How did you start dancing?
I started doing ballet because I inherited high arches from my dad, to be honest [laughs]. I was really into gymnastics, and the director of the studio where I grew up kept coming in and saying, “I love your feet. I need you in my ballet class.” I kinda wasn’t interested. I thought it might be slow and boring. But after my first class, I was hooked. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey--but we had some great teachers at North Jersey School of Dance Arts.
What are you up to now?
I am with a small contemporary ballet company called Pink Pig Ballet, directed by Valerie Mae Browne. We have about fifteen dancers and aim to approach ballet from a fun and playful perspective. It’s been a really great fit. I’ve been with them since January.
I danced my whole life and when I was in high school I went to a residency program for dance in Connecticut at The Nutmeg Conservatory. I finished high school there and lived there, away from home. Then I went on to college at Montclair State University and earned a BFA in Dance. I knew I wanted to get a master’s degree, so I just decided to do it right then and was able to earn it in two years. I also did that at Montclair--in communications. Just as I was finishing, a temp job opened up in the Communications Department at Bayer, where I now work. Most Americans know us for our Aspirin, but we are a company committed to life sciences in every respect.
About three years ago, I realized I missed dancing more regularly. The turning point for me was realizing that watching dance performances made me upset because I felt like I haven’t given it its due. I knew I needed to do something about it right then. So, I moved into the city and started auditioning and taking class more. I realized time was not going to go backwards, and I didn’t want to have any regrets, so I thought I’d better go for it.
I always thought that dance was what I would do. And life happened. I had a little bit of a confidence crisis too, and it held me back a bit. I guess it took me until I was 30 to realize--it doesn’t matter. Here I am with people of all different types. There’s a place for me here.
It must be hard juggling a full-time job and performing with a company.
It definitely is. It’s kinda funny. Somedays I am running to take off a suit and put a leotard on and go. But it works out. Most of our rehearsals are in the evening, so it’s good for me. It’s a little bit hard in that sense--to find the right projects, because I do have time limitations that other performers don’t.
How was getting back into dancing?
I just started getting back to class, mostly at Steps right here in the neighborhood. I went on a lot of random auditions and got a lot of no’s, but some yes’s. When I first moved here, the first project I did was called, The Table of Silence, by Buglisi Dance Theater. It honors the anniversary of 9/11 each year. About 100 or 120 dancers perform outside of Lincoln Center on 9/11 right when the first plane hit--early in the morning--the same time as it happened. That was one of the most emotional performances I’ve been involved in.
How did your body feel when you started taking class again?
It was definitely different. I have to pay more attention to injury prevention than I did when I was 18. I buy a lot of epsom salt. I don’t want to get hurt because I want to keep dancing.
Where do you see yourself going?
Pink Pig Ballet is great, so I am excited to keep performing with them. We have another set of shows in October. We do a lot of story ballets. One of the goals of the company is to bring people who might not ordinarily come to ballet through the doors. We just did a piece to a Rob Zombie song, which is really different and cool. I can see hopefully keeping that going in the future. I think I’ve finally struck a nice balance.
What about in terms of your career?
I am currently Manager, U.S. Internal Communications, meaning I work on a lot of employee communications. There are three disciplines within communications: the employee side, the public relations side, and government relations. I’d like to be a triple threat in that sense and learn pieces of each of the disciplines in my career in the future.
What’s your advice for performing artists?
Be fearless. As dancers, we’re so self-critical and it’s easy to get caught up in that. Especially here in New York, there’s so much beautiful art being made. There’s a place for everyone. Don’t get caught up in other people’s opinions and just go for it if you love it.
What’s your favorite part about the city?
I think all of the art and dance that’s happening. I don’t think there’s any other city that has so much. Everyday you could go to auditions and shows if you wanted to. I think that’s really special and great. I live right by Riverside Park, so I love the summertime too and being able to ride my bike there.
What’s your least favorite part about the city?
The commute. It’s like an hour on a good day. I drive. So I can’t say I love sitting in traffic when it happens, so that’s my least favorite part. I wish there was a monorail or some kind of way to avoid traffic.
Like Disney World.
That would be nice!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the world?
Sinatra was right. If you can make it here...There’s something about the grittiness that makes it great. Something about the struggle that’s awesome. Just like I said, before, if you love performing, go for it.