How did you start dancing?
My mom was a Broadway performer, and my parents are both in the arts, so I guess it was kind of in my blood. As soon as I was born, I started dancing. I would go with my mom to class, and I would sit in a corner. And as soon as I could get on my hands and knees, I was wiggling in the back. When I was 4, she opened up a dance school, and that’s when I started actually taking ballet and other classes. I pretty much fell in and out of love with dancing until I was 11 when I went away to my first summer program. I went away to my first ballet summer intensive and completely fell in love. From there, I just totally dove in. I’m so very thankful to my parents and my mom’s school for giving me the greatest foundation to start from. By the time I was 14, I was at a boarding school at North Carolina School of the Arts for ballet and was on a very serious track.
Your mom was a Broadway performer?
I definitely followed in her footsteps—NCSA to Broadway. She went to NCSA in the 70s for ballet and was on the track to become a ballet dancer. She ended up breaking her foot just jogging on the beach one day. A freak accident. It wasn’t dance-related at all. When she broke her foot and was in her recovery, she was like, “Now what?”
Her friend invited her to an audition—they were having an ECC for 1980 Revival of West Side Story on Broadway. Her friends told my mom, “You should come. You don’t have to be in pointe shoes. You can handle this.” She went and she booked it. She transitioned out of her injury into this whole new career. She did West Side here in 1980, and she toured the world with the show. She also did Three Musketeers on Broadway and lots of other work here in New York.
She was in New York for a few years and toured off and on for years including a few European tours. And then she was doing a bunch of commercial work and relocated to Minneapolis and was working at the Guthrie Theatre and Chanhassen Theater. That’s where she met my dad, who was a musician and the scenic/lighting designer. They connected doing Guys and Dolls up in Minneapolis, where I was born. My dad being a musician, he toured the US with a bunch of different bands and was always involved with theatre—building sets and playing instruments in shows. Both of them are super involved. They now live in Bucks County, PA. They wanted to move somewhere close enough to New York so that they could commute. So when I was 4, she moved there and opened up her school. She would commute in and out and do shows and industrials here. She was always gone judging dance competitions. She’s still super involved.
What made you decide that you wanted to perform?
I guess a bunch of different things. My parents definitely never pushed it on me. When I was younger, I was an avid horseback rider and thought that horseback riding was what I was going to do. They really let me dabble in whatever I was into. But I had to be at the studio every night out of convenience for my mom, so I ended up spending a lot of time there. But after that first ballet summer intensive, when I was 11, I figured it out. One day I was in ballet class, and I realized that I love dancing, and it was something I wanted to do. Broadway wasn’t really on my radar—I mean I knew my mom had done it, and I understood what it was, but I really wanted to be a ballet dancer and spent most of my time training in ballet.
When I went to NCSA, when I was 14, for boarding school, I was totally on the ballet track. When I got there, it was the first time I had really been immersed with different types of artists—it’s a conservatory so there was the drama department, design and production department, music department, and all these different things. It was the first time I was with people doing those other things. I remember watching the drama students and thinking that they were so cool. So many of them wanted to be musical theatre performers, and I would watch their classes through the window and was totally infatuated with their life but stayed in my ballet classes.
After my second year at the school—you know, ballet is so fickle—I don’t have the turn out and am not naturally built like a ballet dancer. I probably could have danced in secondary companies and stuff, but I wanted to be in ABT or New York City Ballet. They made me realistically see that that wasn’t going to happen. So I started opening my mind to other things I loved.
The drama department was gracious enough to have me as a part of their winter workshop where college students can direct their own pieces. They cast me for “What She Found There,” an Alice in Wonderland piece. While working on that production, I realized I can do more than just dance. I loved speaking on stage, and I had to sing a little part. I had a voice, and it totally sparked—that moment I realized I can do more than ballet. The next year, the school was doing an all-school production of West Side Story. Gerald Freedman, who has been involved as assistant director for every revival but the most recent on Broadway, was directing it. They were bringing in people who were involved with the Broadway productions—which was funny because they all knew my mom. I auditioned, and I got the part of Graziella, and it was going to be my first musical. That was a 100% flipping point. Doing West Side completely changed my life. I knew at that point that I wanted to pursue a career on Broadway. I had just never felt that powerful and at home on stage as when I was doing a musical.
How was going to a boarding school when you were that young?
There’s always an adjustment period especially being that young, but I was in a dorm, and my roommate was my age. She was from North Carolina, so her family was close to the school. They kind of adopted me a bit—I would go to her house on weekends and have some sort of a family unit. My parents would come visit a lot. But especially because my mom had gone there in the 70s, I had heard about it for forever. As soon as I was accepted, they really made sure I was ready—emotionally ready to live on my own and make my own decisions. The school is very free-spirited, so there’s no one making you go to class. You’re treated pretty much as a college student in 9th grade. So my parents were very clear with me on what that was—about making good choices and showing up and doing my work. They were basically paying college tuition for high school, so they wanted me to be committed. I was already really driven for what I wanted to do and really focused. When I got there it just turned out to be the perfect fit for me. And for so many people it’s not. Many of my friends went home six months in because it was so intense. You have academics 3-4 hours a day, and all the other hours, I was doing ballet. It was really hard and the competition is really intense, but I thrived there. You figure it out, but for me, it was the perfect environment.
What happened after you got out of school?
I auditioned for a few colleges. Most people from the drama school go to a conservatory. College had never been on my radar. Especially being in an arts family—especially if you want to be a ballet dancer, you’re not going to go to college. If you want to do Broadway, you can, or you don’t have to. I got into a few schools, and I just wasn’t compelled at all. It was cool that I was accepted, but I didn’t want to go. My parents suggested that at least I take a gap year, move to New York, and see what happens. Phantom of the Opera was one of my first auditions here. I didn’t hear that i booked it right away, but I found out three months later that I did. It was a pretty quick turnaround. I spent my summer working at lululemon, taking a ton of dance classes, and all of that kind of fell into my lap. I feel very lucky that it happened that quickly when I got up here. Since then, it’s just been a straight shot of work. I spent 4 years with Phantom, so I count that as my college now. I went to Phantom College [laughs].
The adjustment to moving here at 17 was so much easier for me since I had been away from home for 3 years already. And my parents—I had to check in with them when I got home at night, and they helped me get my first apartment that I ended up living in for almost 7 years. They made sure I knew the subway system and that I was being safe and smart.
How was Phantom?
It was crazy. Being that young and going into a show that old was really weird. Phantom on Broadway was turning 21 at that point. People had been doing the show longer than I had been alive. That’s crazy. I showed up, and they were like, “I’ve been here your whole life.” I was so excited to be making my debut, but people who had been doing it for 21 years, they very much were like, “We’re going to show you the ropes. Congratulations! Fantastic! Now show up and do your work.” It was fun because it was an exciting but sober experience of coming into a really well-oiled machine. I loved it. I was back in pointe shoes after thinking I was never going to do ballet—how funny to marry those two worlds. My first Broadway show was a ballet show. I stayed here on Broadway until my 18th birthday because I couldn’t go out on tour without a child wrangler [laughs]. They kept me on Broadway until I was 18, and then on my birthday I left and joined the national tour, and I was out there until I was 20.
That was really crazy because going out on tour and not being legal to drink or go to bars—in New York, they don’t card as much so I could always go and hang out with people in the cast at bars and get food. But on tour, I would just have to stay in my hotel room because everywhere across the U.S. cards so much more than New York. But I went out there as an ensemble member, and then the girl playing Meg Giry left, so I took over her principal contract, which was really fun. I loved touring. That was one of the big, old tours—full per-diem, full production contract, long sit-downs of at least 3-4 weeks minimum. It was so great. I ended up driving most of the tour, and seeing the U.S. was so cool. I got back in touch with my horseback riding roots—I’d lease horses in every city and go riding in the mornings. On tour, you have so much time to kill. The tour closed, and it had been open for 18 years. It was the third national tour, which is crazy. So the tour closed in October 2010, and I came back, and after 2 months they brought me back to the Broadway company. Then I stayed with the show pretty consistently for about a year and a half. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s been almost 8 years, and I still vacation swing. I was there 2 months ago. It’s so fun. I’ve gone back in between both other shows I’ve done.
I met my husband doing the show—he’s been doing the show for 9 years. He’s still there, and it’s really fun when we get to work together. I know that show. I never want to hear that music outside of that building ever again [laughs]. But really, I am so grateful for it. I just finished American Dance Machine, and I emailed the people at Phantom that I am available. If there’s a week or a few months here and there, they always offer it to me, which is really gracious of them.
How was American Dance Machine?
I had heard about American Dance Machine my whole life. Especially when my mom was here working in the city, it was huge- It was the original Dance Machine. When I was doing On the Town, it came back on my radar. I had done a small performance of a piece from Susan Stroman’s Contact with them two years ago. But it was a very small showing for them trying to get donors and investors. I loved the concept of using today’s Broadway performers to recreate all these classic works and learning them from the original people who did them. That was so cool. It’s definitely a labor of love. It’s not Broadway show salary or anything like that, but it is completely priceless to perform that material. This run at The Joyce was so successful—the Times wrote us a love letter, and the community really embraced what we did. Here we were doing this iconic work, and we feel really satisfied, and it was really cool to get the response that we did.
I got to dance Cyd Charisse in the show—her bit from Singin’ in the Rain in the green dress. I definitely grew as an artist with the show, especially after having swung On the Town over a year. As a swing, I was always stepping into other people’s parts and never had something of my own. American Dance Machine gave me a chance to own myself as a dancer again, and that was priceless to me. It was so fun.
What are you up to now?
I’ll be twenty five in April and it’s funny to think that I’ve been here in New York for almost 8 years. I live on the upper west side, and I got married a year and a half ago. I feel like I’ve been working with a lot of choreographers that I really admire. Right now especially, it feels like a new beginning for me—this is just the start of who I am as an artist. All of my experiences have really led to this cool moment where I feel like I am stepping into an age and a time where everything is falling into place for me. So many times I hear, “You’re too young to play these parts,” or “You’re too this; you need more of this aspect in your dancing; keep working on your voice,” and I’ve been really putting a ton of time into trying to really make myself as well rounded as I can be. And all of it is starting to click. It just inspires me that much more to go take a million more dance classes and dig into more voice lessons because it’s all starting to fall into place. I am more inspired than ever before. I’m really excited for this year and for all the opportunities that are coming. I have a bunch of really cool irons in the fire, and I can’t wait to see what works out. I am spending this ‘in-between time’ really working on myself personally and digging into my art.
What are your aspirations?
I want to do like 50 Broadway shows [laughs]. Lorin Latarro, Cameron Adams—all these women who I really admire, I will forge my own way but follow in that vein. I want to keep working, I want to keep expanding the choreographers I work with. I want to start stepping into—I really learned a lot being a swing, but I don’t want to be a swing anymore. I want to find places for myself on stage 8 shows a week. I want to originate roles. Down the line, I’d love to do TV and film, but right now, I just want to keep working on Broadway and keep pushing myself as a dancer and get involved with projects that are new and challenging and keep expanding as an artist. I am just not interested in being comfortable right now. I really want to have opportunities to rise to an occasion and push myself. Just step into something much bigger and into great experiences I will grow from.
What would be your number one advice?
Always be a student. I think our egos can get so involved in this business, and jealousy can come into play—“Why am I not doing this or why not that?” Stay away from that as much as you can. And always go to dance class and always go to voice lessons. Support your friends in their shows. If your friend gets the job that you wanted so badly, support them and lift them up. We’re all in this together, and the more we can focus on the fact that we’re a bunch of individuals in this greater picture, there’s room for everyone here. You just have to be kind and lift each other up. There are so many more places we can go.
What would be your happiest moment from your career?
There are so many. One of my most recent happy moments was dancing for Andy Blankenbuehler at BC Beat. That was 100% life-changing for me. Something about that piece and the process of working with him, the quickness with which we put it together, the kindness and the respect he showed his dancers, that venue, and that night— the time the piece came into my life, all of it was really magical. It was really, really special to me. I am not even sure if I can totally explain in words why, but that night was definitely one of my favorite nights as a performer.
Another one was being the dance captain at On the Town. I had never dance-captained before. But there was something really special to me about putting people into a show. Working that closely with Josh Bergasse was so special to me. He’s definitely like a mentor of mine. And just having the opportunity to maintain his work and teach people the show and watch from Day 1 of rehearsal to then either being out in the house or standing in the wings when they would go on for the first time—I never had that sense of pride before. Obviously the dancers were so talented and came in with their own gifts, but being able to maintain a show choreographically was so cool. And it was something I didn’t think I’d love as much as I did.
That’s a huge thing to have a choreographer trusting you and your abilities to maintain his / her work.
There’s definitely a lot of pressure being a dance captain. You’re always rehearsing. You are really trying to maintain their vision. That can get very challenging sometimes but I was so proud to do it for Josh. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to. That was a really cool thing in my career that I never expected.
What was the toughest time you’ve had as a performer?
On the flip side of On the Town being one the most rewarding things of my life, swinging and dance-captaining for that long - for a little over a year was really challenging. Being a swing is so hard. In some way, shape, or form, I have swung every show on Broadway I’ve done. Vacation swung for Phantom, I joined Nice Work as a swing and then took over an onstage track, but I swung On the Town the entire time. When I talk about dropping your ego, that is when that happens—when you’re a swing for an entire run. It was so hard. So challenging. It tested my patience, my will, my brain, and my heart all the time. It was one of those tough but rewarding experiences.
Then I think any tough time any performer has is going through the unemployment periods, but I am fairly good at being unemployed. I really like sleeping all day and going to dance class [laughs]. I love auditioning, I love going to dance class, so it works for me. We always ask ourselves questions of “Will I ever work again? What does this time mean for me?” So there are always little challenges in there but I try to find time to really dig into class, busy myself, and go see my friends in other shows. I try to make the most of it. But each ‘in-between time’ brings its set of challenges.
Is there any last thing you want to share with the world?
I just feel really lucky to be a dancer here in New York right now. I think dance is making a huge comeback, and opportunities for dancers are huge. Shows are taking big risks—shows like Hamilton and all these choreographers are really featuring these dancers and letting us be unique, letting us not be robots. We don’t have to fit a mold right now. We can really bring our own gifts to the table, so I feel really lucky. I can’t wait for the opportunities that will come for all of us here right now. I hope we can cultivate that for the dancers that are coming into the city, that we can offer them that experience too to be really unique and bring their gifts to the table. I just think we’re really lucky to be dancers right now