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Hot Talent Spotlight:   Christine Shepard dishes on Eartha Kitt, how it felt to win Galen Hook’s Freestyle Roulette and her secret talents most people don’t know about

 

“Common sense is the most uncommon thing around– you can’t assume people know things about you and your life.“

 

“Be a human first and a dancer second”

 

Raised in Columbus, Oh, Christine Shepard began dancing at the age of 7. What began as a shared hobby with her older sister would soon become Christine’s sole passion. When she was 18, she auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance and was cut at the green mile. This experience only solidified her drive and focus on making dance her career. 

 

I got to meet with Christine a number of times over the last couple of months and every time was a pleasure.  Her energy, kindness and genuine nature makes her shine even more.  I could hardly wait to learn more about her and her journey in dance and life.

 

WOD:  What was it like as a girl from Ohio moving to New York City in 2015?

 

Christine:   I felt culturally prepared moving to New York. My dad is from Brooklyn so visiting New York as a child got me used to the trains, weird smells, and loud people. I did not realize how much I would miss nature. My energy fits the city’s speed, but I constantly crave fresh air. I grew up having nature at my fingertips. It did not take a special occasion to go hiking, swimming, or camping. Those things are in the state of New York, but not so readily accessible in New York City.

 

WOD:  What was your goal when you decided to move there?

 

Christine:   I wanted to study Commercial Dance at Pace University.  But then something happened I wasn’t expecting–I landed the role of a swing (a member of the company who understudies several ensemble roles) in The Sting at the Papermill Playhouse.   I had a lot of firsts in that show. I was not involved in musical theater much as a child. It was not until moving to New York that I found myself in theater auditions.

 

WOD:  Do you feel your experience in The Papermill Playhouse helped you land your subsequent roles on Broadway?  

 

Christine:   Absolutely.  The stars aligned when I got that job and I am forever thankful. The cast was amazing, the creatives were really invested in their work, and I was as green as a cucumber but learned SO much!  It opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t know were going to be part of my career.

The experience at Papermill Playhouse gave me the confidence to audition and be a  part of two Broadway casts Head Over Heels, and  Mean Girls.  Broadway is like nothing I have ever done before. It’s hard work. you are forever on a creative emotional rollercoaster. Eight shows a week, that is insane if you really think about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic way to make a living and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity. But when you are doing something so demanding eight times a week, it can wear you down. Energy in the theater is everything. You basically live there. 

 

The biggest difference between my Head Over Heels and Mean Girls experience was energy. I was part of the original Head Over Heels cast, and though the show was short-lived, the passion never died. It never felt like I was going to work. Mean Girls was work. When I joined the Mean Girls cast, they were celebrating their first year on Broadway. Me and three men came in to replace original cast members. The energy shift was inevitable. Integrating yourself into a new community can be difficult. I found my way and my relationships; it just took time. And that’s okay, because that’s life.  The stage, however, is my true home. I cherish the time I have gotten to perform for audiences big and small.

 

WOD:  And HOW FUN was it to perform in a SNL digital short Baby Steps?

 

Christine:  SNL may be the most fun job I’ve had. I was brought on at the last minute by the choreographer, Nick Kenkel. We were dressed as babies, so I wore a onesie 75% of the day. It was amazing. I felt lucky we had a super cool film location–the science playground at the New York Hall of Science in Queens.  I am such a nerd and I loved it. We were rolling in the sandbox and dancing on the slides. It was hilarious.  Miley Cyrus was really nice and super normal. The whole day was a lot of “hurry up and wait” but they fed me and kept me laughing and I got to wear a onesie. A perfect day!

 

WOD:  Congratulations on your most recent achievement–winning Galen Hook’s second annual Freestyle Roulette!  Tell us all about it!

 

Christine:  The Freestyle Roulette experience was so unexpected for me. I didn’t go there with the mindset of “I’m here to win this”. I was so excited to be in a room of people who loved improvisation as much as I do.  I was simply looking for a release so I ran from work to compete.  Winning was a temporary dream state. Now, clips of it are viral on the internet and I find it all surreal. I met Galen in 2017 when I did her heels intensive in New York. I was recovering from a surgery and that weekend helped boost my morale and light the fire I have for performance. Two years later we reunited at the competition and it all felt very full circle.

 

WOD:  Tell us about your other hobbies and interests–I hear you are a multi-talented artist with a ton of secret talents!!!

 

Christine:  While my professional career has been centered around dance and singing, I also play the cello, write poetry, host podcasts and collect records.  

 

WOD:  What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?  

 

Christine:  Common sense is the most uncommon thing around– you can’t assume people know things about you and your life. Communication is vital and pride has the ability to make your message unclear. My goal is to not dumb things down but make things attractive enough that you will want to listen and understand. 

 

WOD:  If you could dance with anyone (dead or alive), who would it be?  

 

Christine:  Eartha Kitt – Her movement is stylized and simplistic. Everything about her is uniquely “her” and I resonate with that. I think we would have been a dream team, like a Fosse-Verdon pairing (her Fosse, me Verdon). 

 

WOD:  What is your ultimate day off agenda? 

 

Christine:  

  • Early brunch
  • Nap 
  • Mid-day brunch 
  • Nap
  • Live Concert (Literally anyone, I just love live music!)
  • Bedtime 

 

WOD:  What song pumps you up no matter what?  

 

Christine:  Shark in the Water– VV Brown: it’s super nostalgic for me and the beat is perfection.

 

WOD:  What is something you are scared of but you do it anyway?  

 

Christine:  As a dancer, it can be intimidating to learn styles that are extremely foreign to you. You not only have to shut off your ego, but also accept your ignorance. Though scary at times, it is so rewarding. In the dance world, learning new styles is like learning a new language. It allows you to communicate better and to more people. 

 

WOD:  What inspires you?  

 

Christine:  A number of things inspire me on a daily basis: 

  • Music- My everything–truly what keeps me going every day.  Music is a passion of mine and has a heavy influence on my dancing. To me, nothing compares to the sound of a needle settling on a record. The best part of collecting records is the unique experience in each record shop. I have the regular stores I look in, but I also seek out new ones and usually discover a new discography. It is super exciting to discover a new artist, no matter how old or recent the music is. Variety in my music taste will help me remain open and versatile with my own art. 

 

  • My family- I am nothing without my family. It is because of them that I am who I am today, and I hope to never forget that or take advantage of that blessing. 

 

  • The women who look like me who paved a way and are continuing to pave a way for me and the others after me- The list is endless because it is ever evolving. 

 

  • The past- Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one that wants to learn from it. The past has all the keys to the future, you just have to match the right key to the right door. 

 

From a young age Christine found several ways to express herself creatively. As she matures in an ever-evolving industry, Christine hopes to bring her authenticity and experiences to any room she can get into.  Anyone who gets to share the room with her will be lucky indeed.