Mallory Davis is a NYC-based dancer who is currently on the road with the national tour of 42nd Street. She is our #WCW because she is living out her dream thanks to her persistence, dedication, and talent.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I was lucky enough to grow up in the theater, thanks to my mom, and knew from a very young age that performing was what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. But I'm also lucky in that I grew up with mainly boys, so that helped me develop a competitive attitude, a love for sports, and a very thick skin which definitely comes in handy in this industry.
2. What motivates you?
This is such a hard question for me to answer, because a life in the arts is motivating in so many ways.
I remember reading an article once about a Broadway performer who always dedicated his performance to the people in the back rows of the balcony, and that really resonated with me because that's where I used to sit (and still do.) The back of the house has the cheapest tickets, and that's where a lot of aspiring performers go to watch shows. When I'm onstage at the end of a five-show weekend and I feel like I have absolutely no energy left, I think about the people sitting in the back rows of the balcony in the houses we're playing. I try to think about the young performers sitting up there, and about how I felt when I was in those seats watching professional dancers on stage living their dreams. I think about how inspired I was sitting up there, and how watching them fueled my desire to keep pursuing my dream. I send my energy up to those audience members and hope that I can somehow touch the rising generation of performers the way the previous generation touched and inspired me.
For 42nd Street specifically, I draw motivation from my younger self. When I was ten years old, my parents took me to see 42nd Street on Broadway right before it closed. I absolutely fell in love with the show, and as per our family's Broadway tradition, I bought a t-shirt from the merchandise booth on the way out. The difference with this merchandise booth was they were almost all out of stock since the show was about to close, so the only t-shirts left were in Men's size Large. I was about five feet and one hundred pounds, and absolutely drowning in this t-shirt, but you better believe I still wore it to school every Friday in fifth grade. I thought I was so cool. I kept telling myself that someday, I was going to be up on a stage like the beautiful dancers I saw that day. The day I got the email that I was going on tour with this show, all I could do was think about my 10-year-old self, and how she would have felt if someone told her that 15 years later, she would be touring the country with an unbelievably talented group of dancers, getting paid to do the show that she just saw on Broadway. I've had many moments throughout this tour where I've looked around and just thought about that little girl and how she got her dream. Remembering her keeps me from getting jaded, and deters me from having a bad attitude when we're tired going into a show after a long travel day.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My heroes are my peers. What dancers go through on a day-to-day basis is unbelievable. We show up to crowded auditions day after day, sometimes hearing "no" multiple times in a day, and yet we keep coming back because we are in love with what we do and we cannot imagine doing anything else with our lives. In order to audition, you have to make yourself completely vulnerable and open to judgement, oftentimes from creative teams you've never met or worked with before. You have to be comfortable enough with yourself and your abilities in order to put yourself out there, get rejected, and then come back for more. It's hard to explain how physically and emotionally draining that process can be. Then on top of that, you have to factor in how everyone is balancing auditioning with taking class, training, and working survival jobs to pay for it all. I'm constantly in awe of the resilience, dedication, discipline, and comfort in vulnerability that the men and women of the performing arts community showcase each day. The fact that they are still such a wonderful and loving group of human beings to be around on top of all of that, is so inspiring to me.
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
I completely blame my mother for all of this. She was an actress/director, so I grew up running around the Forum Theatre in Metuchen, NJ, which she founded back in the 1980's with four friends. For as long as I can remember, I've been performing. Whether it was in dance class, church pageants, community theater productions, or choir concerts, performing has always been the constant in my life. I decided in middle school that I wanted to pursue dance seriously, so I stopped playing sports and focused solely on the arts until I graduated high school. I attended Oklahoma City University as a dance performance major, graduated in 2013, and after doing a show in Oklahoma that summer, I moved to New York City in the fall. I've been there ever since, bartending, dancing in a tap company, training, and occasionally leaving on various regional theater contracts.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
I would love to do another tour, and the ultimate goal is Broadway. But as long as I get to sing and dance for the rest of my life, I think my goal would just to be happy and artistically fulfilled. Oh, and I desperately want a puppy.
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't try to analyze every "no." I think rejection is something that we take too personally as a society. Whether it's rejection from an audition, or not getting a job, or even experiencing a failed relationship, it's not always about you. I think we're so quick to get emotional and take every "no" as a personal attack, when more often than not there are other parts to the equation that we know nothing about. I have found this to especially hold true in the dance world, but I think it's applicable to nearly all walks of life. For example, I may not book a certain dance job because I'm tall with blonde hair and they're looking for a short brunette. Maybe for someone interviewing for a job in an accounting firm, it's not the lack of ability that kept her from getting the job, but it was the fact that the girl who interviewed after her had an internship with the sister company on her resume. It's important to accept the fact that you cannot control all the pieces to the puzzle. All you can do is work hard, show up, and present the best version of yourself that you can. From there, it's up to the universe to work it all out. Stop wasting time looking back on the no's, and look forward to the next yes.
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
I am a very strong advocate for the National Endowment of the Arts. Keeping arts in schools is unbelievably important for the development of our youth and the growth of our culture. The arts enrich lives in a way that most people may not even realize. That kid with too much energy in class who you think has ADHD? Put him in a theater or dance class and watch him channel that energy into something creative and positive. That kid who has social anxiety and doesn't speak? Introduce her to an instrument and watch her find an escape from what she's going through, and a new channel of communication. The arts heal, soothe, inspire, provoke discussion, and provide a means of escape for so many. I find it extremely troubling that our new president sees the NEA as an inconsequential part of the federal budget that can just be tossed away. Exposing the next generation to the arts is absolutely paramount to their development as they grow into well-rounded members of society.
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
Last year I was lucky enough to assist on the development of a new show that could potentially go to Broadway. I had the opportunity to be on the creative side of the table, sitting with the writers and the director and the choreographer and watch as they built a show from the ground up. The writing team was in the room with us every day, constantly making changes and edits and bringing new pages into the room. Our director was building the scenes from scratch, blocking off the cuff without any sort of previous version of the show to look to for inspiration. The choreographer was creating the dances on the spot, using the actors in the room as building blocks, and drawing from their unique bodies and quirks to enhance the movement and bring the story to life. Normally when you are cast in a show, it's already been done; people are familiar with the songs, and the original choreography, and the original cast members. But, getting to be a part of something so fresh, and having a hand in the creative process is so exciting. We got to take a story that just looked like words on paper and put it on its feet, experimenting every day until we found a physical way to effectively communicate what the writers were trying to say. The collaboration I observed between the writers, actors, and creatives in that room is something I'll never forget.
9. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
Don't compare your path to anyone else's. Trust your timing, and know that your life is unfolding just as it is supposed to. Do you. Don't worry about the person next to you. And pet a puppy, it always makes you feel better.