On our previous post, we met Disney performer Lindsey Smith. Lindsey is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. At Disney World, she is both a dancer and a teacher for young theatre students through the Disney Performing Arts Program®. Today we dive into her personal journey of finding a career onstage and gain actionable advice and invaluable inspiration.
Q. Lindsey, thanks for taking the time to chat with Dance Dreams. Tell us a little about your training and education?
I grew up in Murray, Utah and trained at several different dance studios in the Salt Lake City area. I started with ballet and then layered on other styles of dance as I got older. I didn’t compete until I joined my high school dance/drill team. I graduated from high school at the top of my class, and I attended the University of Utah. While going to college, I was able to get involved in a community theater and get some on-the-job training and experience with fun shows like “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “42nd Street.” By the time I graduated with my BFA in Modern Dance, I felt like a well-rounded dancer and ready to take on any audition that came my way.
Q. You are a performer at Disney World, where else have you performed?
I’ve been very lucky to be performing professionally for the past decade, and I have gotten to perform all over! I spent five seasons as a Rockette® and had the opportunity to perform all over the country. My first two seasons were with the Arena Tour, and we covered about 50 cities. I then spent two seasons performing in NYC at Radio City Music Hall. My final seasons was with CAA (Christmas Across America), and we did two sit down cities. I love that I got to experience the Radio City Christmas Spectacular® in so many different incarnations and venues.
Q. Did you always want to perform for Disney? What made you decide to audition?
I’ve loved Disney my entire life and would choreograph shows in my garage to all of the soundtracks as a child. I don’t think I realized performing for Disney was a legitimate career choice. I had graduated from college and was working in the box office of the theater where I had just completed the run of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Our “Millie” had done a contract in Hong Kong [Disney Land], and then [Walt Disney World] Orlando had called her to go reprise her role there. I asked her if Disney needed dancers and she told me, “You are perfect for Beauty and the Beast – get yourself to that audition in NYC.” So…I booked a redeye flight from Salt Lake to New York…landed at 6 am for the 10 am audition, then flew back to SLC at 4 pm that afternoon. Disney called me a week later to offer me the contract; then I had a week to move across the country and get to my first day of rehearsal.
Q. You are an instructor for Disney Performing Arts; tell us how you came into this role?
I remember going to Disneyland with my dance studio when I was younger and participating in “Magic Music Days” and performing on a tiny stage in the park. When I started working in Orlando and caught wind of a program similar to that, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with, so I jumped at the first chance I had to audition to be an instructor. There was an application process, and then from there they had us audition by teaching the other candidates choreography.
Q. What does a typical day at the Disney Performing Arts program entail for you, the teacher?
When I teach a Disney Dancin’ workshop, I arrive at the studio 30 minutes before the class begins. I always make sure I touch base with the director that’s in charge of the group to get an idea of [students] skill level and expectations for the class. The workshop is 2.5 hours and includes a mock audition, discussion about headshots and resumes, and then learning a final “show.” It’s a lot of material to get through and it’s important to keep up the energy and enthusiasm for the kids as they get tired.
Q. What is something unique you bring to your classes as a teacher?
I’m a storyteller. Giving examples of personal experience and real life application makes lessons more fun. I always make sure we have time to chat and let them ask me questions because I want them to know that their dreams are attainable. I’ve always found it inspiring to hear from someone that has walked the path before me and can offer tips based on their experiences.
Q. What does a typical day at the Disney Performing Arts program entail for its students?
Disney Performing Arts has lots of different programs. I teach Jazz Technique as well as Disney Dancin’ workshops. The technique classes are only an hour and a half and are basically a master class in whatever style you sign up for. The Disney Dancin’ workshop is 2.5 hours and includes a quick warm up, mock audition, discussion about audition etiquette, and putting together a final show (with a surprise guest at the end).
Q. What kind of skills do you think students learn from the performing arts?
The performing arts create beautiful and creative humans and those skills translate into every facet of their lives. It takes discipline, tenacity, confidence, self-awareness, creativity, intelligence, heart, dedication… I could go on for days about the benefits!
Q. Does DPA help prepare young students for a career in the Arts?
Any opportunity to learn helps prepare young students for a career in the arts. As an artist, you never stop learning. As dancers, we hear the same corrections from our same teachers on a daily basis – and then when you hear the same advice from someone else in a different setting, it suddenly makes sense. You never know where you might learn something that can shift the way you see or understand something. DPA gives students a chance to get a little peek behind the curtain of Disney, and I think that can be inspiring if that’s something they think they might want to do in the future.
Q. What do you recommend the next step being after attending a DPA workshop?
Apply what you learned and keep training.
Q. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Lindsey! One last thing: If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Success is when hard work and opportunity meet at the right moment. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and audition for everything, and never take it personally if you aren’t right for something. Train in everything and never stop learning – the more you can do…the more you can do. Work hard and always try to be the best version of yourself!
Kelsey is a classically trained dancer and Actor’s Equity performer. She has performed for companies such as Central Florida Ballet, Tokyo Disney, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and at sea with leading luxury cruise lines. A dancer by day and a writer by night, when Kelsey is not performing she shares her love of dance, travel, and finding a good cup of coffee on her blog Wend Away Travels. Find her full performance bio and show gallery at www.kelseyannglennon.com.
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