Keeping Up with Viv: Putting in the Work

Welcome back everyone! I’m excited to continue to share my journey with all of you through my blog series. First things first, time is flying by.  It has been about seven months since I moved here and, let me tell you, I don’t believe it myself. In all honesty the past months have been challenging. I think any artist can relate. 

The first months in the city felt like a dream, like a scene from any romantic comedy based in New York, but where Manhattan is your true love.  Then you start to pay the rent, you finish settling, adulting hits you extra hard, and then BOOM! Winter comes along and your sandal and crop-top-loving self realizes it’s cold and the people you love the most are 2,302 miles away. I figured it is a good time to mention I’m dramatic…

Anyway, what have I been up to since my last post? Well, I’ve been in class, working my side job, and preparing for my new path. I can’t say it enough, I’m grateful for this year and I’m excited to talk about some great moments, as well as some wonderful individuals that are making a huge impact in my life.

First Performance: OTL Cabaret

I am blessed to be training and dancing in classes everyday, but what I’ve realized I miss terribly is the rehearsal process. It had been a while, to say the least, since I had performed. However, my first live performance opportunity came at the start of 2022!  Off The Lane was hosting their very own cabaret! It was an opportunity for me to choreograph, sing in front of people for the first time, and collaborate with others.  

I got to collaborate with fellow artist, Stephanie Nielsen, to choreograph a dance together. We danced to I Don’t Dance from High School Musical 2High School Musical is one of the many movies I watched as a kid that made me want to dance and sing! It was fun choreographing the iconic baseball scene and putting our own twist on it. 

The other dance I got to choreograph was Hakuna Matata from The Lion King, which was in collaboration with fellow artist Tamara Denson.

In both dance pieces I got to incorporate jazz and modern movement which are my favorite! Acting was another component. In the first dance from High School Musical 2, I played the role of a high school baseball player who doesn’t want to dance, and in Hakuna Matata I was a wild creature that is carefree. The challenge was most of the rehearsals were on zoom, so it was a joy when we had our dress rehearsal. We got to meet the entire cast in person for the first time! 

It was amazing to perform again.  It happened to be the same weekend my parents were in town, so it was special having them in the audience supporting me. 

I felt inspired and amazed by my peers’ talent, especially the singing.  I am always in awe of great singers because I am a beginner at the moment. Listening to the power in their voices and their acting ability in the songs was a pleasure to watch.  Since I am new to singing, I decided to sing back up, and even then I was nervous. Luckily there was choreography to go along with the back up vocals. I always find myself feeling safer when movement is involved. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait for future performance opportunities!

Mentorship Highlight

One of my favorite perks of the scholarship is joining the Mentorship Program through Off The Lane. I got paired up with the wonderful Anne Otto. Having someone to talk to on a weekly basis with so much wisdom is beyond helpful. Not only does she have an abundance of knowledge about the dance industry, but she is a lovely human that creates a safe and accepting environment for me to communicate. We have zoom sessions to discuss topics such as scheduling, reel and resume building, NYC safety, auditioning for shows, networking, and working on my Actors Access account. Since I come from a concert dance background and am new to pursuing a commercial and theater career, I have loads to learn to say the least. From taking theater dance classes and voice privates regularly, to auditioning for gigs, this has been a huge adjustment to my life.

Anne is always there to support and encourage me. During the past months of living in the city, I have definitely added pressure onto my own shoulders. Fearing failure and doubt have been my biggest enemies.

Anne graciously gives me the reassurance that I am right where I am supposed to be. It’s a good reminder that I need to be patient with myself. Everyone is on their own timeline.  Anne introduced me to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It helps artists find their path to higher creativity. I’m not even done reading the book, but I know it’s changing my life. It’s helping me recognize my moments of self doubt and self sabotage and allows me to unleash my creative, authentic self. Thank you, Anne, for everything. I will miss our weekly sessions very much!

The Best Training in New York City

With my amazing scholarship at Steps on Broadway, I have the opportunity to take classes from the most inspiring instructors. Some of my favorite classes that make me feel at home are: Skye Mattox, Al Blackstone, and Krystyna Resavy. I also look forward to the “Spotlight Class Series” at Steps. I’ve taken from Nicholas Palmquist, Shannon Lewis, Karla Puno Garcia, Chelsea Thedinga, Chris Jarosz, Jason Williams, and Michael Mindlin. I mean, c’mon!!!  Some of these instructors have been in film and on Broadway, and to think, I get to learn from their experiences and listen to their stories. Great teachers are crucial in my life.

Dance class isn’t always easy. It’s crowded, competitive, and physically challenging. However, the best teachers have their magic to make you feel safe to explore your limitations while leading a room full of hungry artists. They create an environment that is filled with joy and dance becomes therapeutic and a meditation as you realize everyone in the room with you is there for the same reasons you are. This opportunity at Steps is a dream, and I’m taking advantage of every bit I can.

la la la LA la la la…Alright, I’m warm enough to talk about my voice lessons. All my life I have been singing around my house, in the shower, and the many moments where I don’t even realize I’m singing. Did it sound delightful? I wont answer that. Luckily, I now have Ed Dixon to save the day.

I was thrilled to begin to learn how to use my voice and basically get to know it. Ed has me record each lesson, and it’s daunting to listen to the footage and hear myself. What is astonishing is feeling my voice change as the lessons progress. It might sound silly, but I am afraid of my own voice. Singing is vulnerable! Many times Ed will remind me that it is just him and I in the room. It’s okay if I produce weird sounds because it is the beginning and I’m in my journey of knowing what I’m capable of doing and learning that I can control it.

I have never taken acting classes (I’ve always wanted to), so it is fascinating to explore acting as I’m telling a story through song. I’m looking forward to creating my book, a binder with all my audition ready songs, and building my sound. I know I am in the wonderful hands of Ed.

I also spend a great portion of my time at The Taylor School.

My first visit to the school was the 2019 Paul Taylor Summer Intensive, and I fell in love.

I felt grounded, effervescent, and powerful all at once.

What surprised me was the amount of versatility in the Taylor style.

From that moment, it made the Paul Taylor Dance Company a dream company for sure.

That meant, when I moved to the big apple in 2021, I would audition for the scholarship program.

Then in late September I found out I won a full scholarship! I get to take daily class at the lovely Taylor studios, with no mirrors I might add (a rarity for a dance studio).

Not only is it excellent training with teachers like Ruth Andrien, Orion Duckstein, and Cathy McCann, but the community there has a bright energy. 

Performances with New Friends!

In my last blog post I talked about the vibrant Greg Butler taking me to the 25th Anniversary Show of Chicago, which rocked my world. Fortunately for me, in the last months, another lovely friend of Miss Ann Reinking, Gabriela Garcia, has exposed me to some spectacular shows. 

I first met her when she invited me to Joe’s Pub for the first time to watch Desaparecidas. A show with music by Jaime Lozano, whom I got to meet after the performance. The music was beautiful and told stories and celebrated the lives of a couple of fierce latinas, one of them being THE Daphne Ruben-Vega. That evening was eye opening as I was in a room filled with culture and pride; it was emotional.

Weeks later, I had the opportunity to accompany Gabriela again to watch The Little Prince!

Wow, that was a night of me continuously being impressed by all the tricks the artists could do.

The best part about these opportunities, besides getting to watch shows, is meeting and bonding with artists such as Gabriela.

Talking to her and hearing her journey reminds me that every successful artist was once starting out.

She is one of the inspiring women I have to look up to!

I’ve gotten to see a handful of other shows in the last few months. I won the lottery for Hadestown, which is a show I have been dreaming of seeing since it opened. I love it! I watched it with one of my friends and got to witness Andre De Shields, Amber Gray, Reeve Carney, and Eva Noblezada! I also saw Paul Taylor’s show at City Center. It was actually my first time watching them perform live, and I cannot wait to see more performances now that I live in New York! 

Ann Reinking Scholarship Board member, Caitlin Carter, took me to watch Funny Girl on Broadway. I was stoked to watch the revival, and witness the magic of Don’t Rain on My Parade live! 

With each show I see, I can’t help but feel emotional because live theater is so special!

I feel so deeply from the artists and their crafts they share with the world.

Thank god for the performing arts!

To think that one day it will be my turn to share with the world on stage or film.

(singing voice) I’m gonna live and live now! Get what I want, I know how! One roll for the whole shebang! One throw that bell will go clang! Eye on the target and wham. One shot, one gun shot and bam! Hello blog readers, here I finish this paragraph!

What is next? A world full of YES?

If everyone got a dollar for everytime I said I was inspired or amazed we would all be rich! As a virgo and enneagram 3 personality type, being inspired and motivated is what keeps my love and engine running. Well, I am busy learning this year from all the fabulous people I have mentioned in my post. It’s made my year a wild ride of emotions.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to listen to my body and rest.

I continue to journal, go on my artists dates, visit my family, and hang out with friends.

This is all crucial in keeping me sane as I hustle and bustle here in NYC.

I have a performance coming up at The Taylor School on June 5th which I am looking forward to.

I also am working on creating more fun video content as I started making TikTok videos.

My goal is to choreograph this summer and create a dance film! I am a woman with big dreams.

I dream of having a career of modern dance, theater dance, acting, singing, choreographing, and film work.

Until then, I’ll be learning from the wonderful humans in my life and working for my goals.

One audition at a time 😉

Thank you for joining me on my second blog post!

Stay tuned as I continue my journey in NYC!

Follow me on Instagram! @viviannadesantiago