I started dancing late in life. I had always been a performer, but was more of a singer and actor. In fact, I was attending Louisiana State University (LSU) for Theater when dance first came into my life. When I was 19, I was asked to audition for A Chorus Line with a local community theater. I had never danced a day in my life, but I said, “ok!” The audition process was grueling and like nothing I had ever done before. The cast list was announced and I discovered I had been cast as Larry, the choreographer. Not only was this a primarily dancing role, the character often times needed to be perceived as the strongest dancer on stage.
Rehearsals were physically and emotionally taxing. Half the time I didn’t know what I was doing and kept getting frustrated with the unfamiliar terminology.
I met with the choreographer and we set up a schedule before and after rehearsals to go over the technical things. During one of our rehearsals he said to me, “You know, if you wanted to, you could do this for a living.” That compliment made me feel all my hard work had been worth it, and sparked an interest that would eventually grow into a love of dance.
In the end, my performance in the show was not the best I would ever have, but what I had accomplished was so satisfying, I knew that with hard work I would only continue to improve. It never occurred to me, prior to this experience, that dance would be something to pursue after this experience, but that’s what I did.
LSU didn’t offer a dance major, but they did offer a dance minor. I enrolled in dance classes the semester following A Chorus Line. While taking classes at LSU I discovered my love for modern. There was something about the style and the movement that just clicked with me. I found myself able pick up on the movement very easily, but knew I still needed a more solid foundation to help with my technique. I reached out to a local studio and received a scholarship. I was now dancing during the day at school and, at nights and weekends at the studio.
After graduation I got a job as a principle dancer with Theatre West Virginia. It was in West Virginia that I met Ilana who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would help shape who I was as a person, as well as a dancer. Ilana and I got along from the start, and when she jokingly asked if I wanted to move to Richmond with her, I said yes. I didn’t have any other plans after the summer, so I figured why not. It would be an exciting new journey that turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made.
What helped me to fall in love with Richmond was the abundance of arts and culture everywhere. I continued my training by taking adult classes. A short time after I moved here, I joined rva dance collective, under Artistic Directors, Jess Burgess and Danica Kalemdaroglu. It was a whole new world for me. The majority of my experience performing up until this point had been in musicals. This was the first time that I would be performing with a dance company. Performing with a professional dance company was very different than performing in a musical. I was used to short rehearsals and long runs of shows; now I was going through long rehearsal periods and short runs of shows. However, there was something more rewarding about the work that I was doing.
After a few years I moved from rva dance collective and started dancing with Dogwood Dance Project. Throughout my time there, I had the opportunity to develop myself into a more artistic role, and choreograph more for the company. Along the same timeline as my move to Dogwood, I began teaching dance at a local dance studio. I brought my love and experience of dance into a classroom full of young dancers. When I teach, I want nothing more than to inspire the creativity of young dancers, and foster a love of dance for a younger generation. One of my favorite and most impactful things I feel Dogwood does is with our Youth Ensemble. Every year we hold auditions for High School aged dancers to gain experience being a part of a professional level company. Many of us in Dogwood are teachers, and I love that we can teach these young dancers, by offering them experiences that they might not be able to get in a studio or at school.
I’ve lived in Richmond now for 9 years, and through that time I’ve been able to really build a life here. I owe so much of that to Ilana who brought me along with her on this journey and has always been a foundation for me. It was through Ilana that I connected with both rva dance collective and Dogwood Dance Project. It was through her that I found a place teaching at the local dance studio, and I followed her on her journey to open a studio with fellow dancers (and friends) Sarah Wicker and Tracy Clevenger. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to do what I love with one my best friends.
Starting late in life has caused me a lot of anxiety in my dancing. This anxiety has caused me to define for myself what it means to be a dancer and who I dance for. My realization is that I dance for me. I dance because I enjoy it. It makes me happy and allows me to express myself in a way that nothing else allows. Yes, I do hope that when people watch me dance it brings them enjoyment as well, but for me the point is more about internal fulfillment. Through dance I have a way to express myself that I never really had before I found dance. I’ve found a way to tap into my soul, through my body.
Looking back, the two biggest events in my life that have shaped who I am as a dancer have both involved saying yes to new experiences. I discovered my love of dance by becoming a part of a show outside of my comfort zone. And I grew as a dancer by taking a chance and moving to Richmond. Both times were scary and at times I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I think in the end, that is what has made my dance journey all the more rewarding and important for me.
About seven years ago my husband and I bought a house in Battery Park. We loved the house and the neighborhood and have built a life together here. The park brings together people from all over the city, not just those who live in the neighborhood. I chose Battery Park because it is home and reminds me of the life I have built in Richmond.