Max Vasapoli

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What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am the Assistant to the Director of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at The University of the Arts. I perform and teach with Opera Philadelphia and I am a communications consultant in the Philadelphia live arts industry. Recent and upcoming guest speaking credits include The University of the Arts, Temple University, Villanova University, ArtsTechNJ, and Theatre Communication’s Group.

 

Where are you based out of?

I’m based out of Philadelphia, PA but have worked regionally on the east coast for multiple companies. I grew up outside of Boston, MA with fellow guest blogger Ashley Talluto. (Hi, Ashley!)

 

When did you start your training?

I started in preprofessional productions and intensives at about 9. I worked consistently until late middle school when I started really training, attending more classes, and auditioning. For a dancer, I started training “late” around 13 or so, but my facility towards dance stemmed out of my work as a musical theater performer. The musicality, the expression, the rigorous schedule mirrored that of a theater production, so I quickly caught on and found dance was an outlet I wanted/needed. It wasn’t just something to support my theatre training, but a new love and passion.
As a singer and actor, my first professional training was with North Shore Music Theatre with their Stage 4 and Youth Performance Academy programs. This professional regional theater offers comprehensive training to aspiring talent in all performing arts disciplines. Beyond the unparalleled training, I met a plethora of fellow performers who went on to Broadway, television, film, and national tours. Even as teens, the training and development we underwent formed us into professional level performers.
At the same time, I trained with several dance schools and their competition teams. Most notably, Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studio truly opened my eyes to competitive dance and Broadway-style choreography. I felt at home at Chippendale’s because they were adept at training boys and young men in multiple disciplines. I never felt like the elephant in the room and was held to the same standards as every other dancer on my team. Competing with Chippendale’s introduced me to other dance leaders in the industry, many of whom I would cross paths with again in a professional setting.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a performer?

I don’t think I ever had an “Aha!” moment about my professional career. It developed out of moving toward and reaching each step on my way to becoming a professional. I set goals and continued to work toward them until I reached a professional level. One of the first times I realized this was something greater than I imagined was when I was working at a local pharmacy in my hometown during high school and left for about a month to work on a ballet. Working alongside the ballet company didn’t feel like “work.” It felt right and I knew it was the best decision for me. When I tried to go back to work in the pharmacy after a few weeks, they had omitted me from the schedule moving forward. This was the first time I had to really examine taking a gig over a day job. And as a fledgling dancer, I knew from then on the road wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

 

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

Like many performers, I worked on a lot on professional productions before I ever got paid for them. My very first paid gigs were choreographing and teaching for summer intensives at theater companies during summer breaks from college. I didn’t go the normal route of summer stock because I really liked working with students and having the chance to share my own choreography in a fully produced setting. I also got the chance to teach additional disciplines – Audition Technique, Voice and Speech, and Musical Theater Performance.

I taught at two programs that would later greatly impact my personal and professional life – Stoneham Theatre and Appel Farm Arts and Music Center. One of the unique aspects of the arts is that your students quickly become your colleagues. This happened with both of these programs, as many of my students are currently pursuing performance degrees or working alongside some of my professional contacts. Also, your contacts and coworkers can lead to additional work and opportunities, which is what came out of working at a regional cultural epicenter like Appel Farm in New Jersey.

While people often advise not to say no to any opportunity in the arts, I think it’s imperative to know when to say no and your worth as an artist. That being said, sometimes connection and increasing your network is more important than a paycheck.

 

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

I thought a long time about how to answer this question. I would love to say there was a teacher or coach that guided me to where I should go, but I was always very headstrong even as a kid. I didn’t spend years and years under one teacher, I moved around until I found what felt right. Now as a teaching artist, I know everyone who taught me was excellent at doing so, but I wanted to try everything and take from everyone.

Honestly, the people I felt who most impacted my professional life before I went to college were my parents. They realized my passion was more than a fleeting interest in the spotlight, it was all consuming. I read playbills like comics and collected stage credits while my peers played video games. My parents researched what to do next, where I should study, and what institutions matched my talents. While they were never stage parents or pushy in any way, they guided me to what was next and monitored my training needs. They drove me countless hours to auditions, to classes, and to performances. When I was really young, they would drive me to my performances hours away, stay to see the show, and then drive right back home when it ended late at night. This was a routine we shared for years, school night or not. I think being a professional child deepened my relationship with my family because we spent so much time together and were able to share the experience of creating.

Once I went to college, the professors and instructors I had were required to be currently working in the industry outside of the University. This was a great asset that I, admittedly, did not take enough advantage of as a student. I felt like I finally had my feet underneath me during my senior year of college when I started to get guidance and feedback from my professors that would profoundly guide how I later approached my work. The Tony-nominated Forest McClendon’s teachings stick with me to this very day. He is an ultra-positive but critical coach who gave my class honest feedback, introduced us to talent agents, and brought back experience from the front lines of auditioning. Of course, my movement and dance teachers -Tracy Librizzi, Rachel Kantra, Bill Buddendorf- were also incredibly impactful on the training I received. Once I went to college, I found it easier to connect with teachers and coaches, but for the first part of my life, my parents were my coaches and for that I am forever grateful.

 

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

I love a good rotating turntable onstage and I’ve been lucky enough to work on a few. The first was in Honk, Jr. at North Shore Music Theatre that encompassed the majority of the stage. There was a music cue that the stage started to turn and the choreography moved in the direction of the turntable. It was one of those moments as an early performer that I recognized the power of theater production and technology.
​There was a large rotating turntable in Opera Philadelphia’s Silent Night that served as trenches and battlefields of World War I. It was also raked, which means it is raised on an incline, so more of the surface is visible since one edge is higher and one is lower. The opera is incredibly cinematic and there is a poignant moment where the soldiers bury their fallen comrades. The scene freezes and then rotates so the audience gains an entirely different view of the scene.
​It is very challenging to work in the round, since you have to use different points of reference when you set staging. Usually the methods are the clock -11 o’clock, 6 o’clock, etc.- or degrees – 90 degrees, 180. It’s always a challenge, but it always makes for a memorable experience.

 

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

I’d have to say my high school’s auditorium holds a special place in my heart because I spent so much time there as a young performer.
Professionally, it would have to be the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. I graduated there and have since performed there pretty consistently. It houses a majority of the touring companies that come through, so it’s always exciting to see how transformative the space is even though it’s from the 1850s. In that sense, I’ve “shared” the stage with these tours since we share rehearsal space and as I often perform on the stage just weeks after the tour leaves. The energy and history backstage are palpable.

 

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

​Being a multidisciplinary artist, I have a few accomplishments that mean different things to me. As a performer, my proudest moment is performing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night with Opera Philadelphia. There are few times that you step into a first rehearsal of a piece that has had huge acclaim and begin to reconstruct that success with the show’s creators. Since the opera takes place in real time, it was a challenge to live in the war-torn world of the opera for hours at a time without leaving the stage.
As a communications consultant, my proudest moment is working with the international tour of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem before, during, and after the production’s tour stop in Camden, New Jersey. I grew up admiring the artistry and athleticism of Cirque and never imagined I would ever be a part of it. I recruited, trained, and managed all onsite employees in five departments in back and front of house positions. To share a lunch table with Cirque artists, learn how the tour travels, and watch the entire operation break down into trucks was an honor and a pleasure few get to experience.

 

What were the largest obstacles you’ve had in pursuing your professional career?

​There were some major obstacles I overcame to get to where I am today. The major one has always been balancing family and work. It’s common for performers to be away from loved ones for long periods of time. I’ve missed birthdays and holidays for work. It’s a tough part of what we do, but I know my family supports me in whatever venture I take part in.
​Another major obstacle is finding the right time to jump full time into the arts. It took me a long time to feel comfortable to leave day jobs behind and only pursue the arts. The major turning point was when a studio invited me to teach a sample lesson and I had to turn it down due to work. I could have lined up a teaching gig, but I was standing in my own way.
​In a broader sense, it’s taken me some time to learn how to network and follow up without feeling a little funny about doing so. Once I started to meet decision-makers in the industry, it became easier to reach out to ask for recommendations or ideas. It was difficult to ask for help or for introductions, but now I can’t imagine where I would be without asking for help. “You won’t get fed if you don’t come to the table.”

 

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a performer?

The first opera I performed in, The Italian Girl In Algiers, with Opera Philadelphia. It was my first taste of a collaborative work environment with international artists. Opera is very unique in that most directors and opera stars are from all over the world and usually specialize in a composer or a character type. Language barriers in the rehearsal room are ever presents and it can be a challenge to find a language everyone can understand. Spanish and Italian are typically safe bets.
Anyway, I was fresh out of college and recovering from an injury when I stepped into rehearsals last minute. The Assistant Director started setting a scene that required strong character work and over-the-top choreography. Instead of demonstrating, he would verbally string together combinations that I would dance. He made minor tweaks and would ask me to incorporate them – hands here, head there, hit this mark. We kept at it until he liked what he saw and he finally said, “Wow, you’re like a Rockette.” That was a great feeling: to impress someone who made their living doing this piece, excel at the demands of the show, and fully recover from an injury that I thought might compromise my career.
Little did I know, the rehearsal room had concrete under wood paneling and not sprung floors. I hobbled to rehearsal with some serious shin splits over the next few days, so it also ended up being a lesson in maintenance and knowing your limits. It was a life changing experience in that I still perform with Opera Philadelphia six years later and am a short list performer for movement pieces they produce.

Oh, and as an audience member – War Horse. It completely reinvigorated me to get back on stage. It is the type of theater I love and I was lucky to get a backstage tour of the show.

 

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

My pre show ritual, especially for operas, is to abstain from food and caffeine a few hours before curtain. I like to do a full warm up from head to toe. I spend a lot of time breathing and centering my breath. I drink a ton of water to stay hydrated. I love to listen to Top 40s to get amped up. Right before I enter, I love to make silly faces with cast mates to release any anxiousness.
No superstitions to adhere to. I like to think rehearsal prepares you for anything that might go wrong, which I why I am a huge supporter of fight call and the like. I like to settle in the rehearsal removing any sense of unknowing or unsettled energy.

 

What inspires you to keep going?

​My major inspiration to keep going is the belief that performance is an integral part of the human experience and acts a window to society. The most prolific creators are known for their unapologetic or innovative way of approaching the art. As someone who is trained to bring these stories to life, I crave that storytelling aspect of performance. It’s mutually beneficial because what brings the performer into unfamiliar territory leads to the largest personal gain. And sometimes you get to play a dancing Alligator, like I did in Opera Philadelphia’s Magic Flute last season, and you get to bring joy to thousands of people every performance.

 

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be performing?

This is a tough one. Finding a career path in the arts is challenging since you usually have to go where you can get work. In 15 years, I like to have an advanced education of some sort, more collegiate speaking credits to my name, a wider rolodex of creators and colleagues, a few more passport stamps, and some sort of legacy to leave. I’d like to be happy and healthy somewhere with my family and friends creating pieces for young audiences. I will always have dance in my life one way or another and I hope to pass along my love of the art to the next generation.

 

What are your goals outside of dance?

My goals outside of dance and performing are to spend more time with my family, travel more, work more effectively, and to become a go to person for connecting creative types. I’ve never been one for the family/house/kids dream. I wouldn’t turn away from it though. I just think there are things I want to accomplish while I still have expendable time and energy.

 

What advice would you give to dancers looking towards collegiate study or currently pursuing a performing arts degree?

​Having gone to a competitive program, I can tell you that the easiest part of earning your degree is getting accepted into a reputable program. It’s very difficult at times to stay enrolled in a highly competitive program because of money, injuries, and street. The attrition at conservatory style programs is high because of these factors and also because people often underestimate the demands of the program or realize they want a more traditional college experience.

​I would advise those beginning their college search to seek out current students or graduates of a program they are interested in for better idea of how they can best prepare for the audition and how to navigate the program. A BFA is a tough choice for students who also want to study other things at the same time, maintain a job, or want a college experience with homecomings and pep rallies. It’s a very concise program of study for those committed to taking their performance to the highest possible level. It’s competitive, exhausting, and completely rewarding.
​For those currently enrolled in such a program, my advice would be to play nice. Just like in the audition scene of Center Stage, every student was considered the best dancer at their hometown studio. In college, you have to learn to drop that pretense because every classmate and every professor is now your professional network. Many professors hire their students or recommend them for work. It’s your job to be on the short list of recommended students, not to criticize others. When school ends, your own worth ethic is the only one that matters. That’s not a pass to put down others; it’s a reminder to work on yourself regardless of outsiders.
​Robert Battle, the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey, spoke at the commencement of The University of the Arts just last month and one of his statements stuck with me. “Pay attention or you’ll pay for it. Pay attention long enough and you’ll get paid for it.” I love this sentiment because it speaks to the student within all of us. It’s not enough to just show up to class and expect to better yourself; it has to be something you work for every second and even once you land the gig.

 

As a male dancer, what would you tell other male dancers just starting out?

​When I first started dance training, I had a large learning curve ahead of me. I ended up taking varying levels of styles to catch up. I would take class with younger student and classes with advanced level students. This was slightly embarrassing but it helped me immensely.

​While there were a few people who gave me slack for taking part in dance, I silenced naysayers by the quality of my skill and opportunities I gained as a dancer. There was no doubt that I stood out as a performer and anyone who poked fun of my interest understood when they saw me in performance. From competition, I learned that there were many more male dancers out there who shared my interest and wowed me with their technique. I was so impressed by one school’s male dancers in particular that I sought out training there to finish out high school.

​A strong dance background aided me greatly when I auditioned for musical theater college programs. I think it set me apart from the competition since most singing actors are not as well versed in dance technique and performance. Once I left college, my affinity towards partnering and social dance were vital assets to my career. Even in social situations, the taunting I received as a teen has been replace with men telling me they wish they knew how to dance and lead a partner like I can.

​Don’t ever give up. The dance industry will always need well trained and versatile male dancers, especially of color. Dance can open many more doors than sports ever will. That’s why many athletes turn to dance to support their physical regimen.

 

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

My advice to performers just starting out would be to stay positive, fortuitous, and cordial with your peers. I started working with Opera Philadelphia in 2008 from a recommendation through a classmate who was working in production at the company. It’s vital to network and stay in contact with people you work and train with. Personal recommendations are crucial in the small world of the arts.

​I had a professor in my last semester of college who had us calculate just how much training we had received – hour by hour – from when we had started training as kids. The purpose of the exercise was to show that you should never be nervous walking into an audition room or attend a call. We had spent the majority of our lives preparing and could rest easy that technique was now engrained with everything we did. Now it was time to enjoy the process.

​For those in the thick of it, I would say that very few highly successful performers luck into a great contract. Of course, being at the right place at the right time certainly helps, but I think it’s more important to be prepared when a huge opportunity presents itself. Being prepared includes going to class, meeting the next person, trying a new avenue to achieve something. Great jobs rarely land in your lap; it’s up to you to make opportunities come your way.

 

What music are you listening to right now?

​Pandora. Top 40s. Some operas, some showtunes.

List five inspirations.

​The moment before the curtain goes up.
​A child’s first time peforming.
​A first rehearsal.
​My family’s well wishes.
​Creative types that share your aesthetic.

 

Max Vasapoli is a seasoned educator and communications consultant in the Philadelphia live arts industry. Since receiving his BFA in Musical Theater from The University of the Arts, Max has worked with theatres like the Arden Theatre Company, Stoneham Theatre, Off Broad Street Theatre, and Theatre Exile. Vasapoli performs and teaches with Opera Philadelphia where he was seen in the Opera On The Mall broadcasts of Carmen and Nabucco, the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, and on news segments like CBS Philly’s Love the Arts in Philadelphia, 6ABC Loves The Arts, and WHYY’s Friday Arts. Recently, Max worked alongside Cirque du Soleil’s international tour of Totem in Camden, NJ. Recent and upcoming guest speaking credits include The University of the Arts, Temple University, Villanova University, ArtsTechNJ, and Theatre Communication’s Group.

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Photo Credit: Top photo by Robert Mannis, bottom by Kelly & Massa Photography

Sarah Svoboda

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What are you currently working on?

I am currently getting ready to open West Side Story, as Graziella/Dream Maria, at Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg, VA.

Where are you based out of?

I was born and raised just out side of St. Louis, MO and that is where I reside in between contracts. Its a nice break to see family and friends and explore more avenues of the performance world (ie: voice lessons, working with a Magician as his assistant/dancer, and helping gymnasts improve their dance technique). I have been blessed with open doors to my parents/friends homes each time I am home and its been so helpful to SAVE on renting while on contracts.

When did you start your training?

I grew up starting with playing soccer, always outside flying kites, rolling in the grass, and play HORSE (basketball game) with the neighbors. I didn’t really care too much for soccer but stayed with it for a couple years, until at 10 my next door neighbor Leah asked me to come to her pom-pom class… Who knew a pom-pom class would get me hooked but I didn’t want to leave. I remember coming home and begging, and then at Christmas being given a ballet slipper ornament with a card saying I will start with a ballet class in January! I was so excited but had a lot to catch up on! For the first year and a half (until I was 12) I was with 5/6 year olds just learning the basics and looking forward to dance classes. Our studio was small but there was such a great group of performers. I started getting into competition and danced with them until I was 16 and our studio closed down. I took my junior year of HS off and realized that I wanted this to be my career. I took a jazz and ballet class at another studio my senior year and applied to POINT PARK and never looked back! I had some incredible training from brilliant professors and added to that when I studied abroad my last semester, in Paris, at Studio Harmonic.

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

I’m quite stubborn/Type A and I think the more I started thinking about it, looking into schools that offered dancing as a degree and then hearing others ask how I was going to make it work… well it then pushed me to realize how much more I wanted this and knowing that I would rather be happy loving what I do, making very little than the opposite. So if I had to really pinpoint a time of deciding on it being my career… was Senior Year of High School.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

As a teacher/choreographer it was the year after I graduated and completed my yoga, pilates, and fitness certificates and was asked to teach in Ann Arbor, MI. As a dancer it was 2007 (after completing my year contract in MI) on Carnival Elation Cruise for 9 months. From there on out I have been blessed with some amazing contracts, in different areas/genres of dancing and with EXTREMELY TALENTED choreographers, directors, and fellow
performers. I’m in awe at the performers I have shared the stage with over the years. True blessings.

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

At my dance studio it was Ms. Christy(jazz) and Ms. Missy (ballet) for pushing me and believing in me.. although watching the other performers around you is also a way of helping you to achieve growth in your performance abilities. In college one of our ballet teachers Mr. Jay Kirk, and our jazz/contemporary teacher (Keisha). I took from so many different instructors at Studio Harmonic for 6 months that a lot of them were influential but on so many different levels. The four listed above will forever and always stick with me. I have too many to name in my professional career, because anyone that has cast me has been a huge role in my life due to their belief in me and helping me further my career. Above all of these is God for giving me this gift and drive, and my parents, family, and friends for their continued support. We all know its not easy and we will continue to have ups and downs, its how you push through and not give up that makes you a truly appreciate all the people that have come into your life.

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

As ridiculous as this may sound, I don’t have a FAVORITE because to me every moment on stage is a blessing, no matter who’s on stage with me or who is in the audience. The jobs are few and far between for how many of us are striving for this dream, so truly appreciating each time we step on stage can change your not only your outlook, but your life.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

Oh wow, hmm, I think the traveling at sea has been incredible.. I may not be performing on a stage in Italy or London…but some of the most incredible audiences have come from being on a cruise ship and I have been again, BLESSED, to experience some wonderful ports.

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

Honestly, all of my contracts have been a triumph. I’m forever grateful for the things I have been able to do/experience thus far and know that they all contributed to a ‘successful’ career. I’m not done performing, I know and truly feel that, so at this time I will say ALL. If one has to be chosen then what I’m doing now, WEST SIDE STORY, is my greatest triumph. I NEVER thought in a million years I would get to actually be cast in a
musical because I never believed (and still very much have a hard time) in my vocal/acting abilities. While I don’t have a lot of those particular parts in this show, its such a classic and such an honor to be a part of, so I choose THIS!

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?

Nope, all have shaped me into the person I am/want to be as a performer. They all are different because of the directors, choreographers, staging, costumes, character roles, styles of dancing, and performers that are on stage. I have experienced new growth from each, and hope to continue on this journey. There is always room for growth and new things!

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

Yes, I have a little crocheted pocket that has a cross in it and before each and every show I take time out, and say prayers for the safety of every performer and to continue to share the joy I feel in my heart with the audience.

What inspires you to keep going?

Seeing others strive and making connections with individuals that aspire for the same journey- to be open minded and accept new adventures that the ‘entertainment’ world has to offer. There are so many and the more you open yourself up to new creations, sometimes you find you have more possibilities than you ever thought before.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?

Actually in 15 years, I don’t see myself dancing. I haven’t gotten down to knowing exactly what I’ll be doing, as a performer well, we all change our minds a lot! So I feel that when its time to stop performing, I’ll know because I’ll feel it in my heart. I’m not ‘scared’ of moving onto a different path one day, I just know its not yet. I’ll cross that bridge when it gets there. For now, I’m just going to to continue to be thankful for the contracts I do get, have had, and am currently on!

What are your goals outside of dance?

I love nutrition, I love helping others pursue and succeed in their careers, and I hope to continue to in some way or another following in those footsteps for the rest of my life.

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

As hard as it can get at times, and gosh there are so many talented individuals out there that can tell you no matter how good you are it CAN BE TOUGH… just know that there is going to be different opinions from one person to the next. As many no’s as you may receive, please please don’t give up. If this is your passion, your drive, and your life… DON’T LET THE NO’S OVERWHELM YOU. Accept them, be angry/upset/and emotional about them, but take a deep breathe and tell yourself that there is a reason for everything and its not one door shut and another open… its actually ONE SMALL WINDOW closed for a HUGE door to open!

What music are you listening to right now?

I listen to whatever I’m feeling that day. Sometimes it’s top hits, sometimes country, sometimes Christian, it is whatever helps me keep moving forward and feeling happy.

List five inspirations.

1. GOD
2. FAMILY
3. FRIENDS
4. PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
5. SEEING OTHERS SUCCEED!

http://www.sarahsvoboda.com

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Ashley Talluto

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What are you currently working on?

I am currently Velma (one of the Jet girls) and dance captain on the 2nd National Tour of West Side Story.

Where are you based out of?

I live in New York City with my husband Joe and our cat Miles. I was born and raised in North Reading, Massachusetts about a half an hour north of Boston.

When did you start training?

I wouldn’t quite say started training, but I started taking dance class at 4 years old. I immediately fell in love with it. Everything about the music, costumes, and expressing myself at that young of an age was for me. At the same time my mother put me into soccer. I would do cartwheels out in the field and pull up the grass. We definitely knew that I was more suited for a dance studio than a soccer field.

I got more serious about taking class and training around 10 years old. At the time I began to understand that I had to focus on technique to really be able to express myself. At that time I started taking more ballet classes.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a dancer?

In fifth grade one of my teachers encouraged me to audition for The Albany Berkshire Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Needless to say I was cast as Clara. I remember seeing the professionals and really being treated like one. That made me realize that this was truly something I wanted to pursue. It was also the first time that I performed in a professional production. I loved the dancing, but also the fact that I played a character and was part of the story.

Who were your mentors and what role did they play in your growth as an artist?

My first mentor is Leslie Woodies. She taught me both in high school at The Boston Ballet School as well as at The Boston Conservatory. Leslie was a principal dancer with Boston Ballet and went on to move to New York City and play Cassie in A Chorus Line on Broadway. She had a vibrant career that spanned from ballet, to broadway, to film. She was a huge inspiration to me and truly taught me that anything was possible. Leslie showed me that you could be a ballet dancer and sing and perform in musical theater. She taught me to constantly push my boundaries and to not be satisfied until I got to my next goal. She taught me that its ok to continue to redefine yourself. As an artist I have transitioned quite a bit from ballet dancer, to contemporary dancer, to theater dancer etc. I know that if I really follow what inspires me that I will be able to express myself in any medium.

My second mentor was also a teacher that I had at Boston Ballet, Carol Roderick. Carol would never let any of her students settle. She knew that each and everyone of us had our own potential and she wanted us all to excel. She taught me that you may have to make sacrifices to truly commit to yourself and your art.

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

My favorite memory on stage was opening night of The West Side Story tour at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. The moment the whole cast entered the stage for Dance at The Gym. It is such a powerful moment in the show with the music and electrifying energy.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

My favorite experience performing so far has been in Anchorage, Alaska. The West Side Story tour was there for two weeks this past January. It was such an incredibly beautiful and removed place, but the people and community were so appreciative and generous to us for bringing our art to them.

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

My greatest triumph to date has been booking West Side Story. Since graduating college in 2008 I had auditioned for this show over 13 times! I knew that I would not be satisfied in my career until I performed in West Side Story.

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?

In college at The Boston Conservatory my senior production was a full piece of improvisation. That piece really allowed me to push beyond the constraints of technique and steps and truly find the freedom in my dancing. Each night was a completely new experience on stage and I learned so much from the uncertainty and just trusting myself and the dancers around me.

Do you have pre-show ritual or superstition?

I say to myself “Nail It!”

Where do you see yourself in 15 year?

In 15 years I will definitely still be a part of this industry. I hope to really hone in on my creativity and be choreographing and inspiring the next generation of dancers.

What inspires you to keep going?

This industry is constantly changing and shifting. You never know what new production is going to be perfectly suited for you or will inspire you in a new way. I love seeing the way the dance, music, aerial arts and basically any mode of creativity is used today. My friends are also huge inspirations. I have friends who are constantly creating their own works and pushing boundaries in this business.

List five inspirations:

My family
My husband Joe
My good friend and fellow performer Zanza Steinberg who climed Mt. Kilimanjaro last year with Awareness Through Dance to raise money for Giving Africa and is artistic director for Alma Dance Company NYC.
Frank Sinatra
Bob Fosse

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NYC DANCE WEEK IS BACK!

Get your dance on for free! Mark your calendars!

NYC Dance Week 2014 Set For June 19-28, 2014

Third Annual Celebration of Dance Offers Free Classes at
Studios, Parties, Performances, Workshops and more

New York, NY — NYC Dance Week, the 10-day festival of free and discounted dance, fitness and wellness classes, will take place at dance studios across New York’s five boroughs from June 19-28, 2014. In addition to Dance Week’s 2014 Studio Partner, Mark Morris Dance Center, this year, the festival will also offer classes in collaboration with The Ailey Extension, Power Pilates, Ballet Academy East, Dancewave and more. Dance Week invites New York studios, dance students, businesses, volunteers and other organizations to participate in the largest and most inspiring Dance Week to date. Required registration for the festival is now open online at
http://nycdanceweek2014.eventbrite. com .

Leading up to the festival, NYC Dance Week will present a series of high-energy dance parties across the city throughout Spring 2014, kicking off with a May Meet & Greet at the Gibney Dance Center (890 Broadway). Two Get Down Dance Parties will be hosted at Cielo (18 Little West 12th Street) on Thursday, April 24 and Thursday, May 29 and the Festival Kick-Off Party will take place at m1-5 Lounge (52 Walker Street) on Tuesday, June 10th. All parties are open to the general public.

During the festival, participants may join any in an exciting array of dance and fitness classes, from classical ballet to West African dance to Pilates to Zumba. NYC Dance Week continues to push beyond traditional dance styles to demonstrate how all movement benefits the mind, body and spirit. NYC Dance Week has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $1,000 to cover some of the production and administrative costs of this year’s festival. Festival-goers wishing to contribute $5 can visit
http://igg.me/at/nycdanceweek2014/x
or
https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=4140 .

Unique NYC Dance Week 2014 events include Fitness Labs, classes designed to push dance skills to the next level through personal coaching; an Injury Prevention Workshop at Peridance Capezio Center on Thursday, June 19 to maintain health throughout a week of vigorous dancing and movement; andperformances of new dance works at a special showcase by NYC10 at Dixon Place on Wednesday, June 25.

NYC Dance Week 2014 will release a full schedule of events in the upcoming week. To stay updated with the latest news from Dance Week, please visit the festival’s website at www. nycdanceweek.org, like the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/NYC-Dance-Week/185085796592 and follow the party on Twitter @nycdanceweek.

About NYC Dance Week
NYC Dance Week collaborates with both new and established studios in New York City to celebrate the joy and diversity of dance with an annual 10-day event of free dance, fitness and wellness classes. The celebration encourages New York City to experience dance, inspiring all to love and maintain active, healthy and energized lifestyles. The festival is held every June at dozens of venues throughout New York City and benefits thousands of participants. Throughout the year, Dance Week continues to promote dance studios and companies through its newsletter, projects, dance/fitness events and partnerships. Nearly 40 local studios partner with the organization each year to increase public awareness and unite the dance community. For more information, please visit:
http://nycdanceweek.org/the-festival#sthash.IQQXKV3q.dpuf .

About NYC10
NYC10 is a sister project of NYC Dance Week. It’s a dance initiative where 10 emerging dance companies/dance groups/dance troupes are given up to 10 minutes to showcase their work. NYC10 is a unique opportunity to showcase new work awaiting feedback and reviews. It’s a platform to expand and explore new repertoires or simply try something new. For more information, please visit:
http://nycdanceweek.org/nyc10#sthash.7xpAXXWD. dpuf .

NYC Dance Week and NYC10 are both produced by Tendu Inc., organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes to promote diversity of dance in the City of New York. NYC Dance Week and NYC10 are fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas and partly sponsored by FitEngine Inc., a website that provides empirical views, technical fitness insight and expertise on wellness programs and fitness classes.

About our Partner Studio, Mark Morris Dance Center
The Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY, is home to the Mark Morris Dance Group and houses seven fully-equipped, column-free studios with sprung floors and natural light, ranging in size from 430 ft² to 3,600 ft². The Dance Center offers over 40 dance and fitness classes per week for adult students of all levels and abilities, plus Master Classes, Workshops and the free Dance for PD® program. The School at the Mark Morris Dance Center provides a diverse range of classes for children and teens ages 4-17, of all dance abilities. There is also a Student Company, professional and pre-professional Summer/Winter Intensives, as well as Parent-Toddler movement classes. Live music is a feature of all dance classes. For more information, please visit:
http://nycdanceweek.org/the-festival/partners#sthash.x1Wh4GDo.dpuf .

Meredith Bove

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What are you currently working on?

I just completed my MFA in Dance at Hollins University in July, so I’ve been slowly recovering from a year of really hard work and inquiry. Besides this I’m also dancing in a new work by Jillian Peña, “The Guiding Light,” which will have its premiere at the Chocolate Factory in New York, December 5th-8th.

Where are you based out of?

After finishing school, I had a couple of months where I didn’t really feel based anywhere…though I was mostly sort of hanging around in Berlin. I’ve just moved to Baltimore this month, which is a totally new city for me. I’m excited to get acquainted with the dance and arts scene here.

When did you start your training?

I started training pretty young, when I was 5 or so. There was a lot of ballet during my childhood/teen years. I went to the University of the Arts for my undergraduate degree, and began to be really inspired by modern and contemporary forms.

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

I think I decided pretty young. Early teens or so…there was just something about dancing that I knew I couldn’t really live without.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

My first job as a professional dancer was in French choreographer Jérôme Bel’s “the show must go on.” It was an exciting experience that opened me up to European postmodern performance. I was inspired by the conceptual nature of this work, and it helped me realize that meaning in dance didn’t have to be solely anchored to physicality and form.

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

So many people…I’m grateful to all of the teachers and mentors in my life who’ve encouraged creativity and fearless questioning. Curt Haworth, Manfred Fischbeck, Christine Cox, Jennifer Binford Johnson, Jeffery Bullock, Glenna Batson, Thomas DeFrantz, HeJin Jang, Jesse Zaritt, Amanda K. Miller…

These people taught me so much about the balance between trust and questioning in artistic practice…which feels like a scale that’s continually re-adjusting and re-balancing.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

In Berlin I performed in a lot of unconventional performance spaces, like art openings that took place in squats and warehouses and stuff like this. I found these experiences really fulfilling, as they required me to think about dance in ways that were new for me, like how it can be interactive, and how it can fit into an aesthetic other than a fully polished theatrical event.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

I don’t think I really have a set ritual or superstition. Mostly I just need to do things that get me to feel really grounded and centered. This often includes practicing alignment techniques, and focusing on my breath. Usually not a whole lot of talking…I become fairly non-verbal before performances. Unless the work includes talking of course…

What inspires you to keep going?

I really believe in dance and its inherent potential for inviting a different way of interacting with the world and each other. I think it’s so important for people to keep feeling, questioning and being in touch with their bodies. Dance’s value often feels pretty elusive in its material rewards, and in the way that it’s placed in society. But because of this, I feel even more determined to keep dancing and expanding dance’s audience. We need arts that show us possibilities beyond what we already know…even if these visions only last for the duration of a performance, they help us imagine other realities worth striving for.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?

I really hope so! I hope to be continuing to make work, performing, and teaching. I imagine my dancing practice will change with age…I’m looking forward to seeing how I can have dance be an evolving constant in my life amidst other variables.

What are your goals outside of dance?

I guess I’ve sort of stopped thinking about my dancing life and my “other life”…to me the goal is to get them to be fused as one thing. Easier said than done, but along these lines, one of my goals is to do work that helps strengthen dance’s presence in places where it’s absent. I’d really like to aid in bringing dance to unconventional places, like maybe to kids in public school systems? This seems like a good place for me to start.

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

For me, dance’s richness lies in the fact that in can be so super-structured, while simultaneously remaining abstract. My advice would be to always trust your body, and the beautiful clarity of flesh, muscle, bones, alignment…from this concrete place there are infinite possibilities! I think structure can be used to fearlessly dive into the abstract, the elusive, the unknown…the reality of the body will always be a home to return to.

What music are you listening to right now?

Lately there’s been a lot of folk and country…I think moving back to the US from Berlin has me stuck on this kind of stuff. Mostly I’ve been listening to Hurray for the Riff Raff, Vetiver, Deer Tick, Elvis Perkins, Jenny Lewis as well as some classics like Emmy Lou Harris, Jonathan Richman, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt.

List five inspirations.

Cooking, the Whitechapel Gallery “Documents of Contemporary Art” series, Werner Herzog, the Art 21 series on pbs, birds.

Bio: Meredith Bove hails from a small town in Vermont. In 2008 she received her BFA in dance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Shortly after earning her BFA she moved to Berlin where she enjoyed performing and collaborating with many amazing people. She has presented work at various venues in Berlin, including the adastudio, Salon Bruit, K77, and Die Kunst Apotheke, as well as with the Gruntwork collective. Additionally, she has performed in the work of Jérôme Bel, Zinzi Buchanan, Luis Lara Malvacías, and Jillian Peña, and has enjoyed collaborations with dancer/choreographer Andrea Jenni and sound and conceptual artist Luke Munn. Most recently, Meredith earned her MFA from the Hollins University/American Dance Festival MFA in Dance program.

Website: http://www.vimeo.com/user2553006

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Picture Credits:
1-2. Grant Halverson
3. Carl Simpson

Douglas Robbins

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What are you currently working on?

A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theater in Manchester, NH.

Where are you based out of?

Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I have been taking charter buses into NYC for auditions for the past year and a half or so, hopefully with the New Year (2013) I’ll be able to base myself out of NYC!!

When did you start your training?

I started training when I was 18 in college. I attended college at SUNY Cortland in Cortland, NY for musical theater. The program as a minimum requires one ballet a semester plus 2 dance electives. Shortly into my first semester there my ballet teacher saw that I was picking up things quickly and I soon found myself in dance class from eight in the morning until seven at night and then running to rehearsal in the evenings. They were truly incredible there, and I can not begin to express my thanks to them for investing so much of their time, energy and love into me. Not only did they give me a foundation as a dancer and a performer but they gave me experience as a young dance teacher and a choreographer as well- essentially everything I would need for a life in dance, and at that young age, how can you even begin to understand what you are being given?

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

When I realized I could be good at it. I spent most of my life never really believing I could be good at anything, but it eventually had become undeniable that dance was something that I could do, and after I realized that I COULD do it, I dove right in without looking back. I will never forget the moment I felt as if I had “become” a dancer though- I’ll always remember it as an entirely surreal moment. Ironically, it had nothing to do with achieving something in dance- it didn’t come from an extra turn or a spectacular leap, it arrived in the smallest and most unexpected of ways. I was in a ballet class during my first year of college, and it came a time when I was exiting a relationship I really wanted to work and at a time when my family was going through a lot, I also felt that I was so far away from so many of my close friends that first year in college. Anyway, I remember it was at the barre, I remember we were doing battement fondue and we were turning around to the other side. I was burning hot and my mind was just flooded with these different things that were stressing me, and then I felt the cool metal of the barre beneath my left hand….I just had this overwhelming feeling of belonging, and certainty….and also reliability. I was so shocked and grateful for this feeling that I began to tear up in class. My teacher walked by, and she almost gave corrections to everyone as she made her way around class, and she took one look at my face and just continued on. I was so happy she noticed, and I was so happy she didn’t ask.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

Tap dancing in Crazy for You! I was having a blast as a dancer and an assistant dance captain with one of my best friends, and I was most definitely crazy for somebody. It was a truly beautiful time.

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

My primary mentors were a husband and wife team- Kevin and Cindy Halpin. They, to this day, have given me my technique and my own style as a dancer and a performer- they were always incredible about giving me opportunities to fine my own artistry in dance- sometimes it was by teaching for them sometimes it was for choreographing for them and sometimes it was in performing for them. They are incredible, they took an 18 year old with no experience and lanky limbs and worked ceaselessly to make him a dancer, often believing in this kid when he didn’t believe in himself. Cindy was my ballet instructor and she was incredible about consistency and persistence as a teacher- there was most definitely a right and a wrong way to do everything in her own class. Kevin, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It would not be uncommon to do an entire dance for Kevin and have no true vocabulary for any of the positions or steps! Between the two of them I received and incredible mixture of order and chaos at the same time and I think when I look at the performer I am today that’s what I think people see.

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

I don’t know if I have an absolute favorite, there are so many wonderful ones. I do have a little ritual for every opening though- I take a moment to thank God for letting me do what I love and blessing me to be lucky enough to do it. Then I have a bit of a cry and I walk on stage.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

(See Above) Also I always have coffee before a show…and more often than not I’ll have chocolate too!

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

I honestly think it would be my college, it was like being at home there. I remember my freshman year I got on the cherry picker and went to the top of the proscenium and painted my initials on the back of it in red paint….they are renovating the theater now. I hope my initials make it through!

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

I have no idea, but I think if your a dancer, every audition, every job, every performance is a bit of a triumph. Some larger than others, but triumphs none the less.

What inspires you to keep going?

Just the desire to perform! There are so many stories I want to tell, and every show is a chance to tell a different story.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?

Hopefully in 15 years I am choreographing for a living, for my own dance company, which will be famous. A boy can dream right?

What are your goals outside of dance?

To live a happy life, to have a husband and kids. And of course a dog too!

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

Don’t give up, and above all believe in yourself. You can do it, and you can do more than you think you can, just keep working hard and pushing yourself!

What music are you listening to right now?

Ingrid Michaelson is playing in the living room of my cast house. Privately I am listening to a lot of Jason Mraz, P!nk, Beyonce, and Meatloaf these days.

List five inspirations.

1. Music
2. Nature
3. Emotions
4. Seeing some one else do something incredible
5. Hope

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Jeremy Towle

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What are you currently working on?
I am about to go into rehearsals for “A Christmas Carol” at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, MA. After that I’ll be back on the road with “The Aluminum Show” in Moscow, Russia! Then I’ll be dancing in “On The Town” at the Lyric Stage in Boston!
Where are you based out of?
I am based out of Boston, MA.
When did you start your training?
I didn’t take my first dance class until I was 20 years old. I was a cheerleader all through middle school, high school, and college. So I had rhythm and flexibility. And as a theater/acting major at the University of Maine you had to take two dance classes. The first class I took was modern dance 101 at 8:30am. Let’s just say it was a rough class. The teacher loved that I could actually move and said to take her jazz class the next semester. So I did. I also found out later in my college years that I needed a foreign language requirement. I couldn’t fit it in within my 4 years there, so I had to go an extra year just for that. So I took a lot of dance classes, modern, jazz, ballet, choreography, etc and was able to get my dance minor!
When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?
When I finished college I wanted to be an actor. Musical theater seemed to melt the dance, acting, and song into one.
What was your first professional job as a dancer?
My first professional job was with Snappy Dance Theater in Boston, MA. I had moved to Reading, MA to start working at an all-star cheerleading gym. As I was watching TV late at night, a show about the arts in Boston came on. And it featured Snappy Dance Theater. It was right up my alley. It was a contemporary company that blended all the disciplines of the fellow company members. And they loved my cheerleading background.
Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?
My first would be my middle school and high school music teacher, Mr. Henry Noonan. Growing up, he took us on so many different trips to perform. That is when I went to Washington DC for the first time, New York City for the first time and saw my first Broadway show, CATS! He will always be in my memory and heart. Also, Ann Ross, my first dance teacher at the University of Maine. Martha Mason, the artistic director for Snappy Dance Theater. She took a chance on me and started me on the path.
What’s your favorite memory on stage?
I have so many. One great memory was performing with “The Aluminum Show” in Madrid, Spain on my birthday and having be gay PRIDE outside our theater door. It was AWESOME! I also did a production of “La Cage aux Folles” at the Reagle Music Theater with some of the original broadway company members. That was one of my favorite experiences.
What is your favorite place you have ever performed?
I have performed all over the world. I loved Madrid, Spain. But I loved traveling the US performing to full houses. That was nice.
What has been your greatest triumph to date?
I guess “The Aluminum Show” would be my greatest and biggest to date.
Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?
“The Aluminum Show” was in Edmonton, Canada and we did a morning show for some physically and mentally handicapped kids. That was a lot of fun, to see their faces light up. Inspiring to say the least. Companies that I have seen that have changed me would be Momix or Pilobolus. I love what they do, so visual. Lunar Sea is one of my favorites!
Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?
I am not a religious person but spirited. So before I start a show, right before I take my first steps onstage, especially on opening night and closing night, I would look up and give a wink to my family up there watching over me, in hopes they would watch over me as I perform.
What inspires you to keep going?
That feeling you get on stage. It’s great!
Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?
WOW, I have no idea. I would love to be in the arts still. I would still be acting. Who knows!
What are your goals outside of dance?
I would love to win the lottery. But as of right now, I’m in the moment.
Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just
starting or in the thick of it?
Keep going, it is going to be rough. You will hear no a lot, but don’t worry about it. Keep pushing through.
What music are you listening to right now?
Musical theater songs. I just downloaded “Bring It On: The Musical”! hehehehe
List five inspirations.
My band teacher, Henry Noonan. Rest in Peace!!!!!
My parents, who let me do whatever I wanted and supported me every inch of the way.
My mister, Jeff Davis, such a hard working man!

Jeremy Towle has been touring the world with The Aluminum Show for the last 2 years. Regional theater credits include The Wild Party (New Repertory Theater, 2007 IRNE nom. Best Supporting Actor), The Awesome 80’s Prom (Bello Productions),Cabaret (New Repertory Theater), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Foothills Theater), The Bartered Bride (Opera Boston),PIRATES! (With Tony Award winner Cady Huffman, Huntington Theater Company), La Cage aux Folles (Reagle Music Theatre), The Emancipation of Mandy and Miz Ellie (Company One), The Music Man, (Reagle Music Theatre), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Walpole Footlighters), A Chorus Line (Reagle Music Theatre), and A Christmas Carol (Hanover Theatre). He will be dancing in the musical On The Town at the Lyric Stage in the late spring of 2013. He enjoyed touring the world with Snappy Dance Theater, and touring the US with kid’s favorite rockin’ band, The Doodlebops, LIVE!

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Brandon Cournay

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What are you currently working on?

I am currently dancing with KEIGWIN + COMPANY.

Where are you based out of?

New York City. The Big Apple. Da Concrete Jungle.

When did you start your training?

I started training at a dance studio in my hometown of Walled Lake, Michigan. I was really into jazz, tap, and musical theatre. We did a ton of dance competitions and conventions. Then, I continued my training at The Juilliard School, where I got my BFA.

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

I honestly don’t think I ever decided I wanted to be a dancer. I think dance and the arts were just always apart of me. I tried tons of sports and activities as a kid. I remember crying my way through Tee-Ball. Dance was seriously the only thing that made me happy. I was lucky enough to have cool parents that let me stick with it. After that, it just snowballed and I just kept doing more and more and I haven’t stopped. I don’t want to! This path was inevitable.

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

My first professional job as a dancer was when I was 14 years old. I was Grover from Sesame Street in America’s (Detroit’s) Thanksgiving Day Parade. We waved and danced in the parade. After the parade, Elmo, Oscar, Big Bird, and myself danced at a fundraiser/dinner event in Detroit. Kick line and all.

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

Two people just immediately came to my mind.

The first is, Risa Steinberg who was one of my teachers and mentors at Juilliard. She had such a substantial impact on my development, not only as a dancer, but also as a person. She taught me how to not be afraid. Risa is intimidating in the best way possible, loving, and demanding. She allowed me to take chances, and most importantly, gave me the confidence to do so. Without her past and continued support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The second is, Elizabeth Parkinson. First of all, she really helped me transition into the “real world” after graduating from Juilliard. She understands and appreciates both commercial and concert dance. She offered a lot of insight to me, and continues to do so now. Most importantly though, she taught me humility. Elizabeth and I met when I was assisting for West Coast Dance Explosion. During the tour, we were the only two people traveling from NYC, so we got to spend a lot of time together. Not gonna lie, I was SO intimidated to be traveling alone with the Joffrey principle, Broadway veteran, Tony Award Nominee, and one of my dance idols. Elizabeth is as legit as they come. She is also THE most humble, warm, kind, hilarious, and down to earth person I have every met. She taught me to be generous and appreciative. She taught me that your “successes” don’t make you better than anyone. She taught me that no matter what you do, you can do it by being a real and honest person.

What’s your favorite memory on stage?

This may not be my favorite memory (haha), but it is definitely the most memorable. I was dancing in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and during the Nutcracker scene all of the dancers are costumed in these ridiculously heavy and claustrophobic bear suits. We all wore bandanas to keep the sweat out of our eyes. Well… one show, my bandana fell down over my face inside my bear head after doing a series of jumps and turns, I had no idea which was I was facing. What went from Clara’s dream, quickly turned into her (and my) worst nightmare. I was now a 7 foot tall, blind, panicking Russian bear…

“ABORT, S.O.S., Bear Down!!”

My worst fear was walking offstage into the audience. So, I waited for other bears to start hitting me so I knew where the wings were, and gracefully (?) chassed my way offstage.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

The Kennedy Center Opera House.

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

My greatest triumph is that I get to share these unreal experiences and memories with some my best friends, who have become my family. I go into rehearsal with KEIGWIN + COMPANY and when it’s over, I want to hang out with everyone afterward. I’m honored to be dancing in a company where I feel comfortable, safe, creative, and happy. I think it is rare to have all of those in one place at one time, which I think is a huge testament to Larry.

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?

Sir Issacs Apples choreographed by Eliot Feld at Juilliard. This was the first “concert dance piece” I ever saw. I had absolutely no modern training when I came to Juilliard. I mean, my audition solo was to Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” … the techno remix. WHAT?! I was excited and honored to get in, but I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. Unfortunately, in Detroit, I wasn’t exposed to anything related to a dance company. I remember sitting with the rest of my freshman class watching the rest of the dance department slide down this 40 foot ramp for over an hour and just crying. It was beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen before. I knew I had come to a fork in the road, and I was absolutely on the right path.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

I’d say my pre-show ritual is warming up. I love a solid warm up. I put my headphones in and just get my body ready and organized. Right before the show, I like to connect and share good vibes with the group.

What inspires you to keep going?

As a dancer, I’m inspired by a challenge and by doing things I have never done before. I have such a bucket list of things I want to do.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Will you still be dancing?

I’ve recently made a pact with myself to stop always planning for the future, for what’s next. I’m totally living in the now. I have no idea where I’ll end up. That’s terrifying, but also exhilarating.

What are your goals outside of dance?

My goals are to live a balanced and happy life outside of the studio. I love getting inspired by things outside of dance. Experiencing life is rich.

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

My advice would be… just be you. Live in the now.

What music are you listening to right now?

Imagine Dragons. Fun. Animal Collective. Maroon 5. Jason Mraz. One Direction.

List five inspirations.

1) My ridiculously talented friends

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (book AND movie)

3) All kinds of music

4) Pop culture

5) The next generation of artists

Brandon Cournay is originally from Detroit, Michigan and has had an exciting journey performing in both commercial and concert dance. Brandon has performed in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, can be seen in TV commercials/industrials for Puma, Sesame Street and Target and is featured in the dance film, Musical Chairs. Brandon has performed with the New York Theatre Ballet, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Morphoses and is currently dancing with KEIGWIN + COMPANY.

Twitter: @Brandon_Cournay

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Photo credit: Both photos by Eddie Hobson