Many people would give up after going on over forty auditions in one year, knowing that the odds are not stacked in their favor. As a trained hip-hop dancer, that took only a few theatre courses, Aurelia Michael (‘08) was a non-union, African American female performer, with only two theatre shows under her belt, a big dream and an even bigger determination to snag a role in a Broadway production. This year, she realized a goal that was fueled years ago after graduating from University of Maryland’s School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies. Though not without disappointment and hard work, Aurelia is proof that dreams do come true. Aurelia Michael is currently working on her first Broadway show, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.
Aurelia has been using her unique journey to encourage others to follow their passion and realize that there is more than one way to reach a goal. She not only believes that people can be multi-talented, work across disciplines and be successful but she implores people to embrace and explore all of their talents. Aurelia has a long list of dance and choreographer credits, but before landing a role on this musical about the Queen of Disco, Aurelia has also been inspiring others as a life coach, image consultant and motivational speaker. Aurelia started Confidence is KEE (K-NOWledge E-VALUation & E-XPERIMENTation) because she’s passionate about helping others realize their full potential.
How does a dancer land a Broadway role after only two theater jobs? We interviewed her to find out. Read more about the Aurelia Michael’s journey.
Tell us about the audition process.
After going on 42 auditions in 2017 and getting 40 rejections, I auditioned last April for an ensemble role and was cut. Putting my ego aside, I had the opportunity to audition for the Swing role in July and gave it all I got. I am not a trained singer but I had to sing, read, and dance 4 numbers as a part of the audition. I had to break dance and dance in heels. My street style dance training was a huge benefit.
What advice would you give to TDPS students that want to act in a Broadway Show?
Trust the process. I wasn’t the best student while at UMD and I could have done better. Take advantage of all the opportunities at TDPS. I was a hip-hop dance major that thought I would get asked to dance in a company, or even just get asked to be in someones undergrad or graduate piece! But neither happened. Don’t get caught up in the no’s you get or the yeses that others get. No doesn’t mean you are not good enough. Know that a no may be what you need to leave room for the right yes. Trust your gift. Trust your talent, know who you are and what you bring to the table.
How did TDPS prepare you for a Broadway role?
Honest conversations from professors that pushed me to work harder. I took a modern class with Giselle Mason and I grew in those 6 months as a dancer, person and woman more than I had in the previous 4 years. I was encouraged to go to NY for the Broadway Dance Center Program. TDPS inspired me to do more and to now want to inspire others. The TDPS professors will meet you where you are. When I was at UMD the Performing Arts were not all together in The Clarice Performing Arts Center. I wish knew more about the theatre options or I wish I had cross studied and took more theatre classes.
What character do you play?
I am a “swing” cast member (Swings are vital positions in the cast of a Broadway musical. They need to be able to step into multiple roles on a moment's notice) as well as Assistant Dance Captain. I cover 11 of the ensemble females, ranging from the sister, daughter, nurse, to several featured roles.
How does the real life experience compare to the dream of performing on Broadway?
As a “swing” it’s a lot of hard work that is not always recognized and glamorous. There are days where it does feel like a job. But there are days where you want to pinch yourself because you can't believe how blessed you are!
What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
Lack of experience. With only two shows under my belt (one seven years ago, one few months ago and both only 3 months long) I had to rise to the occasion. Working alongside castmates that have been in musical theatre since toddlers can be intimidating. Trying to fill in seamlessly when you're not on every night is a thrilling challenge that I love taking on.
My hope is to encourage and motivate current students by sharing the story of my interesting path during my undergraduate and postgraduate career. I wasn't the dance major star, or most likely to end up on the Broadway stage. But that didn't stop me! Once I knew what I needed to do and what I needed to gain, there was no turning back!
Congratulations Aurelia Michael! We know there are only great things in store for you.