>> The first thing Keltie said to me was “I love your name! I’m adding it to the list of names of the future children I’m not going to have.” As we both laughed at the comment I realized, I’m really going to like this girl.
What made you start dancing?
“I became a dancer when my mom took me to my very first dance class in a big red barn in the crazy small town I’m from. We got to run around and beat on drums, and I felt like I had found my calling. It was a place where I could just act crazy and be myself. And I always wanted to stay in dance. My mom would ask me if I wanted to play soccer or cheerleading or something, but I just wanted to dance.”
You said that you had found your calling because you could be yourself, but what still keeps that love for dance alive? What makes you keep doing it day after day even when it’s hard?
“[It was] around the time I was a teenager and I realized that it was a career option. I just love the energy that surrounds the stage and I love doing something different everyday. I’ve really always loved attention. I’m kind of socially awkward [laughs]. I have a hard time actually functioning properly in public and speaking to people and looking them in they eyes. I always felt like I could express myself through dancing, whether that is excitement or sadness. I feel more comfortable in a dance studio than anywhere else. I just wanted it to make it my life where that’s all I had to do. I didn’t want it to my hobby, but my focus.”
They’re not lying when they say it’s tough to make it in New York. How was your road to becoming a Rockette?
“It was really intense. I moved to New York with nothing. I took a bus from my hometown with no money. And I always remembered walking past Radio City and the Rockettes would be on posters in their signature outfits. We call them our ‘reds’. It’s the quintessential rocket costume. But I remember feeling so overwhelmed and wanting to be that girl on the poster so badly. Some people want to be Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, but I never obsessed over people like that. But, then again, I never obsessed over anyone like that girl on the Rockette poster. Then, I took classes and was auditioning and the Rockette audition came up. There were 650 girls lined up. It was the scariest audition I’ve ever done. They took 100 girls in the audition hall at a time. I got cut right away. I left, but went back the next year and auditioned again. I made it to the middle and was cut. Finally, in the 3rd year I got all the way through. When they called and said I got the job, I was home in Canada with my mom and we just sat there and cried. It was the realization of a dream. A lot of people in show biz get to do these amazing things with their talents but are so focused on other future aspects of it—how much money they’ll make or where they’ll party next weekend. They don’t focus on the moment they’re in, but I was in that moment.”
You wrapped up Peep Show not too long ago, can you contrast being a Vegas Showgirl to a New York City dancer?
“Well, there’s a huge difference, obviously Las Vegas isn’t New York. For me, Peep Show was a great experience. It’s a very sexy, sassy kind of show and it was great while it was happening. Especially because I never really expected it to happen, it wasn’t a goal of mine. It just came up. And I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad it’s over. I want to live in New York. I just belong here. I never belonged in Las Vegas, it was always just me struggling against myself as a person because it was the most un-me I’ve ever been. I’m not a very good showgirl [laughs]. But I do like the glitter. I’m a little too nerdy to be the hot girl on stage.”
In your cover story for Dance Spirit Magazine you were quoted as saying, “I realized I could either be the half naked ‘hot girl’ in the music video, or I could focus on making better decisions. It’s OK not to be famous if you have to go about it the wrong way.” In regards to that quote, how do you pick and choose career opportunities that are offered to you?
“When I was younger I did everything without thinking about the consequences. I know myself and I know I’m really just the nerdy girl, so it felt like an alter ego. I’m not the girl in the spandex dress at the club, so it’s fun to play that sometimes. As I got older, I really had to take a look at life and what I wanted to do and cater to that. As pretty girls in the dance industry there are so many opportunities to go to that side of the scantily clad and sex symbol. Then, you’re constantly around people who are like that. And then you’re on TMZ in a sex tape. And for me, I think I might have been more successful had I gone that route, but I’m not interested in being infamous or famous. I realized I was being a role model to young girls and dancers and I was honest with my struggles of picking jobs. I wanted the girls to realize that at a point, people could just start to see you as a sex object. You have to be smart, recognize that and pick jobs that are more wholesome. I did that and now I have stages of my career I can look back on and be proud to share with my dad and brother. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t be sexy. I loved doing Peep Show, because it was sexy. You have to realize that anything you do at that time can be taken out of context. It doesn’t matter what director you have. People can see a picture of you in a revealing costume on the internet, and it doesn’t matter what you were doing when you took the picture—if it was joking around or right before you went on stage—they’ll judge you.”
You were one of the dancers to teach at the Sugar and Bruno Dance Camp, how was that? How do you come up with your dance choreography?
“It was amazing! When I make up choreography I dance around my bedroom and do what feels good on my body. I’m a lover of music and if something drives me or it feels like it’s the right song to do, the choreography sort of just comes to me. You know, I’m really nervous teaching because you’re putting a piece of yourself out there and you can tell if your students love it or are waiting for the class to be over. Luckily people loved my work, but it’s not about ego. I teach them how to be professional and I push them to jump first fearlessly into their dancing. I tell them I won’t judge them and the only person that can judge you is yourself. I want them to open up their minds, heart and soul and leave their heart on the floor. People really respond to that. I’m excited because we’re doing it bigger and better next year.”
According to your blog, you had a pretty rough break-up with ex-Panic! At The Disco member Ryan Ross, do you channel that kind of emotion into your dancing?
“First of all, he was not the first person to break my heart. I’m an adult and I’ve been through the ringer and I’ve had major heartbreaks before. I think what is so sad about artists is we tend to be more driven, creative and motivated when our hearts are broken. And I was really sad for a while. Ryan was my best friend for a long time and I loved him.” She pauses. “More than I loved myself, maybe that was my problem. And I still do. And I was honest and open with people that I was sad then I chose to pick myself up off the floor and love myself again.
Through art, studio, clothes, websites, kicking back into my career full force, making new goals—I had a choice whether I wanted to be sad and a pathetic mess forever or I could be sad and then pick myself up, move on and focus on myself for once. That’s what I did and that’s what most people do when their hearts are broken.”
You just danced at the VMA’s with Taylor Swift. Is there a difference in what’s going through your mind when you’re on stage for Peep or the Rockette’s, as opposed to the VMA’s where your peers and other well-known talented people are in the audience?
“It’s a different kind of excitement. Being at Fashion Rocks or the VMA’s, it’s always so exciting because you rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and there’s one take. Music videos or movies there are a million takes, and they take the best one. But with a live award show, all your energy and everything you’ve been working towards is pent up for a two-minute performance. It’s this big high; my drug is that moment. The energy is incredible. MTV had them close down 6th Ave and thousands of people were in the stands chanting [Taylor Swift’s] name. Being a Rockette feels safer because I’m surrounded by twenty of my best friends and other strong women. It’s harder, but an incredible rush of excitement. For me, being a rocket is the highlight and everything is underneath that. But anytime I can get paid to be a dancer it’s wonderful.”
Now the obligatory question, Kanye or Team Taylor?
“Team Manners, actually. Please and thanks you’s are important.”
You’re a very busy and successful woman. Along with the Sugar and Bruno clothing line and Vegas shows and the VMA’s, you’re also in the process of writing a book? How’s that going?
“I stayed up until 4:30AM this morning working on it, actually. I’m a total book nerd. My mom is an English major and I’ve been reading three books a week since I started reading. I guess you could call me an obsessive reader. I love the written word and I love memoirs. I’ve read every memoir that I can pick up. I’m the girl that goes into Barnes and Noble and can’t pick a book because I’ve read everything. I love reading and I love writing. I’m a terrible writer, though, because I write the way that I speak. It’s without grammar and punctuation, but I figure there’s someone who can help me with that at some point.”
Can you give us a topic preview?
“ The idea to write my book came from Pattie Boyd (author of Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me), and Suze Rotolo (author of A Freewheelin’ Time). I read them at a time when the internet was cruel to me and I sought a lot of solace in these books because these people were going through the same things I was. Suze Rotolo says, “quite a herd goes with trickle down fame.” She talked about how she was never famous, Bob [Dylan] was. I was feeling this same kind of emotion.
I’ve walked through my life in a cinematic way. I hear soundtracks in my head when I walk through New York City, you know? And I got this idea to write a book when I was blogging and I kept these really intense journal entries. On the cusp of my last breakup I was a Rockette and I had three rockstar boyfriends and three bad breakups, everything was happening in three’s. I got this idea for a ‘seasons of love’ story. Here I was, this eco-friendly, Canadian girl and guy number one was a rock and roll, Motley Crue type. Boy number two was a devout Christian rock star and number three was this emo rocker who was skinnier than me. And every year in between that there is a season of Rockette’s. Well, I had finished with the Rockette’s and three crazy love lives and I was at rock bottom. I realized that obviously this isn’t working. So, I decided to write about it. It’s just a collection of heartbreak and crazy hilarious stories. I don’t know if it will be a memoir story, but I’ll change the names.
I think that there’s a lull of realistic women authors. There are memoirs for guys of them being awkward growing up, but there’s a void for girls. People read what I’m writing online and now there’s this awesome way for me to express how I’m feeling. I don’t know how the book will ultimately turn out, but it’s almost finished, and my goal is to shop around and have it published. I might even have to publish myself.
Hollywood and the media make coming of age this really awesome thing. You grow up and your awkward and all of a sudden Freddie Prince Jr. gives you an awesome haircut and lipgloss and you can fall in love and everything’s perfect. But it’s not that way. Growing up is hard and wonderful and upsetting and I think I just want to tell stories because us girls need to stick together. You shouldn’t have to feel lost when you’re fifteen, thirty-four or forty-five years old and you don’t’ know what you’re doing. It’s okay.”
Tell us about your “fearless heart” motto.
“I have always had this mantra ‘Courage, Passion, Hard work.’ I’ve used this since I was in high school. And the ‘fearless heart’ motto came about when I started doing workshops for Peep Show. I had my heart ripped to shreds and I had been afraid of myself at that point. Even though I had all these success and a wonderful group of friends and family behind me, I had a hard time getting out of bed. I was afraid of the future, so afraid of the future. I just kind of began thinking and writing and prodding over this idea of having a fearless hear and jumping into your work and love fearlessly. No matter what’s happened in the past, whether I’m heart broken or cut from auditions, none of that matters or exists in the day that we live in. It was about jumping in headfirst and not worrying about people’s opinions. Don’t hold yourself back and then think about how great your day could have been if you didn’t hold back. That’s where the motto came from. I ended up having the word ‘fearless’ tattooed on my finger. And when I started designing clothes for the Sugar and Bruno line and I was like, ‘I should make it a t-shirt!’”
Out of all the dance performances you’ve done since you were a kid, which is the most memorable?
“One was when I got to choreograph the John Legend Green Light video. It was the first time someone had trusted me with a huge artist and I was able to be creative. That was amazing and such a high because John loved it.
As far as performances go, I guess the very first year I was a Rockette. That was phenomenal. I loved dancing for the Knicks at [Madison Square] Garden because there would be fifty thousand people there. It was so exciting. But really, I don’t know about most memorable. I feel like everything’s tied. I’m still constantly in awe of my life. My favorite kind of dancing is when I’m in class in front of a few friends on a Saturday night. When you can take a class, hang out and work through yourself and your emotions in that class, it’s the best thing. Also, any opening night is amazing, but, as you can probably tell, I could pick out twenty-five things that have been great. I’m just really lucky and a hard worker. In New York, we’re just moving so fast at all times. It’s very rare that I take the time to sit and look back. I’m living it while it’s happening, I’m blogging it and then it's gone.”