How did you start dancing?
I used to play soccer when I was 7 or 8 years old. That is until I got kicked off of my soccer team because I was doing cartwheels around the field instead of going for the ball. So my mom decided that maybe gymnastics would be better for me and my excess energy. So I started doing gymnastics and got coerced by the owner of the studio into boys hip-hop class. And then I started taking jazz and all that other stuff, and I just picked it up from there.
That’s really funny.
Yeah. I got kicked off my soccer team. That’s why I started dancing. 7-year-old soccer is very competitive [laughs].
What happened from there?
I was a big competition kid. I was swept up in that whole world of things almost immediately. I started off doing two dances--a hip-hop dance and a jazz dance. Next year I had four dances. And the next year I had five. By my senior year I was in like 17 numbers or something. At that point, I started doing outside conventions and other workshops. I was introduced to a world outside of my studio and that really excited me.
So when you are a boy in a dance studio, you’re usually the only one. Was that the case for you?
Actually, I was really lucky. I grew up dancing with two other guys who are both professional dancers now as well. One does company work in Chicago and one has danced in Vegas and all over Europe. When I was a senior, there were actually four other guys that graduated from my studio. So I was lucky. I was never the only guy, which was nice, and also sometimes not so nice. If you are the only boy at a studio, you’re front and center for everything. I wasn’t the only boy, so sometimes I wasn’t front and center. I liked it though, because it was a good way to keep me motivated, humble, and focused.
When did you know that you wanted to perform as a career?
I think that has two parts. The first time I realized I could make money doing this, I was 11 years old. There was an American Girl doll exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. They had a performing show where they brought in a bunch of kids. There were 6 or 8 girls that portrayed all the different American Girl dolls and each girl had a boy as their partner. We did the foxtrot or the Charleston or whatever was the respective dance of their time period. We performed it for a few weeks, and I got paid like $300! For an 11-year-old kid, that’s a huge deal. After that, I realized I could actually make money performing, all while having fun. That was when I was little. And then my teenage greedy self took over and I told myself, , “I don’t want to perform. It’s going to be too hard. I’ll never make enough money to buy the nice things that I want.”
My junior year of high school, I started to look into colleges and figuring what I wanted to major in. I was looking at other programs outside of performing, and I realized I just didn’t have the passion for other things as much as I had for performing. I got really involved in high school theatre alongside my dance competitions this made me want to pursue dance and musical theatre professionally even more. .
What was the big factor in realizing that you could make it?
I don’t know if there was one moment. It was more of a gut feeling. Nothing made me quite as happy and fulfilled as I was when I was in the studio or on the stage or rehearsing a new number.
What are you up to now?
Right now I’m doing the Cinderella First National Tour and absolutely loving it. It’s just really cool to see the audience not only from my perspective on stage but to see them before and after the show. Feeling their excitement as they come into the theatre, while you’re sneaking into the stage door, and you hear the buzz beforehand. I am a swing in the show, so I don’t perform every night. If I’m not in the show, sometimes I’ll sneak out into the house during intermission just to feel the energy of everyone. I really love that. People come out hyped and excited about what happened. Or even after the show, you’re leaving and seeing the people at the stage door and they’re just beaming. They look at you like you are some celebrity, and you’re just like, “No, I’m just a 24-year-old dancer from Ohio.” It’s not like Brad Pitt at the stage door, you know? The joy that you can bring people is awesome. Knowing that brings me so much happiness too.
How’s the tour life?
Tour life is wonderful, difficult and wildly rewarding, but that’s the road. I knew that going into it. I’ve truly grown to love it. It was hard at first, but you learn to be a family with the people that you’re with. You find those people that you can lean on and also be there for them in return. In this day and age, it’s so much easier because your friends and family are never more than a phone call or a text message away. Seeing a new city every week is my favorite part of the job. I’ve gotten to see some really cool new places and meet awesome people that I would’ve never been able to otherwise.
What’s the toughest part about being on the road?
I would say not having a home to come back to everyday. Not having your bed, waking up and not having your coffee maker there. Your breakfast shake that you like to drink in the morning. You get used to it though. I’d say the hotel life is the most difficult but also it’s kinda nice to have someone make your bed every morning too. I’m still young. Maybe in 10 years I’d be in a very different place touring. But right now, it brings me a lot of happiness. I enjoy it a lot.
What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
All the different cities I’ve been to. I’ve been to 38 cities in 10 months, which is just unheard of in any other field, I think. I’ve gotten to see family all over the county that I haven’t seen in years and catch up with old friends that have gone elsewhere to continue schooling or work. I picked up running. I get to run all over the country. I really love doing that, which I never thought I’d be that guy. But it brings me a lot of joy. It’s kinda hard to find dance classes when you’re in a different city. There’s not always a professional dance studio, so I can still put on my favorite music and run to the beat, and I get that sense of moving to music. That’s what really excites me. I get that sense of dancing to the beat through that. All while seeing all different parts of cities.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from touring?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I pack way much crap. Always. I have way too much stuff. Even to this day. Think I’d have it figured out by now. I have a rule where I leave one clothing article in my hotel room per city. Be it an old t-shirt, a holey pair of socks, an old pair of underwear—just something. It’s the only way I can keep my stuff meddled down. Whenever I check out, there’s always a drawer with one holey t-shirt in it.
You should start an Instagram with all the stuff you leave.
I should hashtag—#tourpresent or something.
How was your experience at OCU?
OCU was awesome. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there. It was a hard program—a brutal program. But I definitely think that everyone who survived came out better. It taught me how to be professional, how to be reliable, and how to live up to what the job requires. In this day and age, not everyone can. It also taught me to be grateful because you had to work really hard for the opportunities that we got. Just because you’re there and in all the top classes, doesn’t mean you always got the best parts that you wanted or thought you deserved. You face failure there just as you face failure in the real world. So I think it definitely prepared me better than any other program I could imagine attending.
And I think Jo Rowan is really pretty and a genius.
What’s your advice for other dancers?
I would say go to any and every class you can. Try new things. Try a teacher you’ve never had before. You may end up hating it or loving it. I know I’ve taken classes that I’ve ended up hating and it’s been a humbling experience. I think trying new things will keep you humble. In this industry, that’s really wonderful. At the end of the day, you want to be talented, but anyone can get a job once. To get a job again is what’s difficult. If you’re easy to work with and humble, caring, giving of your time and abilities, it’s a lot easier to do that. It’s also just a joy to work with people like that. No one wants to work with the bad apple of the cast.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
My aspirations are to be on Broadway. I really hope that that’s going to happen. I am also really happy where I am now. I am really fulfilled. I can sleep easy at night and wake up happy in the morning with what I am doing now. I’d love to continue touring and come back to New York and audition for Broadway shows. I also get a lot of joy out of teaching. I teach on the road a lot too, which is something I also like about touring. I think if I can’t ever dance I’d love to share the knowledge that I have and teach the youth and eventually learn from them too. I’ve learned a lot from teaching people. Sharing that knowledge is a good way to wrap your head around what you’re saying. You understand it more fully.
What’s the toughest time you’ve had as a performer?
There have definitely been a few auditions—I think this was my mistake to go in thinking that you had a shoo-in of getting a call back or getting a job because you might know the choreographer or know the casting director . I think that was a wake up call for me. My first move to New York I had that happen to me for a few months. And I realized that nobody is entitled to anything. There are a hundred other guys waiting outside the door for the same job who are willing to work their ass off for it. I’ve also been really lucky. I’ve struggled, but I am really lucky that my hard work has been paid off with the opportunities I’ve gotten so far.
I also had a really bad injury in college. I had to get a partial hip replacement after my freshman year. That really set me back physically and even more so mentally. The recovery was hard. I did physical therapy everyday for 4 months over the summer. Physically it was hard, but mentally it was hard as well. Just being stuck in a wheelchair for 2 months and just thinking, “God, what if I never get out of this chair? What if I can’t dance anymore?” That really weighed heavy on me. I am really grateful that I was able to get out of the chair [laughs].
You only have so much control. All you can do is the best that you can with the control that you have. What’s meant to happen will happen. I would tell myself to just relax and do your exercises. Do what the doctor says. And all will be fine—because it was.
This past year, I performed in my hometown of Cincinnati at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, which is the big touring house that I grew up as a kid going to watch all these huge shows. We had season tickets since I was little. My mom is a huge lover of the arts and I thank her a lot for introducing me and surrounding me with them as a child. Being able to go and perform there—my whole extended family came. My grandmother, who passed away a few weeks after actually, was able to come and see me. That was an incredibly happy moment. Incredibly surreal. Just so strange. Just being on the other side of footlights there. I just remember seeing these people I idolized for so long and thought that there was no way I could possibly be up there. And to be on the other side of it was almost dreamlike.
Last thing you want to share with the world?
Find what makes you happy and do what makes you happy. Find your bliss. My teacher, Jo Rowan, always said that, and I didn’t really understand it at the time. But I really think it’s true. Your bliss is different for every person. I think it’s important to find what fuels you. Find what makes you as happy as you can be and go for it at all costs. Don’t listen to people when they tell you no because they always will. And you’ll always win.