Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Your 4 Year Old Self Was On To Something

Don’t give up on your dreams if you know in your heart it’s what you’re meant to do. I know life is so much harder now and we all have to do the best with what is left after Covid. However, your 4 year old self was on to something. You did what you loved without fear and self doubt. Let's strive for that when we are back in the studio and onstage. 

I didn’t have natural turn out or technique when I got serious about dance in high school. I didn’t get into the dance program at my first choice college. I was cut pretty fast and it was heartbreaking. I choreographed and rehearsed my solo for months and was never given an opportunity to perform it. They slapped a list on the door with the names of who would stay after barre and mine was not on it. But I loved to dance. I loved performing and thankfully grew up dancing at a studio that very much valued performance quality. I sucked up my pride and went somewhere else to major in dance for 2 years. I worked very hard to transform my technique and perform as much as possible with the school's dance company. After an injury, mono (woof), and a rough winter, I just wanted to get to New York City and have a fresh start. I felt like I was wasting time. I transferred to the college that shunned me for dance before. I went for communications after 2 years of being a dance major and LOVED it. I planned my school classes around my Steps and BDC schedules. I trained with Rockettes (shout out to Rhonda Malkin and Melissa Thomas) and continued to participate in summer intensives.

I was pretty shy growing up unless I was onstage. I came in late to already established dance teams and always felt like I should have done more earlier. I didn't do competition team until high school and I didn't do marching band kickline until my senior year. I didn’t have natural technique and turnout, but I had passion. I worked really hard and took classes in all styles. When it came time to go to college, I found a program that had some jazz and tap. However, I had a horrible experience with a modern teacher. It seemed like if you didn't do ballet or modern, you weren't a dancer to him. He actually announced to a room of my peers that “Rachael is stripping now,” when I got my first professional paying job as an AFL dancer. I was working as a dancer while still in school and was excitedly sharing the news. I was proud of myself. Silly me to assume that every dance educator would be supportive of their students. 

I love ballet and modern. They are beautiful and so helpful with technique, but they weren't what I wanted to do professionally. I have zero respect for people who belittle the accomplishments of others no matter which famous company they used to dance with. I wish I had the strength and confidence that I have now back then. His harassment would not have gone over well these days. I'm afraid there will always be people like this though. Years later, a friend of an ex found out I was moving back to New York and told me that the chances of me achieving my dream were pretty low. He had never gone after his dream, but what gave him the right to put limits on mine? There is no greater feeling than finding success in spite of these people. Keep going. Their opinions don’t matter. 
I think we all know by now that I have wanted to be a Rockette since I saw them for the first time at 12 years old. I made it through the Rockette audition 6 times and was invited to a private audition, but never ever got the call. The training and work I put in lead me to booking other dream jobs though. One "no", no matter how big and heartbreaking it may feel, does not mean you won't get to perform on famous stages or travel the world doing what you love. I may even go back and try again. Ha! I'm relentless. 

When I was little, I was convinced I was the next Britney. All I did was sing with my karaoke machine and beg my parents to move us to LA. I wrote songs and recorded singles on cassettes. I knew I wanted to be a performer since I was very young. When I tried to take it to the next level, I got cut at school choir auditions. I was insanely nervous even though all I ever did was sing and choreograph at home. My confidence took a major hit and I just accepted that I couldn't sing. MANY years later, I got the confidence to audition for a local equity theatre. I did YouTube vocal warm ups. I didn’t have a "book" and I had one song prepared. I did well enough to book the job. I met an amazing teacher in the cast of that show who helped to bring me out of my shell through voice lessons that felt like therapy. I created a book and went on to more confidently audition. I performed with that theatre again and hope to in the future. Don’t doubt your ability to tackle something you once thought was impossible. Do put in the work. 

I guess my point with this post is to share that it took me a while to get to where I am. I didn't feel truly confident in myself as a performer until my mid-20s. I know some people may have issue with the whole "fake it til you make it" thing, but I really think that is what you have to do sometimes. It helped me grow. What I'm saying is to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and just go for it. I faked confidence at every audition I went to for years until I finally started feeling it. Imposter syndrome is a real thing. My years of not being chosen or not being the best inspired me to work my butt off. I took so many dance and fitness classes that I started to surprise myself when I would be able to hold things longer or turn better at auditions. I started to book my dream jobs. 

If you work hard and have faith in your abilities, you are absolutely worthy of being in the room. You are meant to live the life you choose. Little kids have all the confidence in the world before the world tries to tell them who to be. The opinions of those who don't want what's best for you won't pay your bills. Make your 4 year old self proud.  

Friday, March 26, 2021

My La Duca-versarry. 15 Years.

15 years ago this year, Mr. La Duca fitted me for my very first pairs. I needed character heels and taps for my first Rockette Summer Intensive and wanted the real deal (what the Rockettes wear). Up until that point, I had only practiced in some good old fashioned jazz shoes. La Duca rolled out the carpet and made me feel like a STAR. La Duca shoes have been worn in movies, musicals, tours, and more. I couldn't wait to start practicing in them. This moment truly kicked off my career. I started to feel like anything was possible in this crazy dance world.

For 15 years, they have helped me to feel my very best both onstage and off. They are made in Italy and last a long time. I have had contracts where the shoes kept breaking and they finally invested in some La Ducs for us. They feel even better as they are broken in. Who doesn't love when their dance shoe is molded to their foot and has that fierce point? Not to mention, they make your feet and legs look SEXY. 

La Duca has been there for me from summer intensives to auditions and performances. I have booked dream jobs in these shoes. What you wear on your feet can make or break your performance and even career. I feel safe, supported, and confident in my La Ducas. I think my favorite pair so far were the red can-can boots for Merry Widow. Below you will find some of the highlights of my dance life while wearing my La Ducas. My dream is to continue performing in them and to one day own a custom pair.

Many years ago at the La Duca store.

During one of my 8 years at RSI, we got to perform on the Radio City Stage!

Made it to the end of the Rox audition this day. 

My basement practice space growing up.

Cruise life. Standing still on a moving ship is harder than dancing on one!

Waiting to rehearse at Lyric Opera.

I loved this costume for Merry Widow at Lyric Opera.

Backstage before my favorite number in Merry Widow.

With my fellow can-can ladies.

A fun contract at Busch Gardens with friends.

Pre-rehearsal selfie at The Met Opera. Still breaking my shoes in.

Performing with Tryon Entertainment in The Bahamas.


Being a showgirl at Theatrezone Naples.

Luminaire Foto

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Commercial Shoot.

I shot for Publix with an awesome group the other night. Being around people who understand your life and have mutual friends and similar past jobs is just so much fun. It was an overnight shoot and I was there from 7pm until 6am. We had to learn a combo off of a video the day before. My year of learning from a computer screen paid off haha. It felt crazy to be back in the best way.  

The last time I performed was over a year ago. We were kicking our legs at 3am and I wasn’t even tired, because I was just so freaking happy to be there. Masks were worn the entire time we filmed and we did our best to distance. It was a little shocking that we were dancing around a fully stocked grocery store when a year ago the shelves were empty and the toilet paper hunt was real. We have come so far. Hopefully this is a sign of what’s to come. Let’s keep it up and get back to what we love. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

One Year.

I have been doing more to get in shape lately, especially with a wedding later in the year. I have fallen in love with barre classes again, but I can't help but miss the feeling of a hard day of dancing. I miss the post audition smoothies or banana pudding. I miss the feeling of being literally on top of the world after making it to the end of a Rockette audition. The feeling that your dreams are within reach. I haven’t felt that in so long. I can’t wait to audition again. I don’t care how old we are or the lost time or the changes in our lives. If we love it, we have to find a way back after this. If there is an after. My AGMA card arrived in the mail today. There is nowhere to use it. 

I danced for 3 hours today. I wore a leotard, black tights, and La Ducas and felt like me again. On International Women’s Day, surrounded by strong women on Zoom, in class, at home, and in the world, I felt good again. Even if only for a day. Even if it doesn’t mean I’m performing yet for an audience or a paycheck. I was home. I am most me when I’m in my element, with people who get me and love what I love. It’s not a “normal” job or life and that is what I like about it. A dance friend pointed out during class that we have been dancing apart for almost a year. A YEAR. A year of our dance lives lost. 

I miss feeling like I truly belong somewhere. Dance is my safe place. I hope that I can create a life filled with dance and art here and also travel a little to pursue my dreams soon. I think we’ve all pivoted a bit. It's important to stick together and uplift each other. I miss my encouraging, like minded friends. I will get to see many of them later in the year. Something to look forward to. 

I want that high from dancing in a packed, iconic NY studio and then stepping outside with friends into a city of endless possibilities. Life never felt "normal" in New York. And that was part of its charm. I am finding that St. Pete has an arts and culture scene more so than other parts of Florida. I can't wait to become involved in the community. I just haven't found my place yet and it's hard to do so with a global pandemic in a world full of messed up values. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

On Pointe

I am sitting here crying while watching On Pointe on Disney+. These young SAB dancers are so filled with joy for their artform and the possibility of a career in dance. I opened up a notebook to write a little bit and found a schedule in there that I made for all of the auditions I had one week in NYC. It feels like a different lifetime that I was living in classes and waking up early for auditions. I miss my parents coming to shows or making a vacay out of my summer intensives. I miss our industry. I miss when all we were concerned with was making it to the end without being cut. Now we can't even get in the door. I would do it all over again in a second. Even the disappointing parts like waiting for hours to be cut right away. At least our industry existed then. I wish I could go back even if only for a day. I would go to auditions and take my favorite class with all of my friends followed by some Juice Generation. 

I know I'm more "settled" now. Even before the pandemic, I made a decision to be less of a gypsy, but dance is still one of the most important things in my life. I didn't "used to be" a dancer. I AM a dancer. I don't feel like myself when I don't get to dance. If I never get to feel the way I feel when I perform again, I can only hope that someday I have a kid who loves to dance or something else they are passionate about so much that it changes their life in the best way and makes them feel most alive. It is my not so secret dream to have a theatre or ballet baby. The arts are beyond important. Dance and the lessons I have learned while pursuing it have given me so much. I would be lost without it. I know things change, life happens, pandemics happen, dreams evolve, etc. I just can't imagine not having the memories or friendships that I made while chasing my dreams. I will carry them in my heart forever and ever. This show brings it all back.