How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was two years old. My parents just threw me in dance class [laughs]. Any time a commercial or anything with music came on I would start to dance, so they felt it was necessary to do that [laughs].
What was it like growing up as a dancer since age of 2?
It was always my life. Dance is not something that’s just mild in my life. It always has been the priority. When I was in school, I talked to “normal people” about what they did during summers and I couldn’t really relate to that. I was always focused on dance. Especially during summer, when there was no school, I only wanted to be at the studio. I wanted to train. When I got older, I went away to many summer intensives and nationals.
I credit dance to the person that I am today. My dance teachers felt like second moms. They taught me more than sometimes my parents did [laughs].
How did you know that you wanted to pursue dance as a career?
My senior year I was auditioning for colleges. I actually broke my foot at my second audition. It was early in the season.
Your freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, you’re training to decide what you want to do, and the second audition I broke my foot. I was out for the majority of my senior year. It really allowed me some time to sit back. It was a learning experience. It allowed me to realize how much I loved to dance because I didn’t have it for so long. I was out for maybe 6 or 7 months. Not being able to dance showed me that it really is something that I can’t live without. I can’t imagine my life without dance—even down the line whatever I end up doing 20-30 years from now. It will always be some part of my life.
Where did you end up going to train?
I went to Point Park for my undergrad. That was my first audition for the season. I really contemplated if I wanted that to be my first audition. But I am so glad that I did that because I broke my foot on the second audition. That was a blessing in disguise.
It was like the universe telling you that you should go to Point Park.
Definitely. I totally believe in those things. It was a sign. Just went with it.
What was it like at Point Park?
It was great. I always tell everyone that I wish I could be the spokesperson for Point Park. It was the best. I actually finished the program in 3 years. It was the best time of my life. I met amazing people and worked with renowned choreographers. It’s in a conservatory setting, so it’s rigorous, but you walk out learning and knowing so much. It’s crazy because the facility—what it is today wasn’t how it was when I was there. Now it’s this beautiful dance complex that’s talked about and seen in magazines. We didn’t really have that. My class was the first class to even break into the dance complex. The program is continuing to step up, and it’s just amazing to see the growth, the rep, and the people they’re bringing in each year.
How did your stint with Dance Moms come about?
I started working at the studio immediately when I went to Point Park. I’ve actually known the studio owner my whole life. I really have. But I started working there when I went to college and worked there for a total of seven years until I moved to the city. It’s crazy to see the growth that happened with the show. They hold a special place in my heart with all of their success.
I was just ready to move to the city. I lived in Pittsburgh for seven years. The first company I danced for was there, and there were two others I danced for. I was still teaching at the studio at the same time, so I was traveling in and out. The last year I was there, I wasn’t there for chunks of time, so it wasn’t fair for the kids. I still wanted to be pursuing my dream and creating the things I learned from my life. I just had to evaluate and say, do I really need to be here anymore or do I need to leave Pittsburgh? That was just my decision, and they fully supported that.
How long have you been in the city?
It was a full year in August. It’s great. It’s a learning experience living in New York City. I always tell people it’s great when you visit, and everyone is so quick to say, “I want to live in New York City.” But it’s definitely a learning experience living here every single day. I feel like it’s so typical to go home at the end of the day and receive so many rejections, but you have to celebrate the success that you have.
What are your aspirations as a dancer?
After leaving the city for full two months this past summer, I am really adamant about doing musical theatre. Before I moved to New York, I was really focused in concert dance. That’s all I’ve done; even last year I was doing that in the city. Now I want to book a show. That’s my biggest goal. So I am being consistent with my voice lessons. It’s hard for me to sing and open up and be vulnerable in that field, but that’s my biggest goal: to really make it happen. The universe shows you things and I feel that it’s totally possible. People book everyday. If I put the work in, I can do that too.
The transition from concert dance to musical theatre must be very different and difficult. Was giving up a concert dance gig and a television gig to pursue musical theatre a tough decision to make?
It is. I am still learning every single day. I had the honor of teaching at Point Park--they have a huge summer program and I taught this summer. Kids would ask me what’s it like living in New York City or what’s it like going to Point Park, and I would tell them even if you are a dance major, take voice, take acting, do it all. Here in New York City, everyone is trying to get the next job. And it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s singing, dancing, commercial, not commercial, company--it’s everything. You have to be able to be so versatile. I definitely cornered myself by concentrating on concert dance while I was in school, and if I could go back, I would be taking voice, acting, just to be one step ahead.
I think it’s really important to expose yourself to these different worlds of dance when you’re younger so that you know what you like and can make an informed decision.
You guest teach for a lot of studios around the country. What is it like to balance teaching and audition life?
It’s hard. I’ve had many successes with being able to teach at many studios, judge and choreograph around the country. I am very, very lucky. With this year, I have different goals. I just want to be able to separate the two. I want to focus on teaching and give that my all, but I also have to have a fine line of being here to book and to work. That’s what I want to do. It’s hard because teaching really helps financially. I love giving back to the next generation everything I’ve learned, but it is hard to do both. I teach at few studios around the city and sometimes it limits what auditions I can go to because I have to leave the city at certain time to get out there in the evening. You pick and choose, and you make the best of all of it. Coming back to second year in the city, I am definitely having a different mindset about all of it and trying to make it all work. Just do it. Keep going.
What’s your favorite part about being in the city?
My favorite part about being in the city is having everything at your fingertips. I feel like when I go anywhere else, I go home or go somewhere to teach. At eleven o’clock at night, you want to get food or go out and nothing’s open. Being in the city kinda makes you to think everywhere is like New York City because everything is always open.
Also, you can meet someone from the city and think nothing of them, but they could be the next best thing--whether it’s the person that waited on you at Starbucks or the person that helped you at J. Crew, where I work. Everyone in New York City left a piece of them back home. Everyone had to walk away from something to be here. Everyone gave up something. I feel like it was a struggle for most people to fully bring themselves to New York City. Never allow yourself to think, “Oh, they just work at Starbucks or they just work at J. Crew.” I feel like there are people that treat me that way. They have no idea. In my mind, I think to myself, “Well, when they see me in a movie next year, they’d think, ‘he waited on me, and I was really mean to him’” [laughs]. Everyone you meet definitely has their story, and everyone’s here for the same reason: success. We’re all trying to achieve it.
What’s your least favorite part?
My boyfriend is still in Pittsburgh. That’s what I meant when I mentioned everyone leaves a piece of themselves to come here. He fully supports me being here; he’s truly my everything. I think that’s the hardest part. I think it’s great that his family and my family support me being here, but I’d love for him to also be here.
Also, the lack of personal space. That gets me at times on the subway. But other than that, I love it. I would visit as a kid and step off the bus and know that I am going to live here. You can have the worst day but you’ll walk around and see something that inspires you and know that you’re meant to be here.
What’s your happiest time as a dancer?
My happiest time would be actually getting a callback after I sang. In the spring, I had two callbacks after singing. After that, I was on cloud nine. I knew when I sang, it was the best singing audition I had. Singing in general is tough for me. I was concentrated in concert dance. Opening myself up to that arena is very hard. Usually, I dance and I sing and it’s like, “Thank you,” and I never hear anything. To have a callback after I sang, it allowed me to remember that I am moving in the right direction. You need that reminder at times.
What’s your biggest advice?
Be versatile from the beginning. My parents put me in everything. I played violin, played the piano, played the trumpet. I took voice lessons and acting lessons as a kid, but never followed through with any of it. If I could go back, I’d do it all. No matter what. I tell kids at studios take acting, take voice, and take gymnastics. It will help you no matter what. Just do it all. I think that’s the best recipe for success. Be a quadruple threat.
Any last thing you want to share with the world?
Coming back to the city for my second year, I am adamant about success and very positive about it. I just keep telling myself that it’s possible. I have a friend recently who always says “it’s time to kill the game.” I think that’s my mantra for the season coming back. It’s time to kill the game. Finding success everyday. At the end of the day, no matter what, find something that you did that was positive or successful in a day full of no’s.