How did you find out about Dancers of New York?
I was taking class through Broadway Donation, and I met you and Alicia there. We were just talking while walking back to the same subway station, and I found out about your project. It really intrigued me and was interested in potentially being a part of it.
How did you start dancing?
I was three when my mom put me in dance class at Lee’s School of Dance in Butler, PA. Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with dance, especially when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I think everybody goes through that. I did a lot of sports and did a lot of different things--like cheerleading. I was going through a time where I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a cheerleader or a dancer. I am really glad that I stuck with it.
When I was a senior in high school, I switched studios to Lisa Marie’s School of Dance in Freeport, PA, which was about a half hour away from where I lived. I met a mentor / best friend, Meredyth Casey. She taught me a lot about myself, and she told me that I needed to go to school for dance. She essentially pushed me into it, but I am really glad that I did. I went to Temple University and got a BFA in dance. I’ve been unable to live without dance ever since.
Tell me about your love/hate relationship with dance.
I actually was born with a foot deformity. It’s called Morton’s short toe. Basically, my feet are like hands-- so my first metatarsal is frozen and abnormal. It makes it really hard for me to go on relevé. So I was never going to be a ballerina. And I was doing a lot of ballet at the time, and it was really really hard for me. It hurt to dance. I went through a lot of pain, and I was not really wanting to do it anymore. If you are a ballerina, it is a lot about your feet. If you have a deformity that inhibits you from doing basic movements, it can get really, really frustrating. I think that’s the main thing that happened to me. I was super frustrated with it.
I really found my love of dance again through different styles of dance. Not necessarily ballet and lyrical--things that require a lot of foot technique. I really found my love of dance through hip-hop, street jazz, contemporary, and modern.
Doctors now say that I should’ve gotten it fixed when I was a baby. But when I was a baby, they said I should wait. If I were to get it fixed now, basically, they would have to break every bone in my foot, and I would be out for at least a year. There’s no way of knowing whether it would actually work at this point--at my level of dancing ability. It might just make it worse, so it wasn’t worth it for me.
A lot of people don’t know about my foot, but they take a closer look at my feet, they’re like, “how are you even doing that?” Basically, when I go on relevé, I am on half demi point all the time. So my ankles tend to be a little weaker than most people because I am always balancing on a half demi pointe. Because I am physically unable to go up onto full demi pointe. Things that require a lot of technique, I tend to get really scared of doing. I do love theatre because I can bring people away from looking at my feet and have them looking at my face because I am telling a story. It’s about the overall performance and the overall energy in theatre dance.
My feet are a blessing and a curse. If it weren’t for my feet, I don’t think I would know how passionate I am about dance. I wouldn’t put up with how much pain and frustration I went through if I didn’t love it so much. I wouldn’t know that dance is my passion. Dance is what I was born to do. It is only reinforced by the fact that it’s hard for me everyday. But I keep going because I am in love with it so much.
What are you up to now?
I graduated from Temple University in December 2014 with a BFA in dance and a BA in advertising. I moved here after. I completed the Broadway Dance Center summer internship in 2012. Last summer, I was in New York as well, so I knew I wanted to move to New York when I graduated, and I moved in January.
I’ve been trying to get my bearings straight. I’ve been auditioning, taking a lot of class, getting part-time work, and just making the dream happen. The most exciting that happened to me thus far has been booking the DSW Fall campaign as a model, but also as a dancer. It wasn’t really dance-related, but I was still dancing in the shoot. That has been my most exciting project thus far.
I’ve been also working with Ali Koinoglou, who created her own dance company called Koin & Co Dancers. Her choreography has been accepted into Brooklyn Dance Festival this year. We performed there and also at Hatch Performance Series at Jennifer Muller / The Works. We’ve also performed at Dixon Place. We’ve performed the same piece called “Fear” with some really talented dancers that I love. That has been really exciting.
Recently I just performed in the Young Choreographers Festival at Symphony Space with Kalamandir Dance Company, under the direction of Brinda Guha. It’s a non-profit organization but also a contemporary Indian dance company. It’s been really interesting to learn that style of dance. It’s something I am not totally used to but I am really thankful to have the opportunity to put that in my toolbox of all my different styles of dance I want to perfect.
Where do you see yourself going?
Honestly, this is the biggest question of all time. Because I am a versatile dancer and have a lot to offer to a lot of different styles, I want to be able to do everything. I don’t want to limit myself to one track or one style of dance or one journey or one job. I want to be able to dabble in Broadway, in big commercial work, a tour for an artist, or a film, maybe perform with a company for a little bit. It’s just going to take a lot of focus and drive and passion. In the future, I just want to dance everyday.
Aside from performing, I have other things on my plate as well. I am a photographer, and I’d like to expand that part of my business. I’d like to continue to learn and help other people learn about advertising and marketing themselves and branding themselves. My expertise is in that field. I want to do that as well. I want to travel. There are so many things I want to do.
What’s your favorite part of the city?
It’s all the opportunity and diversity. I came from Philly, which is like a lazy version of New York. I absolutely love Philadelphia. Coming here has been a hard transition. The pace of life is just ridiculous. It’s so fast. I don’t even know which way is up and down on some days [laughs]. But there are moments living here where something will happen that I have to think about what just happened. Because that never would have happened anywhere else. That would only happen right here, right now. It’s one of those “What is my life? Is this real life?” moments. I have those all the time in New York.
As much as I complain about living in New York--because it is hard, especially if you are from a small town north of Pittsburgh like I am-- I really do love the people I meet, the things I get to do, the things I get to see, the food--especially food--I can’t go on enough about how awesome the food here is.
Tell me about some of your “What is my life?” moments.
I am a huge fan of Erica Sobol, a choreographer in LA. One night, I was hanging out with my friends Alex and Cat, and Erica was staying with them. We were all hanging out and went out to get a drink and she bought me a drink. And I was just like, “What is my life? Erica Sobol just bought me a drink.”
Also, for the DSW campaign, I was shooting with my friend from Butler, PA. We were on a rooftop in Lower East Side. I was getting paid to dance while working with an old friend. That was a full circle moment. Who knew that we would be there? There are people from all time-periods of my life that I’ve connected with who all end up in New York somehow. There’s such a vibrant life force that exudes out of the city.
The art is so raw here. Whether it’s as small as the way you portray your character in a show or the place you find to photograph something beautiful or how you sing a certain note. There is so much rich experience that comes along with living here. Also, the people that you meet with to collaborate with, I am all about it. I love being able to collaborate with my friends and make really cool stuff.
I have those moments too when I am in class. I think to myself, “I get paid to dance. This is the greatest job in the world.” I am glad that I never settled and did something that my heart wasn’t in fully. Yes, it is a really hard road, and I know it’s going to be really tough. It’s still going to be hard, but the payoff is so worth it in the end. I am doing what I love to do and making a living doing it.
I think it’s worth it because there’s a struggle. If you had a normal foot, then maybe you wouldn’t have realized how passionate you are about dance.
And I wouldn’t be dancing. I don’t know if I would still be dancing. If anything that happened in my life didn’t happen, what would I be doing right now? I know how cliche and corny it is, but everything happens for a reason. It’s so true. Every little thing that happens to you--every person in your life--every encounter that you have--it’s all intertwining into this story that’s specifically yours. If anything was different, you would not be the person that you are today. I am super grateful and thankful for every experience I’ve had whether it was good, bad, weird, crazy, terrible, or terrifying. Anything. It’s a part of being a human. Life is really good if you sit back and look at it. It’s really good. And people are really good.
Wow, this has been like therapy [laughs].
Is there anything you want to share with the world?
Thanks to Dancers of New York for being a portal through which people tell their stories. That’s an incredible thing that you are doing. Everybody should like it and buy t-shirts!