Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Gratton.
Annie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hi! my name is Annie, I am the youngest of four kids, the only ginger (which I am very proud of) and the only child to get involved in dancing and not swimming. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and moved to Phoenix, AZ with my fam when I was four years old. I trained at the same dance studio (shoutout to Bender Performing Arts) until I was 18 years old. I trained in Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Lyrical, and Hip Hop and competed with my dance studio at various competitions and conventions. After graduating from High School, I went to Arizona State University and joined their dance team, where I was able to compete at the National collegiate level. It was an intense but rewarding experience and I loved being a part of that team. I grew a lot that year but ultimately decided to leave the team and move to Los Angeles to pursue a dance profession full time.
Leaving college was a risky move, but I knew that it was the right step for me. After leaving college, I lived with my parents for a year while working at both a dance studio and fitness business to save enough money to move myself to LA. One year later, I DID IT! In the summer of 2012, my family helped me move to Los Angeles and I was so excited, thinking I’d be a “professional” right away. Oh, how wrong I was. I had to work two side jobs, at a steakhouse and a smoothie joint, just to make rent. I had no dance agent, and my two jobs kept me from getting much dance training. I was lucky to be an assistant on tour with the Co. Dance National Dance Convention, which meant that on weekends I got to go travel and train for free! While touring with Co. Dance, I gained SO MUCH knowledge from the incredible faculty and dancers around me. I was surrounded by mentors and remembered just trying to soak in EVERYTHING that I could from experience. I eventually got my dance agent (shoutout to GTA, the best) and was able to quit my side jobs and pursue dance fully. I began auditioning more and more and for every 20 no’s, there was about one yes. But let me tell you, I learned a lot from the no’s.
As time went by, I began to book UNREAL jobs that made me feel like I was dreaming! I have been in a feature film, TED 2, danced for Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, danced in Hairspray Live on NBC, danced in the period drama Penny Dreadful City of Angels on Showtime, and many other incredible dream jobs. For every job I have had, I learned more about my industry and more about myself as well. One of my mentors, Barry Youngblood, started his own dance convention and took a chance on me by letting me teach on it. I will forever be grateful for him because dancing on stage myself is one thing, but being able to help the younger generation believe in THEMSELVES is everything! I am also a Jazz Director and teacher at a dance studio in Montrose, CA, called Revolution Dance Center. I appreciate working at a local studio so much because that is where I can help kids achieve their dreams. I have also recently started a “club,” you could say, called “Jazz with friends,” where I organize pop-up jazz classes for dances in the industry to come and spread the joy of dance and train as a community. Dance is so special in that way. I feel incredibly lucky that my job IS my passion. I am a dancer. I am a teacher. I am passionate about helping others see their full potential and getting them there with a smile. It’s all about hard work and leading with LOVE!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My journey definitely has not always been a smooth road. The first roadblock I remember is my yearning to come to LA in the first place. I had to work several non-dance jobs while still in AZ to save enough money to move out to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams. I was able to save up after a year and when I moved out here, I thought that was it, I AM HERE, let’s start “BEING A PROFESSIONAL” right away, it was definitely not that simple. Even getting to dance class to train was difficult because I had to work a non-dance job all day just to be able to afford the training. Also, getting represented by an agency was also difficult. I remember going to several open calls for agents to be signed and it never worked for me for months. I was so frustrated and it wasn’t until a mentor of mine got me a meeting with the wonderful agency I am with now that I was signed (shoutout to Go two talent and Barry Youngblood for believing in me).
Then the next challenge, actually going to the audition and AUDITIONING. If only it were as simple as if you get the choreography and perform well you can get the job. Well, it’s not. Getting the job means your “look” has to meet what the job is looking for, you have to get the choreography and also STAND out from a sea of other dancers who want it just as bad and are just are amazingly talented. It took a few years for me to get over the disappointment of auditioning and getting many, many NO’s from people. You start to compare yourself to others and start down a negative path. Honestly, I remember the thing that helped me most is the friendships I have gained. I have always gone to auditions with the intention of doing my best, looking my best, and getting the job. I then started to change my mindset to still doing and looking my best but going in with the intention of free training, catching up and dancing with so many wonderful friends, and if I happen to book the job – a cherry on top! The thing is that you cannot expect anything in this entertainment industry. I have learned that you should always try your absolute best, and the rest is out of your hands so soak in what you can and enjoy the ride!
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am a professional dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, and choreography assistant. I audition and work in the commercial dance industry in Los Angeles. This means movies, TV, music videos, live award shows, live stage performances, you name it. For teaching, I work at the Revolution Dance Center located in Montrose, CA and Hollywood Dance Jamz, which tours the country and teaches dance to hundreds of kids. I LOVE teaching and performing and find that the more I do both, the better I get at both jobs. I love that working in the dance industry goes me insight that I can share to my students. I love to preach HARD WORK and a GREAT ATTITUDE. When teaching kids, it gives me so much joy to help them achieve their goals and let them know that it may be a different, long, fun, crazy road, but if they love it and are willing to work for it, they can achieve ANYTHING!
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have listened to my mom in High School when she encouraged me to take singing lessons. I love musical theater and singing at an audition is still the scariest thing for me. I take vocal lessons now as an adult and wow, it is difficult for me. So my advice to any aspiring dancer would be to train IN EVERYTHING YOU CAN because it can only help you!
I sometimes think, “what if I stayed in college all four years and got my degree”? “What if I would have gone to do a dance program?” What if? What if? What if?
I see other dancers who have had a full higher education in dance or have done things differently than I have and I start to get scared and think of the WHAT IF game. But I have realized that my journey is unique to me and I have learned so many valuable lessons in that and wouldn’t have it any other way. I am not perfect, but perfect is boring anyway!
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @annie_gratton
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anniegrattondance
Tio Von Hale