How did you start dancing?
I started dancing in college when I was 18. It started around the time when So You Think You Can Dance was getting big. So that re-sparked my interest. When I was younger I saw the movie Center Stage, and I told my dad that I wanted to dance. He told me no. He thought I had plenty going on in my life and wanted me to focus on that. So I went on with my life and got to college. But I didn’t want to be 30—only to look back and wish that I had tried dance just to see if I was good at it. So I started taking a beginner ballet class and fell in love with it. I found out I was really good at it. I kept going and went on to take modern, and I just decided that I was going to be a dance major because I was going to keep wanting to take more classes, and I wanted to graduate on time [laughs]. I got accepted into the dance program, and I never looked back.
Where did you go to school?
Montclair State University in New Jersey.
What inspired you to start dancing in college?
I would have to say just being brave and courageous. In high school, I didn’t necessarily categorize myself as that. I didn’t really feel like I was the best at anything. I sang all my life, and I was always good enough to be in the select singing groups, but I never felt like I was the best at it. College was my chance to try something different and leave music behind for a little bit. I found out that I was really good at dance—not in a boastful, egotistical way—but I was the top in my class. I was the guy who was the go-to for all the solos because I was reliable and consistent, and it felt good to feel like I had finally found something I was great at.
College was a big transitional period for me because I thought I was supposed to leave music behind for good. I didn’t know what that was. I just went to school and started undeclared as a freshman because I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I needed to stop singing because I thought it was going to be a dead end for me. I am really grateful for the way it turned out and that I ended up in the musical theatre world.
It’s cool that musical theatre is a way to keep music in your life.
I feel like it’s the best way to do that. It's interesting because in my last year of college, the musical theatre department chair sought me out after I had auditioned for the Fall show. He told me that there was a character in the show that he thought only I could play within the school. He said that he would fill in the gaps and teach me everything I needed to know for the role and encouraged me to just do it. I was afraid at the time but I am so glad that he pushed me because I wouldn’t be in musical theatre today if it wasn’t for that. He saw something in me and he pushed me past my own limits of where I thought it was going to end for me. I am so grateful for him. His name is Clay James. I am so glad that he took the time and energy to work with me. As fate would have it, the following fall I did the same role in the national tour of A Chorus Line with Baayork Lee. That just kept opening doors, and the ball just kept on rolling. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him encouraging me to pursue that role.
Was performing something that you always wanted to do?
I don’t know if performing was my goal as a child, but it was something that I just always did. My parents put me and my brothers in things they thought were good for us. We are all artistic in different ways, and it just so happens to revolve around performing. I was definitely born into a family of musicians, and because of that, performing just felt right.
What do your parents do?
My dad is very into fashion. He’s a fashion designer / entrepreneur. He also is a preacher. My mom is a social worker. My dad is definitely a great singer and my mom is creative in other ways. She’s not necessarily a singer, but she definitely was like a cheerleader / dancer type growing up. I guess that’s where my dancing comes from and my music and singing comes from my dad’s side.
What are you up to now?
Lately it’s been a lot of the grind and the hustle. Last year was a great year in terms of growth as an artist and as a person. I joined AEA, which is exciting. This year, the goal is Broadway. Currently, I am associate choreographing a production of A Chorus Line in Long Island City. Also, I am performing new dance pieces with some wonderful Broadway choreographers in the next couple weeks. I will also be doing a workshop of a new musical in March. So I’ve been pounding the pavement, staying connected to all those amazing artists out there, and getting to know more people. I am excited for the transition and new opportunities that continue to come my way.
Number one advice?
I would say—because it’s something I am going through right now—it’s okay to not know exactly who you are right away. When you do find out who you are, be inspired by it. Be courageous enough to continue being that person and don’t let anybody tell you that it’s right or wrong. Right now, I am having that moment in my life and in my career—of embracing who I am as an artist and as a performer and not needing to look up to these stars who are already out there and try to be like them. If I just be myself and let my light shine and let my spirit fill the room, that will always be just enough.
What is your toughest moment as a performer?
In the past, I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of opportunities come up, and in a sense, handed to me. But as a performer in New York City, that’s not always the case. And it’s interesting because I was always thinking in the back of my mind that there would come a time where I wouldn’t be booking everything I wanted. I enjoyed my moments as a performer on stage—and I was grateful for those moments—but I expected jobs and opportunities at the same time. My biggest challenge has been going through a period of not getting these jobs and just having to stay put and grounded. I think every artist goes through that, and every artist needs to go through that to grow and to get up the ladder to newer opportunities, to newer heights, and to a better place.
What keeps you going?
Just the feeling that I am not finished yet. You can feel when you’ve done all you can do. Maybe in your head you make up what that peak is. I think it’s just the idea of knowing that there’s unfinished business and that there’s more for me to do. I actually met with a teacher this week who lives by this mantra of “If you can, do.” It really resonated with me. I haven’t been purposefully living with that mindset. Now I am ready to really address my life and my career from knowing that there’s more to do. And that I have more talent and that I have more skills and that I am finally honing them in. That’s what keeps me going. There’s more to do, and there’s more to show, and there’s more people to share my gift with.
What would be your happiest moment?
First would be getting to go to Japan to perform Bring It On the Musical and getting to work with the Broadway creative team from that show. It was really exciting to go to a new country and experience sharing something with a community that doesn’t always get to but loves it. It’s exciting to feel to truly be appreciated for your craft.
Also, performing at the Muny last summer and getting my equity card because that’s always been a dream. Getting to go to St. Louis and perform for thousands of people was so exciting.
Is there any last thing you want to share?
Be your best self and live your best life always.