how hard you fall.
What do you do to pick yourself up?
If I ever feel sad, I dance. I take classes that I can let go and have fun in. I love musical theater and jazz- they make me so happy. I remind myself that I am doing what I love to do. It completely consumes me. Dance is my number one. Dance classes are what I always go to when I am in a funk or having a bad day. Dance it out. It really does make me feel better. It really, really does. Also, I love to try new workout classes, anything active. The city has so many fitness classes that you can take and keeping myself healthy and strong is my main go-to when I'm feeling down.
Is there anything you’d like to share with the world?
New York has taught me so much about myself. I can’t believe I am almost going into my sixth year living here. It’s pretty crazy. I would not trade the last five years for anything. I have met amazing friends, mentors, and I am truly blessed to be living here with the support and love of my family. And I am going to book a job soon. Staying positive and motivated is the only way to accomplish your dreams. That's the mentality.