Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
Backstage Ritual: I try not to think about performance day differently because then it makes you more nervous!
Most-played song on your iPod: Right now, it’s Christmas music. I really like “O Holy Night.” It’s a classic.
Non-ballet hobbies: I have a Boston terrier named Lacey, and I really like to spend time with her and take her on walks.
Siblings: I have a twin sister, Meghan, who was actually with me in school here at PBT for a while, and I have a little sister, Addie, who is in PBT’s high school program now. It’s just a family thing I guess! My parents are still living in Florida.
Favorite role: Princess Gamzatti from La Bayadère, which I danced in high school. With PBT, my favorite role I’ve danced is the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker.
Dream role: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake
3 things in your ballet bag: A sewing kit, a tennis ball (to roll out knots), and a Thera-Band
This season was your first time performing the lead role of Marie in The Nutcracker with PBT. Growing up dancing, is this a role you’ve always dreamed of performing?
Dancing the role of Marie was really special to me. Ten years ago, I did the role of Clara in The Nutcracker back in Florida. It was the role that made me realize I wanted to be a ballerina, so it’s really special to me. It was really cool to be able to do this role with PBT ten years later.
My mom came to Pittsburgh to see me dance Marie. Also, my little sister got to be a flower for that show. It was really neat for my mom to get to see both of us perform.
What about the role appeals to you so much?
Marie is in the show the whole time, so it’s a big role and you have to act and really be in character the whole time. It’s different than most things I’ve done. We’re almost always telling a story through dancing, but for this one it’s really important. It’s just nice to tell the story of The Nutcracker through that character.
Is there any moment in Marie’s choreography that stands out for you? What do you want the audience to interpret from her character?
I actually really liked dancing in “Waltz of the Flowers.” That part was just fun. I felt like I didn’t have to think too much, it was just dancing.
Doing this role, there are so many things I’ve learned about The Nutcracker that I had no idea about. One example is everything you do with the scarves. There are a lot of different scarves in different colors throughout the ballet. At the beginning, we switch to Drosselmeyer’s trick scarf, so the early one is part of his magic tricks. Then later on, the different-colored scarves are supposed to represent Marie’s different emotions.
One thing I’d like the audience to take away is the story of how Marie changes throughout the ballet. At the beginning, she’s kind of young and carefree, and then she falls in love for the first time.
What’s your favorite thing about Nutcracker season?
It’s really nice to be able to perform it so many times. It’s hard when you only perform a show once or twice because you’re so nervous that it’s almost hard to just enjoy it. But when you have so many shows, you can really enjoy it. We almost live at the theater, and it’s just fun being in the dressing rooms with everyone. The Benedum is gorgeous! Even just taking class onstage—I just love being on that stage.
PBT’s next production is Swan Lake. What is most special to you about that iconic ballet, and what keeps it exciting?
I think the music is so gorgeous. During the White Swan pas de deux, you can almost hear the motions you’re supposed to be portraying in the music. And just the story itself—it’s so sweet. The ending is sad, but she’s finally free.
Swan Lake never gets old. It’s just really timeless. I don’t see how that story could ever get old. Even if you danced it a million times, there’s always something new you could add to it.
What makes the role of the Swan Queen such a coveted role for a ballerina?
For one thing, the Odette/Odile characters are opposites. So to be able to do both—not even talking about technicality—requires great acting. Technically, they’re also very different. You have to be a really well-rounded dancer to dance the role. The White Swan is so delicate and soft, and Black Swan is so strong. In my school growing up we did Swan Lake, and I did it as a grad student with PBT in 2009. That was my first production with the company other than The Nutcracker.
How do you get into the zone before a performance or a challenging rehearsal day?
I make sure to get a lot of sleep and eat a good breakfast. I always have yogurt and either oatmeal or cereal because it’s easy! I like to go through the choreography, either in my head or just marking through it. It depends on the role and how long it is, but there will be certain parts that are more challenging, and I like to practice those parts once on the stage before performing it.
When was the moment you knew when you wanted to pursue dance professionally?
When I was 12, I danced the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with my dance school in Florida. I just loved doing that role, and performing just felt right. It felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. There were times after that point that were hard and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, but I always wanted to be a professional ballet dancer.
What does ballet mean to you?
It’s a way to express yourself.
If you weren’t a ballet dancer, what do you think you would be?
I really like kids and psychology, so probably something with those. I took a psychology class over the summer through a college in Florida.
What’s your go-to relaxation activity after a long rehearsal day?
I just really like to watch TV and cuddle with my dog. That’s the most relaxing thing to me! After a big performance, I’m usually hyped up for a while and then I crash. I just do the typical eating and icing after a show.
Your two sisters have also been involved in PBT School programs. Why do you think your family got so involved in the arts?
At least for my twin sister and me, we always had very vivid imaginations. I think all of the story ballets were really appealing to us because they were telling a story. I just remember us pretending and stuff like that when we were young, and the story ballets are kind of like that.
What do you love most about your job?
I definitely love performing, especially when you feel like you did well and were able to convey whatever emotion or message it was that you wanted to get across.