BWW Interviews: Erin Spencer, This Dancer's Life

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BWW_Interviews_Erin_Spencer_This_Dancers_Life_20010101

To see Erin Spencer dance is to fall a little bit in love with her. Talented and determined, ambitious and creative...she's kind of a force of nature. One of the growing number of dancers in the Nashville area who focus on theatrical performances - she has a heady resume of performance with several theater companies here - she's gaining a much-deserved reputation as an exceptional performer with an amazing work ethic.

In the past couple of weeks, she's been in New York City making the audition circuit, visiting friends and soaking up the atmosphere...and while all that is well and good. There's a whole bunch of people in Nashville hoping she'll remain here, continuing to entertain audiences with her amazing form and estimable talents.

Luckily, before she packed her bags for the trip northward, she sat down and answered our questions, affording us the rare opportunity to get a glimpse inside "This Dancer's Life." Read and enjoy...and get to know the lovely, talented and oh-so-charming Erin Spencer. But be forewarned: You're gonna fall a little bit in love.

What was your first introduction to dance as an art form? When I was nine-years-old and I saw Crazy For You on Broadway on a dance trip to NYC - the girl who did a solo pointe dance in the middle of the show is the first time I remember thinking I want to do this - I want to dance!

What was your first real job as a dancer? Honestly, I'm still waiting for it. I'm still auditioning, networking, doing everything to get that first real job...but the more I've worked at the Larry Keeton Theatre, with Kate [Adams-Johnson], the more I've felt like that has been the biggest "job" as a dancer that I've had - I've been challenged, and learned more about dancing in the last few shows with them, than I have in a lot of years of dance with many people in the country. Kate has given me chances to shine and show what I can do, and slowly but surely, I've been having people come up to remembering dances I've done in the past, which is just a huge honor to me. If they just added the paycheck in, it would be perfect!

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in dance? For as long as I can remember I've wanted to dance - my one fault is that I love doing too many other things as well, but dance was always my number one, and my one constant love and passion that never left me.

 

BWW_Interviews_Erin_Spencer_This_Dancers_Life_20010101

Who is your dancing idol?

This is going to sound crazy, but her name is Kirstin Tucker. I grew up with her, we danced together at Ann Carroll School of Dance, then she went on to Franklin Performing Arts (Kate actually taught her there) She is now on her second national tour in West Side Story (her first one was A Chorus Line). We ended up at auditions together for colleges for dance departments, but she ended up at Point Park University. I've just watched her grow into this astounding young woman who is just amazing. Her dancing is truly phenomenal and I still remember us being little girls and being envious of her natural flexibility. She has a stage presence, and a sense of discipline in her work ethics that is beyond anyone that I've ever known. She has always believed in me, encouraged me, told me what a beautiful dancer I am, and has never wanted me to give up. I want to be just like her - to have that same discipline, confidence and drive that she has. She deserves everything she's achieved already, and I give her a matter of time before she's lighting up the Milky Way as a star.

 

 

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? What are the best parts of working here? Well, I have found a group of people who have been nothing but good to me - who believe in me, and always love to watch me dance im my shows. Slowly, Nashville has been bringing in more and more talent, and opening up more and more theater companies, with more opportunities for a dancer to strive. It's not NYC, of course, but I see it becoming a mini-version of it in just a few years. Kate Adams-Johnson has been a strong force in my journey lately, I've been learning from her just the ways of show biz, little tips and advice on how to get ahead, but also- her encouragement, as well as many others, has been something I needed to hear to become more confident in my dance, and my chances of making it out there. As a hearing impaired dancer, I almost gave up, thinking no one would look at me or even give me a chance simply because I was hearing impaired. Kate and the others at Larry Keeton, and Circle Players, and Pull-Tight Players - have all led me to believe otherwise; that maybe there is a chance. That, perhaps, just maybe, the fact that I am hearing impaired, makes me more unique and more interesting than your average dancer - it makes you want to watch me, at least that's what I hope and strive for!

What is your dream role as a dancer? If you could dance any role...what would it be and why? Unfortunately, dancer roles are limited, and as a hearing impaired dancer, it's even harder to narrow it down, since I'm not sure that I could sing well enough for a lead role. But..I've dreamed for years to be in a Fosse-choreographed show, like Chicago or Sweet Charity. Fosse's choreography was first introduced to me when I was a sophomore in high school by one of my greatest mentors, Laura Gogh (from Ann Carroll School of Dance) and I fell in love with it. The sexiness, the unique body movements, the way you can't tear your eyes away from watching it, the contorting and twisting of different body parts - it's just a style that I so love. I also would love to be in Movin' Out if they ever do a revival of it, since it's all dancers with not singing, therefore I wouldn't have to worry about that! But the one true role, dancing role, would have to be Cassie from A Chorus Line. To dance to "The Music and the Mirror" would just be the dream of my lifetime. When she opens up like that and dances in front of the mirrors, and dances to lyrics of the song- there's no moment in show business that truly defines how I feel when I dance as that moment - it still brings me to tears just to watch it, or imagine it in my head.

What is the brightest spot on your resume...what role/work is your most favorite? Probably doing Swing! I was given a lot of moments to shine, and was actually the East Coast lead female dancer. I also did one of the most beautiful duets in my ballet piece with Dave Williams to "I'll Be Seeing You" - it was one of the most emotional dances I've ever done - one show as I danced offstage, I actually started crying and shaking because we had gotten so into it that it just felt so real. I live for that kind of performances. I also got to dance in the "Harlem Nocturne," and just was given a chance to really spread my wings and do several different styles of dance throughout the show. I got several people coming up to me for that one, saying they had no idea I could dance like that. That was such a huge peak of success in my life for me.

What's the biggest misconception people have about dancers? I think people see a dancer do one style and assume that's the one and only style they should do. I believe in versatility and if you are a dancer, that you can't survive without it. You name the style, I pretty much can do it - except break dancing. I've seen many fantastic dancers in my life, but when I learn that they only can do one style or so, I lose a bit of respect for them. I feel that you should have an open mind and be able to do whatever life throws at you, and you will be way more able to get hired with the more styles you're able to do. I think people also forget- when watching musicals especially- that all that "moving around" they do? A person choreographed that, and a dancer, or two, most likely helped in keeping that choreography stay clean and get better every week- I've been the dance captain for the last couple shows with Kate, and its hard work trying to make a whole group of people look like one unit, to make it look like they all might be able to dance the same way, even if in real life they can't. It's another thing I love to do- to take choreography and clean it up and polish it! I would love to get hired and paid to just do that for shows - just have rehearsals where all I do is pick them apart and make the number look unified, perfect, whole, and beautiful!

Who would play you in the film version of your life story? After seeing BLACK SWAN, I would say Natalie Portman. That film hit a little too close to home for me, and she would be able to completely capture my characteristics and feelings and emotions that I've gone through in my life. And I think she'd love the challenge of trying to be hearing impaired.

What's your favorite work created for dancers to perform? Anything by Bob Fosse or Twyla Tharp!

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the world of dance, who would you choose and why? Bob Fosse: To ask why girls could only be tall to perform his works, how he would feel about a shortie doing it, and to just know him and try to understand his mind and how he was able to even come up with those moves of his! Mia Michaels: I've met her once actually, took a class with her, but to be able to just talk with her would be huge. To hear her life story, to learn more about how she choreographs, and what she loves in a dancer, maybe even I'd try to dance at the dinner for her!! haha just to hear what she would have to say about my dancing. Frank Hatchett: He is my mentor and my hero. I've danced and worked with him several times throughout my life and he even told my dad he wanted to me be an intern at Broadway Dance Center and work with him, but that was before he got sick. I would want to tell him how much he means to me, how much his classes and his personality changed my life and the way I looked at dance. How much he made me fall in love with jazz! and how his pushing me, made me strive and want to be better, as a dancer, and as a person.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own dream...what would you say? Anyone can do it! It doesn't matter that I'm disabled, I still did it, and made it happen. To not let anything or anyone tell you that you can't do it, or try to hold you back. If one person says no, you keep moving on and going till you find the one person who will say "yes" and truly believe in you and push you and give you the motivation and drive you need. All it takes is that one person's belief in you to make you soar and really believe that you can do it.

 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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