Can you update us on your experience in the professional dance world since leaving NJDTE?
“When I graduated from NJDTE in 2013, I became a Radio City Rockette. I performed in the Christmas Spectacular in Nashville, TN for one year and then in NYC at Radio City from 2014-2019. Currently, I am on the US National Tour of An American In Paris, performing in 84 venues across 42 states until June 2020. Since I graduated NJDTE, I have also worked with various contemporary Ballet companies and choreographers including Exit 12 Dance Company (Roman Baca), Sheep’s Meadow Dance Theater (Billy Blanken), 911 Table of Silence (Jacqueline Buglisi), and with Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish at INKUBATE®. This past summer, I was touring throughout Europe with the American Swiss Ballet Company (Sonia Melo). I have had many opportunities, as well, to come home to NJDTE to help teach, set repertoire, and perform as a guest artist, including dancing in Nancy Turano’s Shadow of Truth commissioned work at SOPAC in 2018. Additionally, I teach and choreograph at multiple studios and am the Program Director for American Dance Training Camps. I am a certified Barre Teacher (AFAA), Group Fitness Instructor (NASM), and Personal Trainer (NASM). Additional credits include: West Side Story (Graziella/DC), Shrek the Musical (Ensemble/DC), and Grease (Associate Choreographer/DC), NY Fashion Week (Model), and Amazon TV’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
What has been your most recent project/performance?
“I am currently an Ensemble member on the US National Tour of An American in Paris. Rehearsals began in NYC December 2019, and we have been on the road since January 5 2020 until June! This show is a beautiful Gershwin classic that includes jazz, tap, singing, acting, and a lot of ballet and pointe. Traveling on a bus all day then performing one or two shows is challenging, so it is important to take every opportunity to stretch, stock up on healthy snacks, run, and do Pilates and a barre at any stop the bus takes, sometimes even in the aisle while on the go. Being in a different theater almost every night keeps the show so exciting and fresh. When we arrive to the theater we begin with our make-up and hair regime, then I have plenty of time to prioritize taking care of my body to be ready for the rigorous, athletic, and balletic production. This has been an incredible journey, to be able to perform a show that has always been a dream of mine 147 times while traveling all over the United States! It is a dream to have such a musical with so much pointe work. The choreographic process was one that was both artistic and collaborative.”
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
That is a difficult question because as dancers we are always striving for more. I am goal oriented and the list never stops. Dreams of mine have included being a Radio City Rockette where I got to dance for 6,000 people up to 4 times a day, in a contemporary ballet company, touring and Broadway. I am extremely proud of everything I have accomplished thus far as a dancer. There is still so much I am working towards. There is no limit when you put your dedication and passion into your dreams.”
“Hard work pays off! Dream big - because why not?! Let anyone that tells you no, which there will be many, drive you to work harder and push further to prove them wrong, but more importantly prove to yourself that you are capable of absolutely anything you set your mind to. At the end of the day remember why you do this. For me, dance simply brings so much joy. The dance world is smaller than you think. Make a point to make as many connections as possible. After each class you take, talk to the teacher and introduce yourself. Thank everyone after and audition. Send that email with your photos, resume, and reel. Paths will most definitely cross again. Everyone knows everyone in this field! Appreciate every second and be present. Worry less, enjoy the process.”
What is something you wish you knew before beginning the professional audition process?
“Know who you are and what YOU have to offer. What makes you special and makes you stand out? Do your research about who and what you are auditioning for. At times castings are type-casted, and it is not a personal thing. Just be your best self, keep your confidence, and approach auditions as master classes.”
What gives you inspiration?
“I make it a point to see as much live dance as possible. I think seeing live performance is so important. Nothing beats the energy of a theater to be reminded how special this art form truly is. I am constantly doing research online, on Instagram, or looking up to individuals who are my role models like Misty Copeland or Desmond Richardson.
What has been the biggest challenge you have come across in your career so far?
“You are your own boss. You can have an agent or manager, but at the end of the day YOU make it happen. Being an artist and living in NYC is not easy. Financially I have been fortunate to never need a temporary job as performing is my main income. But this did not come easy. I have been to endless auditions from 6am until 8pm, sometimes never even arriving in the audition room or being told no. I have learned to time manage a crazy teaching schedule, mixed with multiple freelance companies and performances at once while taking classes, and auditioning. Finding balance is very difficult. Even when I am tired, I go to ballet class, as that’s my happy place. Listen to a podcast or your favorite song, find your escape and keep the bigger picture in mind. Do what makes you happy.”
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“I have ENDLESS Nancy Turano quotes journaled throughout my years with her since 2007. She is truly one of my biggest inspirations and motivators, still to this day. She has given me so much advice, especially when it comes to manifesting into the universe what you wish to achieve, embracing all the positive energy and being clear in your visions, as well as how to have the longest, best, healthiest career possible (and get up on hyperextension and bowleg). She always said, “Ellen what do YOU want to achieve? So why not? I know you can do that and more. Don’t let anyone tell you no or let anything stand in your way.” Even though I graduated 7 years ago, Ms. T will still answer her phone at all hours of the day to give me advice, guidance, and opportunity, which I am forever grateful for and appreciative of.”
“NJDTE prepares you for a professional dance career in more ways than you can imagine. The choreographers and repertory that I have on my resume because of NJDTE is truly uncanny. It is such an honor to work with the incredible faculty at NJDTE, all huge influencers in the dance world, some who will be the next big name. NJDTE truly makes every dancer feel important as an individual artist, NJDTE challenges you, while giving you the foundation and base for a healthy successful career!”
What was your favorite memory at NJDTE?
“Too many to name!! I’m not sure if it was performing at the Joyce, DRA events, summer exchange programs, Nutcracker weekends (including catering), those long Sundays at Drew, the lifelong friendships and memories I have made, or the home I found. Xoxo”
NJDTE sends a huge congratulations Ellen and the touring cast of An American in Paris. Purchase tickets to catch Ellen on the US National Tour: https://americaninparisontour.com/#Tour