How did you start dancing?
My mom enrolled me in dance class when I was three years old. I continued to dance and change studios until I found the right one—at the King Centre-Performing Arts in Wanaque, NJ. That was home. I loved it.
My family has always been interested in arts. My grandmother used to play Broadway recordings all the time in the house while she would clean, and she’d take my mom and her sisters to shows, and they always loved it. I am actually the first one to pursue this dream and this passion, which is pretty cool.
How far did you live from New York City?
About an hour and a half to two hours. My family is originally from the city. My parents both grew up in Brooklyn and moved out to Jersey. I was very fortunate to live so close to the city. I kind of grew up here even though I’m really from a small town in New Jersey.
How did you decide to pursue performing as a career?
I can’t think of a time in my life when I thought of pursuing anything else. Dance was always what I’ve known. It’s what I’ve wanted in my life and for my future. There was never a pivotal moment where I was like, “I am going to school for dance.” No other thoughts came to my mind when it came to doing something else for my career. As a performer, you always have people putting you down and telling you that it’s not a smart choice or that it’s really hard out there. You hear that a lot more in Jersey than in New York because New York is the city of dreams—everyone encourages you to go get your dreams. But I always knew that it was something I wanted to do. Now here I am, doing it.
Where did you go to school?
I just graduated from CAP21, which is a musical theatre conservatory here in New York. I actually made a transition from dance to musical theatre. I knew that in order to be on Broadway, I had to expand my horizons. I couldn’t just be a dancer anymore. I had to train myself in singing and acting. That’s why I decided to change to musical theatre. It was the best choice I could’ve made.
What made you switch from dance to musical theatre?
I performed in my first musical in 7th or 8th grade. It was a junior version of Annie. Since then, I loved it. Competitive dance had a really rigorous schedule. I didn’t really have time for anything else other than dance, so doing shows was hard to fit into my schedule. I would try to do them in the summer—maybe I did one or two a year if I was lucky.
The time when I knew I wanted to go into theatre was when I was supposed to do Hairspray. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough African Americans in the cast to do the show, so they changed the show to Jekyll and Hyde. They are two very different shows. I was going to back out because I thought the show wasn’t really my type. My mom convinced me to do it, and I did it, and I loved it. It was a completely new world to me. There’s very little dancing in that show, but I just loved every minute being on stage with it. From there, I realized how amazing musical theatre could be. So I decided to change my path a little bit. Senior year I made a big life change. I quit competition dance, which was all I did all throughout my childhood. I started training in the city. I left school everyday at about 11am, drove to the bus stop, and got on a bus to New York. I did the work-study program here at BDC and did an internship at Rosie’s Theatre Kids. I found a voice teacher, took acting lessons, and from there I really committed to making a lifestyle change and getting into musical theatre more.
It must’ve been a difficult decision to quit competition dancing after all those years.
That’s something I am realizing more now. I miss it everyday. I would do anything to go back to those days where I was a part of a team. There’s something comforting and exciting about being a part of a group where you spend so many hours together. We knew everything about each other and were so supportive of each other. I made some of my best friends, and even though we don’t see each other as much now, every time we get back together it’s just like the old days. We have so many memories from Nutcrackers and recitals and competitions. It’s something that I really, really miss and am trying to find here in New York. Although it’s such a big city with so many people, sometimes you can feel lost and lonely.
What are you up to now?
I just graduated from CAP21, and now I am living the dream. I am auditioning all the time. Things have started to slow down a little now, but these past two months have been crazy. I am just working survival jobs and am back on the work-study team at Broadway Dance Center, which is really awesome. I’ve met some great people there and I get to dance. I am continuing to train and am figuring it out step by step and day by day.
What was your experience during the audition season like?
It was definitely eye-opening. You always hear about audition season, and for some reason, I’ve heard that this year was out of control compared to past years. The one day that really, really struck me was an open call that had 400 people on the unofficial list at 7 in the morning. The audition was scheduled to start at 10am. There was another call that had names on the list at 1 in the morning. People are waking up at these crazy hours to go sign up themselves and their friends. I know we all try to help each other out, but it gets unfair in a sense. It’s been eye-opening to see how many people are pursuing it. It’s a little terrifying. Everyone says it’s going to be hard, but you don’t really realize it until you’re living it. It’s hard, but you just have to fight through it and figure it out.
What are your aspirations?
The main goal is Broadway. I want to do everything. I want to work on a cruise. I want to tour. I love to travel, so a tour would be so awesome. But, I love New York and I’d love to stay here and work on Broadway. I am also really interested in getting into commercials.
During your first audition season, was there a point where you wanted to quit?
Yeah, my mom hears about it all the time [laughs]. I am very, very lucky to have a supportive family. You go to these auditions everyday, and sometimes as a non-equity person, we’re lucky to be even seen. But auditioning is our job. Broadway is the dream.
Sometimes you have a great audition and you get cut. You don’t know what you did wrong, but sometimes that can get you down. A lot of things are out of your control. It can simply be because you’re too short and don’t fit into the costume. That’s why you have to take everything with a grain of salt. You just have to let it go.
Any memorable audition stories?
I had a pretty bad audition for a cruise ship. I had the dance combination down. They sent us out of the room and called us in three at a time. I went in, and I forgot the whole audition combo. They put us slightly off-center and made us dance on a diagonal, and it kinda threw me off, and I just forgot the whole combination. It rarely happens to me. When I left, I just had to laugh about it, because it’s just not worth getting too upset over it.
When you have a terrible day like that, what helps you get up the next morning and go at it again?
Taking dance class outside of auditioning. Even though sometimes it’s really hard to make it to class, it’s always worth it in the end. It reminds me why I love it. It keeps me motivated and driven.
What would be your number one advice?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not life or death. As a dancer, you always feel pressured to get it right. Sometimes you’re so hard on yourself that you’re not allowing yourself to be open and take risks. You almost get in your own way of growing because you try to be perfect. And no one is perfect. The best thing to do is watch others and learn from them. We do this for fun.
One thing I noticed growing up was that people always obsessed over little parts in high school or college shows.
It’s so true. Thinking back to them, they didn’t make or break my career. I’ve never won a title, but I don’t think that makes me a bad dancer. I scored relatively just as high as the other girls. Just because I didn’t have the crown or the sash, didn’t mean I was bad. And nobody cares about it in the real world anyway. It’s funny to think back on that now. All those little things we would get upset about.
Toughest time you’ve had as a performer?
I’ve had tough time with confidence—with fully believing in myself and not comparing myself with others. I could be dancing with a girl who’s amazing, and just because I can’t kick my leg up as high as she can, it doesn’t mean I am not good. I am my own self and my own person. I just need to trust that and believe in myself. You can easily get beaten down by comparing yourself with others. You’ll never be them, so there’s no point in doing that.
And you don’t want to be them.
Yeah, there’s already one of them. Why would I want to be the same as someone else, when I can be myself?
I’d have to say my last showcase. It was really, really exciting. Never in a thousand years would I have thought that I would graduate from a musical theatre conservatory and be singing in a showcase. I sang “I Want You Back,” so I got to groove and dance a little bit. That was really rewarding. I was really proud of myself.
Is there any last thing you want to share?
Remember to have fun and fight for what you want. We do this because we love it. We’re really lucky to be able to do this because not everyone can. Be open to learning from people around you. Watch others at dance class. Learn from them. When you think they did a good job, go over and give compliments. We need to support each other.