How did you start dancing?
I originally started off in my high school show choir. My next door neighbor was a dancer at a studio. She recommended that I go and try a class with her. I went and was hooked ever since then—I was about 16. I started getting serious about it and then did the whole dance competition circuit.
What did you like about dance?
I think it was the way it made me feel. The idea of having a physical expression of an internal emotion was very cool and very special to me. And it continues to be. Even when working in musical theatre where you’re dancing, singing, and acting—dancing has always been the most important thing in my life. I will always consider myself a dancer first before anything else.
What made you pursue dance as a career?
Once I got really serious about my dancing, I just knew that it was going to be a vital part of my life. I didn’t know if that meant I was going to teach, dance for a company, dance on a cruise ship—I didn’t know where it was going to take me, but I just knew that it was going to be my life.
Where did you go after high school?
I went to a school out in LA called Performing Arts Center. It was a 2-year apprentice program. The curriculum mostly consisted of dance, but they also had acting and voice as well. I learned so much out there. Teachers out there—Joseph Malone, Michelle Elkin, Terri Yates, Jackie Sleight to name a few—were incredible. It was a very small group of students with hands-on training. A part of the program was that we cleaned the studio every night when it closed down. We worked at the front desk and learned a lot about life as well. We really had to earn our keep there. You’d take dance classes all day long and then scrub toilets at night before going home. From there, I was exposed to ballet for real for the first time and fell in love with it—and I was 19 years old. I decided that maybe I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I auditioned for Ballet Austin in Texas and got into an apprentice program there.
What made you move to New York?
I am originally from Mayfield Heights, Ohio, which is a suburb just outside of Cleveland. I made the trek to go to school in LA for two years, and then moved to Austin. Once I got to Austin, I realized maybe ballet wasn’t for me. I always did musicals and plays in high school, and I loved musical theatre. And I had always wanted to move to New York. New York, to me, is the epicenter of dance.
How was your first move here?
You know, it was great. One of my dear friends at Ballet Austin connected me with her friends who danced for American Ballet Theatre. They happened to have a room available on the Upper West Side. It was this tiny little crawlspace. I had to crawl to get to my bed, but I didn’t care. I lived in the Upper West Side for $700 a month, and it was incredible. I was living with girls from ABT and dancing at Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, a really cool company that infused modern with tai chi movements. It was the first time I was making any money dancing, so I felt like I was rich, although I was making like $2 a week [laughs]. I did that for about a year. That was one of my favorite years. Everything was so new. The city is incredible. I got lost all the time.
What happened after?
My very first musical theatre audition was for the national tour of Cats in 2005. I went out on tour with Cats, and I’ve been doing musical theatre ever since. I got the musical theatre bug [laughs]. I did Cats for a little under a year. I had an injury. I actually tore some abdominal muscles during the show, so I ended up leaving the show.
I came back, and then I just continued working in musical theatre. I did a lot of work regionally. My first big equity tour was A Chorus Line. I learned so much because I understudied a lot of different roles. It was the first time that I was really challenged as an actor and a singer. From that experience, I started taking a lot of voice lessons and acting lessons to expand my abilities. I started to realize just how important it is in musical theatre to be well-rounded and to be trained in everything.
And then I went out on the national tour of Wicked for two years. I came back to New York and then did Wicked here on Broadway. Then I went to Cinderella where I was the swing and assistant dance captain. It was the first time I was the dance captain of the show. That was incredible. I will forever have so much respect for swings and dance captains because they work harder than anyone. It was such an incredible experience. I’ve always had many proud father moments whenever we would put somebody into the show and watch them go on for the first time. That was always the best part of the experience—watching somebody go into the show knowing that you taught them the show. From there I went to On the Town. I was ensemble and covered Gabey, played by Tony Yazbeck. That was another first for me. I had never been a cover for a principle role like that. It was such a learning experience. I just tried to soak up every moment. I never got to go on, but I am so glad that I had the experience. Even just having an understudy rehearsal every week. Also it was special because it was the first time I did the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Tony Awards with the show.
What are you up to now?
I am at Trip of Love Off-Broadway. I started out in the ensemble and covering one of the principles, and I’ve just taken over one of the principal roles—George. With each show I’ve done, there always has been a first, which has been really cool. I’ve been in the city for a little over 10 years now, and it’s crazy. It’s never gotten stale.
How was your Broadway debut?
My Broadway debut was at Wicked at the Gershwin. The first time I went in was for a last minute cover. I just came in for a weekend to cover somebody’s absence. At that point, I had left the tour and was in the city, and they contacted me to see if I could cover for half a week. It was a fast and furious process. On the first night of the show, I was shaking. I had never sweat so much in my life. It was so exciting, and one of the best parts about it was that Nova Bergeron had been my partner in Hello, Dolly! at Paper Mill Playhouse. She was doing Wicked at the time and was going to be my partner when I went on. That honestly made me feel more comfortable right away because I knew her and she’s an incredible person. But even then, I was so nervous and sweating profusely the whole time, but it was an unforgettable experience. The opportunity really came out of nowhere. I ended up going back to the show full-time a few months later because the track ended up opening up.
After I made my debut, I went through a little bit of a depression. For so long, all I wanted to do was a Broadway show. And then it finally happened. And then I didn’t have this huge goal anymore. I had met that goal and got a little sad about it, because I thought, “Now what do I do?” Just very quickly I realized that you just have to set new goals for yourself. One thing I love about dance is that you will always strive for perfection but you will never get there. I think that can be a blessing. If you’re given things too quickly, it’s hard for you to appreciate it. It’s important to have something to work towards. That’s what makes you get out of bed every morning. That’s what drives you to keep going to class.
What are your aspirations?
I love teaching. I know in my heart that I will be a teacher for sure. I want to continue to perform as long as I can. I teach at BDC and I teach at a studio out in New Jersey. I love teaching. I try to inspire the students, but the students inspire me so much. They help me to remember the reason why we all started to dance in the beginning—we love to dance because it’s fun. It’s important to never forget that. Once you’re in the grind of doing it everyday, sometimes that can be lost. You have to remember why you started in the first place.
Through teaching, I want to help shape and form the new and next generation of performers. One day, I’d love to go to an opening night on Broadway and watch my students fulfilling their own dreams. To me, that would be the ultimate full circle moment. Even in my daily experiences now as a performer, whenever remarkable things happen, I try to file them away in my little teacher box [laughs] because I want to pass that piece of information on.
Number one advice?
Work hard. Stay true to yourself. Don’t let yourself get swept up in group mentality. So often there is a popular opinion on what you should do and how you should behave. Stay true to your training. Go to class. I feel like nobody takes class [laughs]. Never stop learning. Always continue to learn.
You will face a lot of disappointments. It’s inevitable. But if you’re able to get back up again and try again, you will have success. Everyone says this, but you get a thousand no’s for every yes. You will get a lot of no’s. The more you can brush it off and get back up, the better off you will be. It can be tough. It can break your heart, but you just have to keep going.
In the past year, I’ve had a lot of personal disappointments. But we’re lucky to be in an artistic business. When things aren’t necessarily going well in your personal life, dance is a great form of therapy. Dance is something that you can use in a constructive way to work out things that are going on in your personal life. You want to be professional and leave your personal problems at the door, but you can also use them to your advantage in fostering your art.
I used to get really bent out of shape if I got down to a final callback. I would literally twiddle my thumbs and wait by the phone. And then I would be so heartbroken if it didn’t work out. I realized a) I hated feeling like that and b) there’s nothing constructive about just waiting for the phone to ring. I think what I’ve learned to do at this point is—when I go into the room to audition for something, I leave everything I have on the floor. As long as I feel good about what I did in there, that’s all that matters. When you leave, just forget you even went there. Forget about it. Go on with your life. If it works out, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to go in for something else and something else is going to happen.
Last thing you want to share with the world?
I am borrowing this from a friend of mine, Austin Miller, at the show. He has this written on his mirror, “Success tastes like fear.” When I first read that I didn’t know what to think of it. But when I really thought about it, I realized that it’s true—anything that’s worth doing usually scares you a little bit. Getting up in front of a bunch of people is scary. It’s a scary thing to do. Going to an audition can be scary. But success tastes like fear.