How did you start dancing?
I just asked my mom this morning to brush up on my answer [laughs]. When I was about three or four I really wanted to dance. My mom enrolled me in 20 minutes of tap, 20 minutes of ballet, and 20 minutes of tumbling class. I was hooked. Dance was what I wanted to do. My mom was like, “I never had to tell you to go. You always wanted to go.”
Where did you grow up?
I am from Novato, CA, which is in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. The dance world is very different out there. There aren’t studios and there are no dance competitions. I think I went to one convention, and it was so over my head. I was like, “What is this? Why are we dancing in a ballroom of a hotel?”
Why did you move to New York?
I wanted to move to New York after watching the Tony Awards in 2004. That was the year Wicked, Avenue Q, all those shows were there, it was one of the most amazing Tony Awards. I think I watched that on my TiVo a thousand times. I was like, “I need to be on Broadway, and I don’t know how I am going to get there, but I am just going to do it.” It was terrifying, but I knew I had to do it.
What school did you go to?
I went to the University of the Arts in Philly. I was a jazz dance major. Before going there, I had grown up in a ballet world. Like I said, the dance world in northern California is so different. The ballet school I went to was fantastic for my ballet technique, and I am so happy about that. But it was ballet or death; Ballet company or you’re not a dancer. So I came to UArts, and I loved it and loved the jazz department. It was great, kicked my butt. I needed those four years because I actually quit dancing seriously in high school for a few years.
Freshmen year of high school I realized that I wanted a life. I’d been dedicating so much time to ballet and I didn’t have the feet or the turnout. So I stopped doing ballet, but I got involved with show choir, jazz choir, and musical theater at school. Senior year of high school I decided to take ballet again, I started doing it a couple times a week and it was great. Then I randomly auditioned for UArts; no one has heard of UArts in California mind you. They’re like, “Where’s that? What’s that school?” I auditioned and got in. I had never even been to Philadelphia before, but I was so sure it was where I needed to go. UArts was amazing. And Philadelphia is a nice transition to New York. But New York City is the best.
Would you say that if your school didn’t have a performing arts program, your life might have turned out very differently?
Totally. Thank goodness it did. It wasn’t an arts high school. It was a public high school, but our music program was solid. It’s the Bay area, and we’re all bunch of hippies and love the arts [laughs].
I think it’s so important to have those programs in our educational system. So what was the move from Philadelphia to New York like?
It was terrifying, New York City is just so big and scary. Now that I’ve been living here for--I won’t say how long--I am like, “This is so great.” It’s not California, but it’s definitely my other home. Honestly, the longer I am here the more I fall in love with it. Lately I’ve been having moments of “I live in New York City!!” People dream about this. I am here and doing it, and I love it.
What are you up to now?
I am living the dream! [laughs] I am performing at a theme park on the weekends.
I audition as much as I can, but it definitely took me a while to feel comfortable at auditions because it’s such an intimidating experience. I only went to a couple auditions when I first got here. I was so in my head and so terrified. I was so terrified. Thinking I wasn’t good enough and thinking all this bullshit. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid, but I know it’s a part of the growing process. When you go to auditions, everyone’s pretty and everyone’s talented. And you’re just like, “Why am I even doing this?” Amidst all that, I was a little intense with my weight when I first got to the city, maybe not eating as much as I should have, and that did nothing for my self-esteem.
How did you overcome that fear?
Working with Jason Wise and taking his class a ton. Honestly, he has taught me so much. His class is like an audition and you get so much in that hour and a half. He messaged on Facebook one day, which made my life because I love him and was terrified of him at the same time, but also wanted to be his best friend. He was like, “I’d love to work with you. I think you’re great and just need a little bit of help.” So working with him has been the best kick in the butt. He’s fantastic. He said to me once, “I am trying to figure out why you’re not working.” I was like, “Wait. I’m talented?” I always feel like I am not good enough, which is a lie.
How did you meet Jason?
I was talking to a friend after an audition, and she was like, “Go to Jason Wise’s class. It’s amazing.” So I did.
I love Jason. He’s a very nice guy. He always tries to help out other people. So, where do you see yourself going?
Broadway. That’s everyone’s dream, but I’m going to do it. Any time I see a show I just start crying because I love it so much. I have to do it now. I have to try. If I don’t, I will regret it. Even if I never make it, I just want to work and perform. Even at my silly little weekend theme park gig, when I am there and performing, it’s the best feeling in the world. Nothing compares.
What do you do to pick yourself up?
I love CrossFit. I am not CrossFitting as much as I used to, but having something to obsess over besides dance is really nice. I love dancing, and I love theatre, but occasionally I need a mental break from it. If I can drop in at my CrossFit box or go to the gym and feel powerful in some way, I feel strong and worthwhile. In dancing, it’s so much of “You’re not good enough. You need to do better.” In CrossFit, it’s more “You’re so strong.” It’s such a nice break from dancing.
What’s your favorite part about the city?
I fall in love with the city more and more everyday. If you walk out the door, anything is possible. I love that. Anyone can come to the city and do awesome things and make their dreams come true. Like the song says, if you can make it here, you can literally make it anywhere.
What about your least favorite part?
I think that it’s just so far away from California. I really miss the vibe there. People don’t hike as much on the East Coast.
Based on your experience, what’s your advice to other dancers?
Just love yourself. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible. I think success is knowing your own self-worth, and it all starts inside.
Is there anything you want to share?
Ass moves mass. Be not afraid of a strong, muscular body. Let’s stop this whole thing with trying to be as thin as possible in the dance world because it’s not doing anyone any favors. Let’s celebrate muscle and strength and athleticism.