How did you start dancing?
My mom was a dancer. She started me in classes. I just loved them, so I just kept doing them. I just always loved dancing. My mom always has helped me during hard parts when not everything goes your way. She gives me good advice.
How long have you been dancing?
I think I started dance classes when I was four. I always loved music and stuff, so when I was 2, I did stuff with my hands and just did movements. I started ballet class when I was four. I am eleven now.
How do you like it?
I love it. There are hard parts where you get separated from your friends in different levels. But overall, you always make new ones and you stay in touch with the old ones. It’s really fun. I love dancing. It’s a part of my life.
What’s your favorite moment?
I did this touring show. I got to be the lead in Rioult’s Firebird. It’s about an innocent child who tries to fix monsters. It’s not exactly everybody’s version, but that was the director’s version. I got to go to Paris, France, and Texas. I had a really good experience.
Yeah. It was a lot of fun.
When was that?
I was seven. And my last couple of performances I was turning eight.
How long was the tour?
It wasn’t that long. We would sort of come to New York to rehearse and then we went to Texas for maybe two weeks and then Paris for like two weeks and then New York for two weeks. It was pretty broken up. We wouldn’t tour with the company the whole time. We would just meet them for those shows.
What do you want to do as a dancer?
I want to be in a good company and put myself out there. I’ve done some acting stuff in musical productions. If it doesn’t really go my way, I could do some acting and stuff. I had a really fun time when I did this musical production of Peter Pan at the Mountain Play. That was really fun. I wouldn’t mind if I did that again. But I do like dancing, so I think, right now, in my brain, I want to dance more but if it doesn’t go in that way, then I want to do acting and singing.
What was the toughest time you’ve had as a dancer?
I was probably 7—maybe 8. But I was separated from all my friends in my level. You were really close with them and had lots of time together. It was hard for me to find new ones. Everyone in the level that I went up to was so close. It just took a while to get into that family, but once I did, they’re such nice people and everything. You have to be always open and willing to make more friends. If you just stick to yours then you won’t be able to meet more when you go somewhere else.
What was the happiest time?
My studio has a production of The Nutcracker. It’s a different version, but I’ve been so lucky to get really good parts. I love doing those. It’s kind of a small studio, so everybody knows everybody. It’s really nice because your teachers know your strengths and your weaknesses. I felt like one of the parts that I got was just perfect. I was really comfortable, but at the same time pushing myself. So that was really fun.
What’s your favorite part about visiting New York City?
I like seeing how every street is totally different. One can be really in one mood—people are just sad or something. I don’t know—I just feel like they’re in their work zone so they’re walking very seriously. And the next street I walk onto, everyone’s like, “Whoo!”--so happy. It’s really cool to see the difference.
What’s your favorite place to go when you are here?
Every year, I get to see a Broadway show. I really like that place. It feels cool to be a part of the whole area. It’s just really cool to see. I saw American in Paris this year, which was really good. I am going to see Hamilton and a couple of other shows, which I am really excited about.
Do you have any advice for dancers?
Never give up. Even when you’re at hard spots. Hard spots make you stronger and it makes you more grateful for stuff that is really happy and awesome. Even when you feel like, “Do I really want to dance more,” just keep with it because it always turns out to be good.
Who’s your favorite teacher?
Her name is Lynn Cox of Marin Dance Theatre. She is really strict, but she is the nicest person on earth. She always does this funny thing where she’s screaming at us, “Turn out,” or “ Point your feet,” but then she’s like, “Wow guys, that was really good,” with smiles and laughter. She works with you and is so supportive and nice. At the same time, she’s a teacher, so very strict with us but I love her personality. She’s also a really good choreographer.
Anything you want to share with the world?
A lot of my friends at my dance school call me monkey because I can do this really funny monkey face. I am one of the youngest in my level, so a lot of people are like, “Monkey, do you want to come sit on my lap?” It’s just really fun. Everyone feels like family. It’s really cozy.
Tell me a little bit about your experience with dance.
I danced with Joffrey II dancers. We toured all over the U.S. and then we got to dance with the main company when they needed extra dancers. I got to be in Joffrey’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, La fille mal gardée, things like that. I spent a year in Atlanta Ballet. And then I decided I wanted to go to college. I went to college and did not do dance. I became a history teacher. But I have dance credentials, so I occasionally teach high school dance.
You must’ve been really young when you first started at Joffrey.
Joffrey II is young dancers, so I was 17. But that was the norm. We were all maybe 16 - 20. You usually spend two to three years in that company before moving on. I graduated a year early. I went to Professional Children’s School here in the city and graduated a year early, so that I could spend time doing dance. PCS gave me flexibility to start with the company before I graduated. It’s an independent study school. They have had very many famous people out of my league—Christian Slater, Wendy Whelan, and all those very famous people. They are there so that they could do this kind of thing.
I love history. I didn’t really go to high school, and I took four years off. And then I went to Harvard. So it was hard. The place that I felt I could make up with hard work was in humanities, as opposed to—I was so behind in math and sciences and all of that--that took real sort of intelligence. I felt like what history took was just putting my nose to the grindstone and learning the material, which I had the time and energy to do. I combined the interest and the love of it with what was possible. So those things came together. I always pretty much knew I wanted to teach. I always taught dance, so I knew I wanted to teach.
You took four years off, and then you went to Harvard.
Yeah. It was hard. It was really hard. And it was a different time. It was many years ago. It’s always competitive, but it was not as competitive as it is now. I would never get in now. It was just a different time.
What’s your advice for dancers?
I think life is this roller coaster. Right? And we have to embrace the ups and then the downs. They make us stronger. They make us appreciate those ups, and that’s what I am trying to instill in her with this dance career. It’s really hard. I mean, you know lots of dancers. It’s just so tough, so you really have to be thankful for the things you get. And then when you don’t get things, you have to think: A) Maybe there’s a reason I didn’t get it or B) What can I learn from not getting that? I think that could apply to anything in life. The hardships make us stronger and more appreciative. And then the things that are good, we have to remember to really embrace those and be so happy for the good things that we get.
Anything you want to share with the world?
I love that you’re doing this--using New York and dance. I just love the diversity. I think we get a stereotype of what dancer is and what a New Yorker is. I love anything that pushes that stereotype. New Yorkers, we embrace the diversity, and then we say, “Oh, all dancers have to look like that.” I think the dance world is starting to appreciate difference and diversity. It’s cool that your project is aligning with that as well.
Tell me a little bit about your experience as a dancer.
My route was different because I went to college first. I went young. I was only 16. I had always danced, but I didn’t really start to dance until I graduated. I danced at college, but the academic dance was not of great interest to me. I was interested in modern dance and performing in modern dance. I found my way without the studio connections that both my daughter and granddaughter had. I danced with some wonderful people. The most relevant today, I guess, is May O’Donnell because they’ve started to revive her work. She was a choreographer and a fabulous teacher. In fact, when my daughter was born, I took her in the pram to the studio. And she used to sit and watch classes. She didn’t know what she was seeing, but she came to the classes. The dance was incorporated into my life. I was a more mature dancer than many of the people I was dancing with. None of them had babies.
What’s your favorite moment from your dancing?
Dancing at the Delacorte in Central Park and seeing the stars when we were dancing. I thought that was just an incredible experience. Saw the audience, saw the sky, saw the whole park beyond the Delacorte when you were on the stage. It was very magical.
When was that?
It was a while ago. Early 70’s. Joe Papp, who did theatre in the park, used to do a dance series in September. It was a fabulous dance series. Although we ended up prepping for performance many more times than we performed because in September it rains a lot. And it’s an insurance problem to let you on the stage if the stage is wet. So two out of three would be canceled. We’d have to keep coming back. Making up and getting ready. Doing the performances. It was usually several companies on a program. The audience got to see a menu of modern dance companies. It was lovely.
The park was dangerous then. We used to have police escorts out after the program.
It was very different from the route they took, but I really didn’t dance at the professional level that Marlene did. Modern dance was different.
What was your favorite part about dancing?
I love the aesthetics of it. That’s why I am still involved in dance, and that’s why I try to help dance companies now at this point in my life. It speaks to me. It speaks to me when I do it. It speaks to me when I take class, although I don’t take dance class anymore. It speaks to me when I watch it. Almost all varieties of dance are language for me that I hope I handed down to these two.
Could you tell me a little bit about the things that you’re working on to foster the future dancers?
Generally, I serve on dance boards. The dance boards’ responsibility is pretty much everything except the artistic. But you can’t help it if you have dance background to stick your nose in there too. Two major boards I’ve been on is Paul Taylor Dance Company, and I served on that board for around 6 years. And then I became involved with Rioult. It’s a younger company, and I felt that they need my time and my modest contributions more than Taylor did. I moved over to Rioult and have been on that board for about 10 years. I like watching the dancers grow. I like being involved in a living company. It’s something I enjoyed when I was a dancer, and now I am doing it from a slightly different perspective. I really enjoy it.
Any advice for dancers?
Open-mindedness. Flexibility—mentally as well as physically. Don’t think you can’t do something because you’re too old or too tall or you’re the wrong color. Because everything is open. It’s a question of wanting it and being creative within your discipline.