Updated: Sep 21
Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Dannielle Green
Current Location: Orange County, CA
Dannielle, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Before we get started, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Westminster and Huntington Beach, California. I started dancing at age three at Huntington Academy of Dance, and in high school I attended the Academy of the Performing Arts, APA, and began performing at the Rose. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Cal State Fullerton, and after a year of plugging along in community and regional theatre and grinding in minimum wage food service, I was cast as a showgirl in Donn Arden’s Jubilee! in Las Vegas. There I had the honor of performing with some of the tallest and most beautiful, classically trained dancers I’d ever seen- and would ultimately be a part of its final cast. I returned to California regional theatre before making the big move to New York City, where I booked a job as a vocalist for Hong Kong Disneyland. There I had the honor of befriending a brassy saloon owner who loved putting on shows in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity. After a year in Hong Kong, I returned to New York City and began a six month, eighteen hour-a-week, dance training program at Broadway Dance Center. There I had the honor of getting my butt kicked by some of the most highly regarded teachers and choreographers in the industry. After grinding in retail and beauty service and getting one very important callback, the pandemic hit New York City, and I returned to California. Here I have the honor of seeing my family every day and smothering my geriatric cats. In between it all I’ve had opportunities to come back to the Rose and reconnect with the place and people who laid so much of my foundation, and to remind myself of why I love doing what I do. It’s been a journey- I've moved six times in the past six years- and I’m grateful for the rest!
Can you tell us about what you've been recently up to?
To be honest, I was deeply unhappy while living in New York City when the pandemic hit. These past five months back home have been an opportunity to return to my sense of self and safety, and to figure out what I want to do outside of performing. I will finally start yoga teacher training at my home studio, I'm reteaching myself French, and I am reading enough books to justify a second full-sized IKEA bookshelf. However, I am also calculating how quickly I’ll be able to whip my derrière back into shape once the Moulin Rouge in Paris announces auditions and the EU accepts American passports.
Overall, has your journey been a smooth road? If not, what are some of the struggles you've experienced along the way and how have you overcome them?
Absolutely not. I’ve struggled to find community. I’ve struggled to find where I fit in and how I can stand out at the same time. I’ve struggled, as something I once did purely for love and joy, turned into a grinding job- and one that was an even bigger grind to get. I’ve struggled with my identity as a dancer-singer...singer-dancer?... both?... neither?!. I’ve struggled to determine whether a job or a city was worth staying in, and what would become of me if I left. I’ve struggled with my height, weight, skills, talent, ambition, and mental health. I don't necessarily believe those are things that can ever be "overcome," but easier to manage with time and experience. I continue to get up every day, and I keep finding things to do with my life. It's all taught me to try to be as self-aware as possible; always questioning how I feel, why I feel that way, and what I can or want to do about it.
Are there any lessons that you have learned along the way?
I am still learning so much. There is no formula or secret to success. No matter how much advice or wisdom I glean from others, my journey won’t look like anyone else’s. There’s a line between something that is difficult and something that is no longer serving or fulfilling you. You don’t have to be the best in the room to be worthy. Don’t wear brand-new LaDuca heels with fishnets to a six hour dance call. Or do- see what happens
Has there been any advice you've been given that has stuck with you?
"Life is not linear" and “'Should-ing' sounds like 'sh*tting,' which is what you’re doing on yourself."
It sounds like throughout your journey you've been surrounded by some inspiring artists. Can you tell us about a time that the arts have inspired you? Where do you find inspiration?
A moment that comes to mind is circling up with my Chorus Line cast on opening night shouting “I’ve come this far!”- from the lyric “I’ve come this far but even so, it could be yes it could be no." That turned into my mantra. “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” I’m inspired by coming together with a group of people and playing an incredible game of make believe for another group of people, and I’m inspired by people who are deeply in love with their art.
With experience performing in renowned cities around the world, what do you consider your proudest moment?
My top three... One, is going from singing “It Takes Two” from Hairspray for my APA audition- I mostly played male roles at my dance studio, it was the only song I knew, and had sheet music for- to being the first recipient of “Triple Threat of the Year” at the end of my senior year. The next is standing onstage in a twenty-five thousand dollar, twenty pound Bob Mackie design while my cast and 35 years worth of former cast and crew said goodbye to a piece of Las Vegas history. And the last in my top three is realizing I’d earned the cost of my four year university degree in one six month contract.
What do the arts mean to you and what role do you think they play in society?
Art is much more than an escape, and artists are so much more than entertainers. Art is an expression of the human experience. Especially in the medium of storytelling, artists hold up a mirror so that we can see our own joy, pain, embarrassments, and accomplishments mirrored back. Art helps us feel seen and it helps us to see what is possible. Art gives context to huge and very real experiences like death, loneliness, war, poverty, and racism. Obviously we would be in a bad spot during this pandemic without artists producing our TV shows, podcasts, music, and books. Beyond that, sometimes it takes an exquisitely crafted sentence, or hearing an actor’s breath in their throat as your elbows nearly brush a stranger’s in a dark theatre, to make you think “Oh, I understand now.”
With the world as it is today, what are your hopes for the future of the arts?
In the immediate sense, I hope social distancing doesn’t permanently alter the closeness of live theatre, and I hope that this new civil rights movement continues to light the fire under casting and production teams. There is infinitely more to be offered to and by BIPOC artists. I am excited to see how artists and the arts industry responds to the upheaval and pressure created by the pandemic, civil rights uprising, and political and environmental climate. Some of the best art has been created in the worst of times, and there will always be an audience for it. I hope that the hundreds of thousands of currently unemployed arts professionals can literally survive to make their comeback. Once we have live theatre again - go see it!!
How do you define unity? Do you think the arts play a unifying role in society?
Unity means being a part of something much bigger than yourself. The arts bring people together in ways that range from two teenage girls co-creating a book, to neighbors in a community putting on a show, to people from all over the world visiting a museum to see a work created thousands of years ago. I believe there’s work to be done in making the arts more accessible across the board, because art is and should be the great equalizer. Art is created by and for people from all walks of life, races, genders, belief systems, income levels, and upbringings, to celebrate our universal truths and our beautiful differences.
Image Credit: Sven Stucky
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