How did you start dancing?
I started dancing as a kid, but I wasn’t one of those kids who started at 2 years old. I always knew that I could dance, but I trained more when I became a young adult—in high school and college. I was always around dancing because my sister was a dancer. It seemed like every weekend we were at competitions, so I picked things up through osmosis [laughs]. My sister is probably my biggest inspiration when it comes to dance. I just saw her and other people who were dancing, and I was just so inspired by them.
Being a kid, playing sports is what I thought I wanted to do. I did go to a dance studio for like a month, but I just wanted to play sports [laughs]. I took karate in my growing years, and I credit that to my flexibility. It made the transition to dancing a bit easier because I had awareness of my body. I began as a self-taught dancer and got more into it in college and throughout my professional career.
What school did you go to?
I went to Salem State University in Salem, MA—home of the witchcraft trials. That was our claim to fame [laughs]. I went to school for acting. I wanted to move people with my words. In school, I found that I was getting jobs as a dancer, and I enjoyed it. Dancing just felt so natural to me. The feeling I have when I dance is unlike any other. It was just one of those things where I felt at home. I discovered later that dance was where my life should’ve taken me all along—it just took me a while to get there.
Did you have to take dance classes through the theatre program?
Yeah. I’ve always had an instinctual ability to dance, I guess, but when I started taking classes at school, I felt like I could hone my abilities. I took at Jeannette Neill studio in Boston to see what I could get out of dance outside of what school was giving me. The dance program at that time wasn’t very big. You could just minor in it. Lots of theatre students did theatre as a major and dance as a minor. It was a very bare-bones minor at the time. After graduation, it was hard to adjust to New York where people had their master’s in dance. Still to this day I am pushed and a little intimidated by more advanced dancers—but in a good way.
How did you decide to move to New York?
I graduated—a very long time ago [laughs]. I had always wanted to move here. We always came here when I was a kid. It was so close to Boston. I just knew I always wanted to be here. New York felt like a dream—a really great dream that you never want to wake up from, because when you do wake up from it, you’re disappointed [laughs]. It was always one of those places where I was scared to move to because I didn’t want to ruin the wonderful image I had of it. I’m here though, living the dream.
When I moved here, I had finished two cruiseship contracts and wanted to do theatre. Then I booked a tour and left for another year. I came back to the city again and was ready to do the struggling actor thing, and I did. I struggled [laughs]. That was back in 2010. New York is the hub for opportunities, so it was a no-brainer to come here.
How was your first move here?
It was really hard. I didn’t have enough money saved despite being on tour and cruise ships before. My first month in the city was pretty bad. Four days after I moved here, I got bed bugs, and my landlord didn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t a lease because it was a shady deal. I was really sad and wasn’t performing. Because of the bed bugs, I had to throw away my brand new mattress and couch away. Facing the reality of New York was stressful. I wanted to quit everything. I wanted to go back home. I thought maybe I’d stay home and work retail. But I had this vision of me—a tanned old guy who wears those transitional lenses. I just couldn’t do that [laughs].
In New York, I was working overnight shifts at Armani Exchange doing retail and visual setups.. It sounded appealing, but it wasn’t my dream, and the hours were awful—10pm to 10am. I was getting really sick and run down. I wasn’t getting good sleep. After a month and a half, I got a performing job at a theatre in PA through a friend of mine from tour. That job kicked me out of where I was, but it was a good kick. I needed the push out. I danced for three months at a holiday show, 11-shows a week. I was really tired, but I was in great shape. That job kickstarted me, and I ended up moving back to a new place in New York and have been at the same place for 5 years.
When you had those thoughts of quitting and going back home, what made you stay and push yourself?
New York was that dream that I never wanted to wake up from. I had just gotten here, and I didn’t want to quit too soon. I am a competitive person by nature, and I am a go-getter in a sense. Quitting is just not in my DNA. I just can’t. Even if I hate something so much. I’ve been a part of day jobs that I’ve hated, but I just can’t leave something high and dry. I can’t quit something that easily. In my work and survival jobs, there always has been something good that came out of the bad. Life transitioned itself for me. It didn’t make me have to quit in order to find something better. I found that to be true for a lot of my life, which is fortunate, but it’s scary in the moment.
What are you up to now?
I just finished West Side Story at Signature Theatre in DC. I was there for three months. Now I am auditioning like crazy. I got back at the height of audition season, so it’s been chaos. It’s been really hard, actually. I’ve been at that place again where I want to quit. I’ve said it to myself every other day—I am tired of it and want to leave. But I can’t. I’m trying to balance my survival job and have to miss work to audition.You can lose a whole day of pay for 20 minutes in the room, but I have to stay optimistic. I am just really pounding the pavement right now and trying not to give up. It’s just not in my makeup to do that. I am just working really hard right now.
What are your aspirations?
Of course, Broadway. That’s the goal for everybody. I wouldn’t be here if that’s not what I wanted, and I am not going to sugarcoat that. Really, I think I’ve always been a good dancer and able to make people laugh. I would love to just make people laugh and smile whether it be through comedy or through dance. I think I want to be an inspiration. Not in a cheesy sense of the word. I would like to be somebody who worked really hard to be where they got. Nothing ever really came easy to me—not that it does for everybody, but there are some people who are definitely more fortunate or fall into the right place at the right time. At this point, it took me 8 years to get my equity card. I got it through points, so it’s something that I am proud of. I’ve worked really hard for it and proved myself through the process. Like I said, with everything I did, I grew from it. I’d like to just be somebody who inspires people—let people know that hard work always pays off and that it’s not a waste of time.
As a performer, what’s the toughest time you’ve had?
I think it’s been now. It’s been a very tough time for me. I just got my equity card, so I am in a whole new sea of people. We’re all talented—we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t. I was getting a lot of jobs—I worked consistently for two years without a break. It was great, but I think part of the reason I got there was because I was cheap. I was talented, sure, but not a part of the union. I am in a new pool now where I am still talented, but there are 4,000 other people who are even more talented than me competing for only 3-4 contracts. It’s a reality that I am trying to come to terms with. At the end of the day it’s a business. People need to make money and spend money wisely. It’s not always about how talented you are or about who you know. It’s about who fits the bill, the costume, the looks.
It’s been the hardest for me to keep going even though I have been home for only two months now. There have been so many auditions. I’ve had almost 30 auditions now since being back and not that many callbacks. It’s been very disheartening trying to balance work and my art. It’s tough. I have to remind myself that I don’t work my survival job for my art, I work to support it. Art is my boss; not my day job The auditioning is the hard part, really. When you’re in a show, that’s the dream. That’s a vacation. The hustle that gets you there is the hard part. I had a friend tell me once that there are two things that can be said if you go to an audition and only one that can be said if you don’t. It’s very true. There have been many days where I want to stay in bed and sleep but I have to get up, wait in line, sign up for lists, and run from studio to studio. I’ve come too far now to give up.
What would be one of your happiest moments in your performing career?
It would be when I booked my first professional show in college. It was Cats. I always loved Cats. I wore out the VHS as a kid. I went to the audition having very little dance training. I got it and was still in school, so I was the only one in my group of friends who was a professional actor. I had this summer gig, and I just thought I was so cool. It was a New Bedford festival theatre in MA, so it was an hour and a half away from Boston. I was with the big shots and was with New York friends. That really kickstarted me to think that I could really do this. Then I got my EMC card right out of college at a theatre in Boston, so that was important to me. Two ships and a tour right after that—they all happened really fast. Everyday in that time from 2006 to 2009, things became more and more real. I was like, “I can really do this.” I think my happiest moments were during this time period—I got a taste of the business and how great it made me feel and how wonderful it was to be around really creative and hardworking people.
What would be your number one advice?
Don’t give up. That would be my biggest advice. Never give up. It’s never too late to start something. I was at Actors Equity the other day for an audition, and there was a woman there who was well into her 60s. She was still there, still hustling. She just didn’t give up. It was so motivating. My advice would be keep training. Keep working hard. Something will come. I have to tell myself that everyday too. Something bigger and better is coming. If something doesn’t work out, it’s the universe clearing the way for something better. Don’t give up. Eat nails [laughs].
Any last thing you want to share with the world?
I think that all of us as performers should step back and give ourselves a huge pat on the back. Look at ourselves in the mirror and say we’re good enough because we do something everyday that scares us. We put ourselves out on the line, and we are at our most vulnerable day in and day out. We constantly get rejected and constantly are told that we’re not good enough. I want to say that dancers—especially dancers—are some of the bravest people out there. We walk into rooms, and we have no idea what to expect. We might have to partner with somebody, leap across the floor, roll on the ground—we don’t know what we’re about to get into but we step into the lion's den. We’re so brave because we are doing something that scares us—because we love it so much. I just think that we as dancers have to remember that we’re brave, inspiring, and...badass [laughs].