At a very young age, I was already flipping and dancing throughout our house in Southern California. My mother knew it was time to enroll me in some activities. So at the age of 3, I started training in gymnastics and dance. Gymnastics pretty much took up all my time when I started competing nationally, so dance became more of a secondary activity- providing an advantage over others on elements like beam and floor. However, some childhood ambitions do not last forever. After being asked to quit school and start training full time in gymnastics, I decided it was not my passion in life and I needed to move forward. After signing up for sports like ice skating and diving, I knew dance was it. I wanted to be a dancer! But my love for flipping and being upside down never fully left me!
Knowing I wanted to dance, I attended Orange County School of the Arts where I trained in commercial dance and then graduated from The Juilliard School with a BFA. I really had no time to train in anything more than dance during those years, but I continued to utilize my gymnastics skills in the dances that allowed it.
While finishing up my senior year at Juilliard, I had the opportunity to audition for Cirque Du Soleil. I had seen their shows a few times with my family, and knew I wanted to work for them in the future. A few months before graduation, I signed my contract with Cirque Du Soleil as a dancer in a new creation, “VIVA Elvis”.
This was the start of something new for me. While creating the show at the Cirque headquarters in Montreal, Canada, I was immersed into a world of talents. There were dancers, olympic acrobats, world class aerialists, actors, magicians, musicians, singers and the list goes on. It was one of the most amazing things to be surrounded by. But what I was most curious about was the aerialists. I had never thought of this being an option for me, and here I was, at the headquarters where some of the top notch aerialists train, and I was hooked. I knew it was something I wanted to at least try.
Within the first few weeks of creation, we were told that some of the dancers would be training on the pole. The opportunity to try something new was handed to me…. And WOW, was it hard!! I had no idea pole required so much strength and flexibility. Thank god for our required workouts! We learned the basics of pole and were allowed to continue training on our own once the show was opened and we had our set tracks.
While continuing to train basically on pole, I was also getting involved in other aerial apparatuses. I became backup for a harnessed duet in the air and trained weekly for the duet hoop act. I had found something new that I loved and was finally being able to blend my dance and gymnastics training. To me, any kind of aerial work requires both. My dance training allowed me to make the movements and transitions graceful and have lines that are gained through years of ballet. My gymnastics training allowed me to be fearless, which is important when you are suspended in the air flipping or holding onto a pole with only one leg lock. During this time, I became aware of how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to train the way I did.
I am now back in NYC and working as a freelance artist. I am definitely enjoying my life in a new way and meeting people that inspire me every day. Thanks to my experience at Cirque, I am happy to say that I have continued to train on the pole, silks and lyra. The most exciting is that I am now performing my own pole routine every night with Company XIV (@companyxiv) (www.companyxiv.com) Nutcracker Rouge!
Here is what the NY Times said: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/arts/dance/nutcracker-rouge-at-the-minetta-lane-theater.html?_r=0
Austin McCormick, Juilliard graduate and artistic director of Company XIV, is inspired by Baroque dance and Burlesque which is why his work stands out. No one does what he does. He has blended the two forms into his own movement along with his ability to incorporate acrobatics into his shows. I was extremely honored when he asked if I would be interested in dancing and doing pole for the show. It had been a while since I had trained rigorously on pole and had never performed my own routine, but I wanted to do it! It was going to be a great challenge for me that I wanted to take on. I immediately started taking classes and building strength.
I had my work cut out for me. I am a strong woman, but the strength needed to perform a 3 minute pole solo was something I did not realize would be so hard. I had the challenge of creating an impressive routine but also being realistic to the fact that I would be doing it 6 times a week on top of a whole dance track. So, knowing all this, I decided to train as often as I could before the show opened. I took at least 1 class a week, worked on strengthening my arm muscles and abdominals and rented studio space of my own to play around and create ways to incorporate dance into the routine. It took me about a month to feel comfortable and strong enough to say I was ready for Austin to see it. I was thankful for his encouragement throughout the process. It was no piece of cake, but it was the most fun and liberating experience to watch my body change and to see my strength grow. For me, pole is the best form of getting a defined body and doing it in a fun and sexy way! I loved every minute of working on my routine and watching it grow into what it is today. The options are limitless on the pole and that’s what makes it so exciting!
Having this experience has made it even more clear to me that I love being a dancer with acrobatic abilities. From here, I will continue to train on pole, not just for the hopes of getting another job that will let me perform on it, but because of how hard and beautiful it is. My strength is back to where it was when I worked for Cirque Du Soleil and I hope to keep it this way. To all the readers, I recommend pole as a form of workout and creative outlet! It is far from boring and makes you feel amazing about yourself!
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