BWW Feature: Dancing Full Circle with Alexandra Pernice of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
At some point in life you've probably pondered a career in the performing arts. For some that dream dies early, but for others they can turn their talent into a career. Orlando local Alexandra Pernice spent some time growing up here and learning how to be a professional performer. She now returns to Orlando with the national tour of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS this week.
Early in her career, Alexandra had a professional run with Orlando City Ballet. She also returned home a few years ago when the national tour of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA opened the Dr. Phillips Center. "It's such a stunning theater," she says. "I'm excited to be back full circle and I'm going to have a lot of friendly faces in the audience." Alexandra and I had a chance to chat about her career and what life is like on tour.
"I trained in ballet all of my childhood and then when I got into my senior year of high school, I got into chorus and musical theater," she recalls. While she focused on dance in college, Alexandra found a program that offered a musical theater minor. After college, Alexandra worked in regional theaters before moving into professional dance. For some transitioning from classical dance to musical theater can be a huge change. "I was was lucky. I was invited to an audition where I was able to seamlessly transition back into musical theater."
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS won a Tony Award for Best Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. The show hits on multiple dance genres from ballet to musical theater, to tap and jazz. Despite all these dance styles, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a cohesive dance piece, set as a musical. For Alexandra, this show allows her to dabble in everything. "If you are going to change from the concert dance world into musical theater, [AN AMERICAN IN PARIS] is the show to do it," she says. "We have the cream of the crop dancers. They are amazingly talented and amazing human beings."
Since the tour kicked off this year, Alexandra was able to be apart of the rehearsal process. She and the cast worked directly with Wheeldon in New York and during tech rehearsals in Boston. The experience was "invaluable" as she and other cast members were able to hear exactly what Wheeldon envisioned and then translate his ideas onto the stage.
Alexandra is one of the more experienced musical theater performers in this company made up mostly of classically trained dancers. "Our work environment is exciting and so much more supportive," she describes when asked about her experience working with this cast.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS was a 1950s movie musical that starred Gene Kelly and featured music composed by George Gershwin. While this adaptation takes place before the time the film is set, at its core AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a love story. I asked Alexandra what people can expect who haven't seen the show or film.
"The show takes place right at the end of the war," she describes. "It's really the music most people have heard. Songs like 'I Got Rhythm' and 'S Wonderful' are instantly recognizable. The music will be very nostalgic for many people seeing the show."
She goes on to describe what makes the story so endearing: "It's about these characters and their journey back to rediscovering art and love after the war and after all that has happen." Set in Paris, this show promises to be beautiful and visually stimulating. With scenic designs by Bob Crowley, the show won a Tony Award for its scenic design. "I remember seeing this show on Broadway and sitting at the edge of my seat," Alexandra recalls. "And I said to my friend, 'I'm suppose to be in this show.'"
Shows can inspire people. When asked what the best way for a dancer to transition into musical theater, Alexandra explained that the first step would be taking voice lessons. "I know a lot of dancers are afraid of singing in public," she says. "Doing workshops and classes are a great way to network and get feedback. Also be on the lookout for auditions around the country."
As an Orlandoan, I asked Alexandra if there is any places on her must-see and must-do list. "Every time I come back, I'm always so surprised how many places are different. There's always new places to go." While she has plans to visit favorite restaurants and attractions, it is clear that she will spend her time with the thing that matters most. "I don't get a lot of time to spend with family now that I'm based in New York. So I think my time [will be] mostly spent with friends and family."
Since the national tour opened in October 2016, the cast has visited seven cities prior to Orlando. Before then, Alexandra did two years on the PHANTOM national tour. "I just started a notebook with every city I go to and all the different places I went," she recalls. "[It has] places in each city I want to go, but haven't had a chance to. I think experiencing each city is what's fun. A lot of cast members do AirBNB and you get a piece of living in each city. It's just a cool unique experience. You get to see all these amazing places."
I wondered if Alexandra had any advice for staying healthy. "I think it varies by individual," she explains. "I know that there are people who go to dance class or do barre class every day. For me, it's about diet and rest. Making sure I get enough rest and eating healthy. I like to take [dance] class and crosstrain. Even though we're doing 8 shows a week, I need to make sure I'm getting my cardio in for stamina."
Be sure to catch Alexandra and the rest of the company of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts from December 13 - December 18th. For tickets and more information visit drphillipscenter.org.