How did you start dancing?
I was always dancing around the house as a kid. I’d make my older sister do shows with me and charged a penny per audience member. We had two audience members, my parents, at every show, so we always made two cents. I wish we had charged them more. We could’ve gotten better sets and costumes! I made my sister do a two-person version of The Lion King. I remember dancing to “Shadowland,” and I was on my back a lot. There was no sense to it. It was just pure, untrained, unfiltered expression of movement.
When we were in New York, we got the chance to see the musical Footloose. I was mesmerized. I went home, turned on the title song, and was dancing all over the place. My parents came in and asked me if I wanted to take dance class. I said yes.
I was 8 when I started. My mom loves dance. She never got to dance—it was just a different time and she wasn’t given the opportunity. I feel lucky that I got to do what I dreamed of doing. It’s all been such a beautiful journey because she did not push me into it at all. There was so much support and joy. I know that every time I dance I am getting to live her dream.
How did you know you wanted to pursue dance professionally?
I hear people saying a lot, “I never knew you could do it professionally until I was older.” But I just always knew. I was lucky to go to an incredible studio called Spirit In Motion Ballet Theater. Terri, the artistic director, is so well-versed. She believed in artistry over product. Not that anything is wrong with competitions, but a lot of times it’s churning out a routine vs. artistry. I think competitions are great performance opportunities as a young kid, but it’s not something that we did. I was getting master classes with Phil LaDuca before he started making shoes. I was getting Broadway from the start. I started dancing in 3rd grade, and every school project right away was like, “When I grow up, I want to dance on Broadway.”
That’s great. Most people don’t find their passion until later.
It’s given me an identity my entire life. It saved me on multiple occasions. You go through a lot growing up, and you try to find yourself—but I’ve always had an identity: I am a dancer. The kids in school never made fun of me. They always thought it was cool. They would make me do my split and try to do it themselves and rip their pants. I was never bullied. It was really supportive. So I felt like a prodigy—but I was terrible [laughs]. I’ve known since 3rd grade that I want to dance on Broadway. Broadway is the thing that inspired me. I was obsessed. My uncle had all these old playbills, and he also used to pretend to be a newspaper reporter so he would go backstage and give fake interviews, so I have Elaine Stritch's autograph. I don’t know how he got away with that. But I am getting to live all these people’s dreams, which is cool. But Broadway is hard to achieve. There’s so much that’s not Broadway and still worthwhile. Even Broadway is not all glamour. I know all that, but until I live my dream, I am never fully satisfied. I have had to work a million odd jobs and worked at Trader Joe’s for a hot second. It’s been the greatest thing to have an identity and a clear path, but until I achieve that, I’ll never be satisfied.
What are you up to now?
Right now, I am up to nothing! I just finished Broadway Dance Lab last night. Today is the day to think about where I am going to make money. I am 25, so I am not old, and I am not young. I know that I’ve made a mark and people know who I am. If any of those people need me, they will reach out. Something will come. It might be tomorrow, it might be six months, but there has to be something. Until yesterday, I was very busy. I’ve been pretty lucky since April to know what’s next.
How long have you been in the city?
I went to Tisch at NYU, so I’ve been here since 2009. I did American Ballet Theatre’s summer program when I was 12. At lunch time, they would let us go get lunch and I was 12 walking on the street. I was riding the subway alone at 13. So New York has always felt like home. I used to rock that “I Love New York” shirt with pride. I knew I would live here. It feels like I’ve been here my whole life.
Isn’t it scary to have that time period where you don’t know what you’re doing next? How do you deal with that uncertainty?
I just try to stay active and take class. It’s a good opportunity to see friends. I have a list of things I want to learn like sign language and playing the guitar that’s sitting in my apartment. It’s totally scary. As a dancer, I am really great at giving advice but not at taking my own advice. Patience is so true in this business. I know I will be on Broadway. It’s just a matter of sticking it out long enough. At some point, it will happen. Even if it’s when I am 50 and I’ve written my own show. It will totally happen. I have faith in that. It’s totally scary, but patience is important. I preach that to people. As an actor, you don’t have to be 20. You can be 50 and still have a great part. But for a dancer, it feels like the clock is ticking. I know I won’t be competitive in the same way that I am now as time goes on. My legs won’t go as high. The jumps won’t be as big. It’s totally scary. It’s valuable precious time spent on not doing what I want to do. But it’s a part of it. I just have to keep the faith.
Has there been a point where you almost threw in the towel?
Of course. The business makes no sense and is very hard. You could feel like you’re perfectly right for something and know the creative team and not get a callback. It breaks you. But it’s never enough to stop. I can’t stop. I just have faith and dedicated my whole life to it. I know that it will happen. I just have to let it happen as it is meant to.
Number one advice to your younger self?
I think that a lot of my journey now is trying to get in touch with my younger self. When I am just dancing and loving it, I am successful. When I try to be the right thing or please people or feel like I am not good enough, then I close up and am not successful. My dad is always like, “Be that boy who would be on stage and wink at me.” I did it every show. I would bump into the curtains because I’d be smiling and walking off. I don’t think I have any advice for my younger self. I really think that, as a younger person, I was Billy Elliot. Just flying. It wasn’t about technique. It was about the joy and the spark. I am most successful—meaning I either get the job or just dance the best I can—when I am carefree and fully expressive and not trying to be something. As a smaller boy, there’s a lot of judgment. I will walk into a room, and they don’t think I can be sexy, powerful, or masculine. One of my favorite styles that I started training in early is Fosse. I love that. I know how to tap into that. But there’s a lot of “This is what you do.” I carry that with me to every audition. And then you start to forget that you got it. When I was 8, no one said I had anything. I was just being myself. I just try to maintain that.
Is there any last thing that you want to share with the world?
I really would love to make a difference through the thing I love, which is dance. I want to try to be a nice and kind person. I always say the name of my memoir is going to be “Nice Guys Finish First.” I think positivity is sometimes not the easiest choice but I think it’s the best choice always. It’s more fun and makes the world a better place if everyone was able to be positive and see the light. I know that through dancing, joy can be spread. I want to make sure that no child has to go through a childhood where they’re not allowed to express themselves. I do a lot of teaching and a lot of it involves dancing without fear. I try to live by “if it scares you, say yes” and share that with others. For me, dance has always been an identity and a source of expression and fun. Even when a dance is sad and dramatic, there’s fun to it because you’re playing. You cry and it feels good because it’s a release. If I could reach and inspire as many people as possible through seeing me dance or actually working with them, that’s really my biggest goal.