5/6/2020: I love human beings. And I love stories.
I'd like to make two things extremely clear. I love human beings. And I love stories. I really, really do. There is an unexplainable need within me to communicate with others and an undeniable desire to feel connected. At the end of the day, these very two are at the center of the work that I do and are the basis surrounding my entire life. Though the current times have shifted our ability to tell those stories and connect with others, it's also been thrilling for me to experience storytelling in a new way. Hearing an Instagram story featuring someone's new music or exchanging a FaceTime check-in with those I care about, I am constantly revived by the company I hold. I mean that, quite literally, my day can start anew after simple moments like a YouTube interview I'd been meaning to watch or the finishing of another chapter in the book I've been gifted. It both perplexes and amuses me to imagine the many twists and turns, highs and lows, avenues and bridges that make up someone's story. To listen to a slice of someone's life feels like a gem - an honored treasure. These small details, the mini-models, create a person. It is within those sliver-of-a-moment tellings that you really get to see a person. And the compilation of their stories reveal a person who has both chosen and fallen into a life woven by anecdotes of all sizes.
How curious that the career-path I've chosen isn't deemed essential but is, in fact, the very thing that we all need (in different doses, of course) to really live. Stories and human beings. There is not one without the other. There is no human being without a story. Without people, there is no medium through which a story can flow. The telling and passing on of moments is stopped.
THESE ARE ESSENTIAL.
So, keep up your "zarties"
And your socially-distanced walks.
Continue to cook, bake, create, and make.
Pick up the phone for those BFF talks.
THESE ARE ESSENTIAL.
4/21/2020: Normalcy in Now
"I must get out of here."
Relax and re-center. Going from the open road to suburbia is an experience unlike any that I've had previously. One day, you're traveling, exploring, and leaving only a small trace that you were ever even there. The next, you're trapped and forced to relive past experiences in a way, inside the four familiar walls of your childhood hangout. Escaping isn't always the answer, though. Without facing the things that discomfort us, there is no growth. And there is certainly growth during this time. It is far more powerful to believe that where you are right now is providing an opportunity to examine recognizable places with a new lens - the lens of wisdom and maturity. Imagine what you wished you'd known the last time you existed in this space. The last time that coming home wasn't a production was probably years ago. What do you now notice that you hadn't before? Finding surprises in the seemingly mundane awakens a new curiosity. It makes maintaining a sense of normalcy a challenge, but a fun challenge at that. Check your priorities and dreams, realizing the similarities to the way they were then. After all, this place made you.
What started as a seemingly sunny, bright day has quickly turned itself into a brisk afternoon featuring still-barren trees that yearn for springtime. The charcoal clouds appear, to the viewer, as somewhat of a blockade for those golden rays that so desperately want to peak through. It is as if the Universe is making us wait, to ponder, to anxiously imagine the true first day of spring. In doing so, a curious feeling of anticipation begins - one that feels familiar, but not always at home. Each branch looks naked, reaching its outstretched tips towards a nonexistent patch of warmth. A sense of jealousy can be felt toward the trees that have grown in, the ones that must know more in that their blanketed branches provide a sliver of hope about what's to come - and soon! Winds are gathering their blustery forces, preparing their journey to other lands, new environments. When the never-ending winter finally subsides, we will breathe lighter, touching, feeling, tasting the warm, spring air. But for now, our internal clocks tick ...
Personally, I have been making a LOT of dance during these uncertain times. It seems that by creating movement and investing in my creations, I am maintaining my own sense of normalcy in a world that currently feels as abnormal as can be.
I’ve ALWAYS been a maker, a doer, a creator. On big stages or in small bodega corners, my mind is always making things. I decided to invest in what it is that I use in my process of “making” and my hope is that it might encourage others to do the same. And, just maybe, we can take a page from each other’s books.
In the making of things, I am challenging myself and, in challenging myself, I am holding myself accountable by writing these ideas, concepts, and challenges down.
For me, it starts in one of two ways. Either a song “finds me” - aka, I hear it over and over, and take that as the Universe telling me to make up some moves to that song, or I create a gesture or series of movements to a specific moment in a piece of music that I later decide to expand upon. I’ll give some recent examples of both of these that have occurred in the past few weeks. During the first week or two of quarantine, it seemed that every time I went anywhere in the car or came downstairs from my room or was in a place where I was not in control of the music that was playing, “The Bones” by Maren Morris would come on. I just had to take this as a sign to make SOMETHING to it, because why would the Universe keep sending me this song? Another time, I was listening to “Call Off Your Dogs” by Lake Street Dive in the shower and I made up maybe four counts of choreo, and later expanded upon that impulsive idea.
A typical choreography process, FOR ME (and, in no way, do I claim that this is THE way - I desperately want to hear about YOUR ways) looks like this:
So often, as dancers and choreographers, we are tempted to throw something together just for the sake of getting it done. But the real magic happens in the EDITING. It is only in the watching and the editing that we boil it all down to something we are really certain we want to invest in.
A few other choreographic techniques that I am teaching myself to implement are:
Will you share them with me?
My, my, my... how my life has changed in the past week! I went from touring the country in a Broadway National Tour to being plopped back into my childhood home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. With the way the world is right now, I am endlessly grateful to be healthy and at home with my parents for the time being. A quick update and timeline of Margaritaville's experience with COVID-19:
First of all, I need to be clear. I wouldn't consider myself especially "outdoorsy." The idea of hiking, trailing, and exploring nature never seemed like a super idea to me, in fact, in sounded more like a nightmare that resulted in muddy Adidas superstar sneakers and a few bruises due to the inevitable slippery rock catastrophe. I would much prefer a nice glass of Pinot Grigio next to a fireplace. All this to say, however, my mind has been completely changed over the past six months on tour.
The cool thing about doing a long-running show on the road is that most days you actually have the day time free without anything to do until the show at night. This leaves a kid with a lot of time on his hands. My cast is a group of nature-loving explorers and I've begun to really enjoy the idea of taking a hike or adventuring up a mountain. It provides a mini getaway from the "tour bubble", as they call it.
As the air gets crisp, and we all break out our vests from the back of the closet, the trees in Upstate New York turn vibrant shades of scarlet and rust. This past year, they were showing off their foliage in full display, at the same time that Margaritaville just so happened to be passing through and got a glimpse of the natural beauty of an autumn in New York! Complete with hot coffee, apple picking, and corn maze-ing, our sweet weekend trip on the orchard was just what we needed!
Perhaps the most shocking, pleasant surprise of all tour stops thus far has been Fayetteville, Arkansas. Never in a million years did I imagine falling in love with a college town in the northwest corner of Arkansas, but this stop came right at a time when we were beginning our understanding of what it truly meant to be on tour. Our fifth stop on the route, Fayetteville allowed us quiet moments in coffee shops, birthday celebrations, and hiking through Devil's Den State Park! There's a southern charm that is woven through the streets of this city, unlike anything I had experienced before. Viewing the sunrise atop a hillside in The Ozark Mountains left me feeling refreshed and ready for the week ahead in this quaint, little town.
"Golden Day" - a term every roadie knows and loves. A day with no travel, rehearsal, show, or anything work-related while on the road is pretty rare, so when those special days arise, you have to live it up! We were so lucky that we got TWO Golden Days in a row on our week in Palm Desert, CA. What better place to be in late January, the dead of winter where I come from, than Palm Springs?! We took full advantage of company rental cars and traveled to Joshua Tree National Park for a day trip through some of the most incredible sights found in the desert.
We were given a Golden Day (see above for definition) the day after we traveled to Modesto, CA. This meant that we were a 2-hour drive from Yosemite National Park, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such a place was just too good to pass up! Thanks to the expert planning of my friend Sophie, we stayed in a beautiful cabin just outside Yosemite. It was a magical mountain getaway that we didn't know how badly we needed! From The Grizzly Giant, the Half Dome, El Capitan (if you have some free time, which you DO because #SocialDistancing, watch this documentary "Free Solo"), and Yosemite Falls, we truly got to see all that Yosemite National Park has to offer. The views were spectacular and the memories will last a lifetime!
I look forward to further exploration of this beautiful country that I get to call home. For now, however, I will be inside, #SocialDistancing in quarantine, trying to keep myself occupied amidst the craziness happening all around us. Wash your hands and trust that we will come out on the other side of this pandemic a more peaceful and united people.
As a First National Tour, we have been able to see some incredible markets and venues around the country with Escape to Margaritaville, but none can compare to playing the iconic Dolby Theatre in Hollywood just 10 days after The Academy Awards were held on that stage! Typically, Broadway in Hollywood's season plays at The Pantages, but starting in 2020, they will tour half of their shows through The Dolby, and we were the premiere of this new venture for them!
Check out our Opening Night press/red carpet!
I am so extremely fortunate that both of my parents (HI MOM!) have been able to come and support me on the road, including stops in Ft Lauderdale, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles - to name a few! I couldn't be luckier that they were my Opening Night in LA dates!
One of the beautiful things about spending our winter this year in California is that it can be below freezing at home in New York, but 65 degrees in the evening in Los Angeles calls for cocktails on a rooftop! There's also nothing quite like strolling down Melrose Ave to shop, sip an oat latte, and bask in the mid-afternoon glow of another Hollywood Golden Hour. Melrose also provides some of the most "insta-worthy" photo opps in all of LA. I was able to get some new dance shots, shown below, thanks to my amazing photographer friend Katie Davis!
When in Hollywood, one must get some ON-CAMERA time, right?! A fun moment of my time in LA was attending a filming of The Kelly Clarkson Show - my first time in a live studio audience for any show! During our second week, a few cast members, myself included, were asked to perform a live version of "Cheeseburger in Paradise" on Good Day LA to promote our show! We were featured on the same episode as Paula Abdul, so you can only imagine how much we were fan girl-ing!
If you know me at all, you would know that I have been a Disney fanatic since I was very young. I've been on three Disney trips since January 2019. Being on tour in both Orlando and Los Angeles has helped me get to the parks more times this year than normal, but each time it feels like I'm a little boy again running from attraction to attraction with Mickey ice cream bar or churro in hand! We spent one of our days off in Disneyland with full VIP Access thanks to my friend Justin. He set us up with a full-day, two-park experience. I mean, we literally walked into the EXITS of rides and walked right on. We were able to do mostly every single ride in both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, on top of having two delicious meals in the parks. We ended the day with the World of Color light/water show which is as magical now as it was the first time I saw it over 5 years ago!
I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to teach twice while I was in the Los Angeles area: once for Center Stage, Inc. and once for The Broadway Experience. The students learned a dance combo from Escape to Margaritaville and then came to see the show at The Dolby! I used to love these experiences as a child/teenager and getting to be on the other side as a teacher and seeing the way the kids reacted to the class and show was so heart-warming! Click HERE to contact me about setting up a class!
LOS ANGELES - you were a treat. Thank you for letting US "escape" the wintry blues and bask in your glory for 3 weeks. It's a moment of my career that I won't soon forget. 'Til next time, Hollywood ...