Hustle & Heart

During the dancer off-season, it is easy to cozy up with Netflix or get lost in the beauty of Central Park's fall foilage. But with audition season quickly approaching, I have had to up my training and ignite a laser focus. When I am not working, a day of audition prep looks like this:

8:00AM Wake up & make my favorite protein shake for breakfast. (Recipe: 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder + one frozen banana + one cup almond milk + one cup spinach)

8:30AM Hop on the subway to head to my favorite spinning studio.

Preparing to ride at IMAXShift

9:30AM Take my first spin class of the day with the world's greatest coach, Bree Branker. I have been training with Bree for almost three months and she continues to push me in every single class. With Bree I achieve things I never thought possible. Each new record is a personal victory. Each bead of sweat (and there are many) is a badge of honor.

I love spinning because it is the best way to build endurance and strengthen lung capacity. As a person with career goals that include five shows a day and over 1,000 eye-high kicks, cardiovascular training is crucial to achieving that. My absolutely favorite place to spin is at IMAXShift. It is the most epic spin class out there.

10:30AM Take my second spin class of the day. I don't typically take back-to-back classes, but I like to push myself and find out how far I can go. After the second class, Bree led us through killer ab circuits.

12:00PM Head uptown to Ripley-Grier Studios, where I have booked a space for Alexis and I to rehearse. Before she arrives, I snack on almonds and take an obligatory studio selfie to prove that I have survived this marathon day.

3:00PM Alexis and I finish rehearsal. Booking rehearsal space in New York is such a cutthroat venture. The second the clock hits the end of your time, the next eager dancers are busting through the door. Every second spent in a studio is a precious commodity. 

3:30PM Feeling completely wiped out from this long day and excited to catch up with my dear friend, Alexis and I head to a nearby pizza joint for some much-needed sustenance. I don't feel one ounce of remorse for the pizza I inhale because I had burned over 1,200 calories in my various workouts. 

4:00PM Alexis and I sit in a small park to catch up and discuss our big dreams. New York is such an inspiring environment. It is so easy and so exhilarating to get caught up in talks about dance, auditions, goals, and the exciting lives we are grateful to live. 

6:30PM I head home, excited to (finally) shower, recover, and dive into my sweatpants. 

An inspiring message found outside of Ripley-Grier Studios

I wish all days could be like this particular day. Most of my days are spent working so that I can afford rent. #adulting But as the number of auditions per week continues to increase, I am reminded of my lifelong dream and how close I am to living that. I am so lucky to be here, and ready to work for it.

Hustle & heart will set you apart. 


Create Your Own Reality

A beautiful reminder in NoHo
This has been a truly transformative summer for me. I moved back to New York City, started a new job, and lived one of my biggest dreams by attending the Invitational Week of the Rockette Summer Intensive. Every day has felt new and life-altering. I feel like my life is finally aligning with my goals and I'm so excited to wake up each day. It hasn't been all roses, however. Living in New York can be very draining. Life after RSI was hard to adjust to. It's very difficult to spend a solid amount of time completely immersed and invested in something that means so much and then have it all stop. On top of those withdrawals, immediately following RSI, I had a heartbreaking audition experience that shattered my confidence. I spent a couple of days pouting and licking my wounds in the comfort of Netflix and junk food before I realized how harmful that behavior was. Every decision you make creates the reality in which you live. If you don't like it, create a new one. Take the reins to your own life. You will feel so much happier if your life is the result of your actions. Don't stand by and let life happen to you, happen to life and watch the world change! Here's how:

1. PERSISTENCE This is my number one piece of advice. If you have ever met me, I hope your one take-away is that I am a girl that never gives up. One of my goals was to work at lululemon, my favorite activewear company. I applied for that job 18 times over the span of a year. I called stores, talked to managers, and sent in application after application. I grew frustrated, but continued to apply. With the support of my dear friends Cassidy and Nicole, I applied an 18th time. Then I finally got it. What if I had given up after try #17? Pursue what you want with ferocious tenacity. Do not give up. Push until you break through.

2. PATIENCE Good things come to those who wait. Be patient and understanding with life. That audition in July went that way for a reason. It hurt at the time, but now I understand that I was just destined for something else. What's for you will not pass you. (Repeat this to yourself over & over again.)

3. ORGANIZATION Dedicate time to planning out your success. Set deadlines and hold yourself accountable to them. Write detailed plans and hash out step by step exactly how you plan on achieving your goals. Then follow through. If you feel lost, map out how to get to where you want to be. Spend time journaling, organizing your calendar, and preparing for your amazing future. Become familiar with your intentions.

4. SQUAD Surround yourself with people that only lift you higher. It's cheesy, but true. Surround yourself with those who have similar visions and your life will be elevated. Form your posse and stick to them. Lean on them. Together we're better.

5. POSITIVE LANGUAGE This is especially important to those in my industry. Say yes to your own self. You are worthy. Do not let anyone make you feel less than! Compliment yourself. Spread love to others and it will return to you 100 times over. Positivity is infectious. Take charge and stand up for optimism, even when it feels impossible. Especially if it feels impossible. And if you do feel sad, recognize and honor that. Identify the cause and see if it's something you can prevent in the future. Life has natural ups and downs. Revel in the ups; do not be overcome by the downs. Bad days exist to remind us how grateful we should be during the good days. Don't be too hard on yourself. Life will do that anyway. :) 


On to New Adventures

The inspiring chalkboard wall at Ivivva

I have been back in New York for a little over a week now, and I am finding my new rhythm. For the last five years, I have always been a part of a program of some sort, whether it was college or the Professional Semester. This is the first time I have been completely on my own in regard to time constraints or obligations. Having so much freedom feels wrong, but I am learning to live in this feeling. And a few days at the beach on Coney Island have certainly been helping me to adjust...

Behind the scenes at GMA
Since I returned I have been busy building my future. I was hired by my favorite athletic-wear company, lululemon, as an educator at Ivivva (their children's store) and for their social media team.  It has been a dream of mine for years now to work for them, and it has been everything I have ever hoped it would be and more. I love the company because it is so goal-oriented and truly makes the most fashionable fitness gear. I will admit, I am an addict. My first day began with a discussion of my visions & goals and ended in a glitter-covered yoga studio getting my namaste on. The team is a dream, the atmosphere is inspiring, and the work is something I am passionate about. I am excited for many years of growing in my new job.

I was also grateful to pursue an opportunity available to me because of my training at Broadway Dance Center. Our connection to the amazing faculty resulted in casting for a segment on Good Morning America. On National Selfie Day, GMA set out to create a world record for most selfies taken on air during the span of one hour. Our job was to rotate through the studio taking selfies with Sara Haines, the lifestyle anchor on GMA. So for one glorious hour, my fellow ProSems and I smiled for millions of viewers to see. It was a very fun experience, one I will remember for years. We even got to share a set with Anna Kendrick!

Now I am gearing up for my next adventure: Invitational Week of the Rockette Summer Intensive, which begins tomorrow. (!!!) For the last four years I have worked tirelessly for an invitation into this elite training program. When I received my e-mail, I cried for hours. To finally achieve something that I have worked so hard for and that is so near to my heart is an indescribable feeling. I can't wait for this magical week to begin. I might not be able to sleep tonight. It feels just like Christmas! Over the course of the next week, I will spend my days training exactly like the Rockettes do: rehearsing from 9:30-6 PM at St. Paul the Apostle Church, the Rockettes' rehearsal space. We will be learning several routines from the Rockette repertoire to perform at a showcase on Friday afternoon. It's one step closer to living my dream. I'll write a huge post about it once I have had time to process the experience!


Together We're Better

Shine costumes backstage at RCMH

This week I completed my fifth Rockette audition and am reflecting on the joy that this experience always brings to me. Even if I never make it to the Great Stage, I will remain happy just to have taken the journey. And for me, what makes the journey so worthwhile is the amazing group of people I have met along the way.

Warming up before auditions
The media often enforces stereotypes that associate the performing arts community with competitiveness, jealousy, cattiness, and backstabbing. While these traits do occasionally surface, I have never experienced any feelings like this throughout my time in New York City, especially not in my "Rockette Hopeful" family. The Rockettes' motto is: "Together we're better." In a team famous for its precision and perfection, each woman must uplift every member of the team to uphold the standards. But it's not all about maintaining a look. It's about boosting morale and bonding in unity to work better together. This way of thinking is encouraged in every facet of the Rockette organization.

Through the Rockettes I have met some of my best friends and biggest inspirations. I have become part of a beautiful and supportive family that understands my struggles and shares in my dreams. Every year the family grows larger. When I first began auditioning for the Rockettes, I was lonely and afraid. Now the audition is like a big reunion. I don't feel frightened anymore because my sisters always have my back. I would be just as excited to see one of my friends make the line as I would be for myself to make the line. That's just how we support each other. That's also why I will never give up. Each audition, master class, and summer intensive reignites the fire. And now, as people I actually know are getting hired, it makes the dream feel closer than ever. The Rockettes have been dubbed "the hardest-working women in showbiz", and this is no lie. It requires infinite dedication, sweat equity, and resilience to become a member of this team. In these difficult challenges, it has been so lovely to have my little hopeful family to rely on.

I have mentioned this previously, but the kindness of the Radio City crew also contributes to the family values. You would imagine that in a situation where hundreds upon hundreds of women file through the door hoping for the same job, there would be some cattle herding along the way. But this is not the case. Every hopeful in Radio City is treated with kindness and dignity.  It is so rare, and for this I am always grateful.

Pre-audition paperwork

I know that I gush about the Rockettes almost every chance I get, but it is only because this organization is so wonderful. In fact, the whole New York dance community is wonderful too. I have dreamed of moving here my entire life, but never imagined it would feel this much like home. I am very happy. I am in love with every person I have met and every chance to dance I have been lucky enough to receive. Each day is a gift.


My Favorite Four Months

"PerPlexed" by Zanza Steinberg | Photo by Sandy Shelton

I just finished the incredible Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center, a program designed to introduce dancers to the industry and professionalism behind the biz. For the last four months I have been training with renowned working artists, attending master classes in all styles of dance, and taking part in mock auditions in front of various titans of industry: casting agents and choreographers alike. I have formed lifelong friendships with stunning and bright dancers and have connected with artists I have only dreamed of working with. This program taught me to be a confident and capable dancer ready for anything New York City has to throw at me.

During the program we rehearsed for our culminating showcase. Each of us chose and auditioned for the pieces we wanted to be cast in. Rehearsals were conducted with the utmost professionalism; we were encouraged to behave as if we were being paid $2000 to be there, which is the average weekly salary of a Broadway performer. Along with the 12 mandatory technique classes per week, the additional master classes and seminars, the mock auditions, and the rehearsals, I worked over 30 hours a week at a part-time job (hence the reason my poor blog was all but abandoned). Looking back, I'm not sure how I survived some weeks, but when you have a dream and a purpose, you do whatever it takes to get yourself there. It wasn't easy, and at times it wasn't fun, but I can officially cross "starving artist lifestyle" off of my bucket list (hopefully for good).

Our final mock audition, led by Rachelle Rak 

Entering the program, my goal was to become self-sufficient in a new environment. Broadway Dance Center absolutely gave me the tools and experience to do that. The choice to audition for the Professional Semester was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am grateful for every second, for every person, and for every step along the way.

The next step is to finally begin life as a professional. I have been a student for the last five years and I am excited to see what comes next. This summer I am auditioning for the Rockettes, attending my first Invitational Week of the Rockette Summer Intensive, and signing a lease on my first New York apartment. This has been a dream long in the making, and I feel so grateful to be living this adventure. On to the next journey!

My forever family, the #prosemnation cast of Spring 2016


High Kicks High Hopes

Rockette auditions, right this way!
I am by no means a stranger to the audition process at Radio City Music Hall. On Tuesday I donned a red lip and french twist for the fourth audition in my Rockette hopeful career. This time, however, was a little different for me because it was my first audition for the Rockettes' New York Spectacular, their new summer show. This show is a tribute to New York City featuring fresh choreography that fuses the infamous precision-dance style of the Rockettes with hip hop and contemporary. Showcasing choreography from the legendary Mia Michaels, fantastical props galore, and actual rain falling on the stage, this production is truly a spectacular (forgive my irresistible pun) celebration of the Big Apple.

If you have ever wondered what it's like to audition for the Radio City Rockettes, keep reading! I'll be taking you behind the scenes of one of the most famous auditions in show business.

The Rockette audition process begins long before you even step foot in the door. Hopefuls from all over the world start lining up around the block hours before the auditions begin. When the doors finally open, hundreds of leggy, beautiful women march into Radio City with a dream in their heart and headshots in hand. You are led to the downstairs lobby, a sleek art deco lounge originally designed to instill a sense of calm and quiet into the large crowds. In this space, you are allowed to stretch and practice all pre-audition rituals. You also are given time to fill out paperwork, pin your number to the right place on your body (your first listening test!), and touch up that famous red lip.

Stretching for those eye-high kicks in the downstairs lobby
When the auditions begin, groups of 80 to 90 women are taken up to the eighth floor, where the Rockette rehearsal space is located. Once you are divided into equal lines, a short combination is taught at lightspeed that tests you with minute details and highlights examples of Rockette technique, like beautiful lines and sharp movement. As soon as the choreography has been taught, small groups perform the combination for the director and a panel of judges. They quickly confer and once all dancers in the room have performed, a list is read of the numbers of the women who are advancing to the next round. Of my group of 80, only four women were kept. This process continues for several rounds including tap and jazz, as well as partnering and pointe in the case of the summer show. Usually the auditions take place over two days, challenging the dancers to remember choreography and improve upon it overnight.

  Just waiting for my day to come!                                            Preparing to enter the audition room.
Unfortunately, this was not my day. I was cut in the first round. What most people don't know about auditions like this is that the directors are usually looking for something very specific. You could be the best dancer in the room, but unless you are that 5'9" redhead the panel is looking for, you will not advance through the rounds. This is why it's so important to never give up. You absolutely never know when your time will come. Even if you are rejected time and time again, it's important to always show up, remind them of your passion and dedication, and learn from great artists. One day it's going to happen for you. One day it will be your day. We will sadly never be able to predict the day that our dreams come true, but I can assure you that they will never come true if you stay home in fear of rejection. Learn to love the "no"s. They make the "yes"s so much more rewarding. Here's looking forward to audition #5!

Until then, I'm happy to be here and ready to work!


Be Your Own Supernova

From the Top of the Rockefeller center
Long time, no see, my beautiful blog! I have truly been immersed in the dancer life for the last couple of weeks. Between rehearsals for the ProSem Showcase, auditioning for the Rockette Summer Intensive, working a part-time job, taking over 24 hours a week of dance classes and seminars, and trying to eat some vegetables, I have had zero time for anything but rest and recovery. While dancing through this wonderful life, one thought has been consuming me.

After years of struggling to choose who I want to be, I am finally sure. I wouldn't say that I have necessarily been waiting for permission to be myself, but there has been something missing.

For years I have been feeling the pressure to have a backup plan, something to fall back on in case I fail. I have always been a girl that dreams big, but believes that in reality she should be spending her time preparing for the "what if?" path. Today I am firmly putting an end to this way of thinking. I am giving all of my faith and effort into my Plan A.

Red lips & french twists, that's what Rockettes are made of! 
If you love something, if you have a dream, if you want to accomplish a goal, go after that goal ferociously with your whole heart. There is no rule that says you cannot devote all of your efforts to one cause.

Everyone knows what my dream is. I have made that very obvious. For the last several years I have been working tirelessly toward becoming a Rockette. Although this has been my main focus, I have also been working toward other goals "just in case". Today I am done with the "just in case". I have decided to have faith in myself and channel all of my effort into achieving my one true goal. Even if my dream never comes true, I can be satisfied knowing that I gave it absolutely everything I had. I can go down swinging. No longer will I half-heartedly put effort into pursuing goals that I am not passionate about. I will live my life exactly the way I want to. No one should be told that they are not worthy of following their dream, no matter what that dream may be. If you want it, you should go get it. Do not wait for permission. Give it to yourself. Life is too short to waste one single second on a dream that is anything less than your number one.