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My First Month in the Concrete Jungle

I left my first visit to New York at the age of seventeen with a sore neck, like most tourists, from staring up at too many skyscrapers. I was a Florida girl then, a young cub unable to keep up with the swift-moving herd of New Yorkers. So I plastered myself to the side of buildings and vowed that one day I would be among this pack of black winter coats and umbrellas, navigating the city like a local…Just a few years later I made the move to “The City.” I would adapt to its pace and predators, and learn to live in a world more ferocious than anything I had ever known.


It began just a few days into the New Year, with two hugely overpacked suitcases and a one-way flight. The morning started in my sun-drenched Florida bedroom, and by nightfall I was moved into a tiny apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, staring head-on at an audition the next morning. With no grand initiation, I was a New Yorker. And so began my month of dancing and getting lost in my new home—Manhattan.


Dancer was my name and auditioning was my game. As I walked through snow and slush each morning making my way to auditions I listened to Sia and envisioned myself nailing the combinations.


I researched teachers and choreographers I admired, and ran around the city attending their classes at studios like Broadway Dance Center and STEPS on Broadway. One day I found myself waiting for my theatre jazz class to start. As I sat there outside the studio I watched an older gentleman stretch for class. He was wearing ballet tights and a terry cloth headband and mumbling “5,6,7,8” over and over again. Meanwhile “Fame” was blasting loudly from another studio. Dancers were sprawled out around me shedding their sweaters and slippers in preparation for class. I grinned and closed my eyes, soaking in the passion and energy of the New York dance scene like one would sunshine.


In my first month living in NYC I attended 14 auditions. At my very last audition of January I finished dancing and returned to the waiting room to pack up and go home…


But then I heard my name.


I got a callback! I had become so used to not hearing my name at callbacks I hadn’t practiced my vocal material in weeks! I proceed to go into the women’s restroom and run the hand dryer on repeat so no one can hear my voice cracking as I warm up.


On February 1, I sat down at my local Amish Market with a hazelnut coffee and a whole-wheat croissant and reflected upon the last thirty days. I did it. Survived my first month in New York as an aspiring dancer. I hadn’t booked a Broadway show, but I knew how to hail a cab, how to dodge slow-moving tourists on the sidewalk, and how to jimmy the laundry machine at the laundromat so it would take my quarters. And for my first month, that was enough. I felt like I belonged. But only in the way that no one belongs, New York being a zoo of transplants. Yet I wanted more of this environment that runs on diversity, tenacity, passion, and dreams.


New York still had a lot to teach me. But for January, I had kept up with the herd. And that was enough not to chase me out of the concrete jungle.


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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