Saturday, July 9, 2016

How Raven McRae, a Broadway Dancer, Spends Her Sundays

Photo Credit: Alex Wroblewski/The New York Times
Raven McRae, a 22-year-old dancer who was trained as an actress at LaGuardia High School, is the only native New Yorker in the cast of “Paramour,” a Cirque du Soleil musical currently on Broadway. Ms. McRae, who spent much of her childhood on Staten Island, lives there with her mother in an apartment in St. George. On Sundays, she commutes by ferry to Manhattan for two performances. Ms. McRae made her Broadway debut as a dancer two years ago in “Motown: The Musical.”  
SHOWER WITH SPOTIFY I wake up at 8 and immediately check my iPhone, which is also my alarm clock, to see if stage management left any message regarding schedule changes. I need to catch a 9 o’clock boat into Manhattan, so I run into the shower and use Spotify on my phone to listen to Kendrick Lamar, who I love. I time my shower to the length of two Kendrick songs. I don’t consider him a rapper; I consider him a poet and an artist. He sings so passionately and doesn’t hold anything back, and that puts me in a good mood and inspires me to give 100 percent of myself on stage. Then I’m running out the door without eating breakfast because for me, chewing is just too much work that early in the morning.
ROLE-PLAY During my walk to the boat, I put on my headphones and sing along to Cynthia Erivo from the soundtrack of “The Color Purple.” I literally pretend I’m Cynthia. I have a nice voice but I never considered myself a singer until I got into “Motown.” Now I’d like to be a principal performer one day, like Cynthia. She’s very inspirational.
GIVE HER FREEDOM, NOT LIBERTY I get on the boat around 9:30 and sit on the side that does not face the Statue of Liberty because that’s where all of the tourists are and it’s just too noisy. I’m going to the city to do two shows so I want to be alone and relaxed, not crazed. I take advantage of the free time by checking Instagram or Facebook, or just staring at the water.
HIT THE BARRE When I get off the boat I jump on the 4 train up to Union Square, where I take an open ballet class for about an hour to get my body loose before I head to the theater. When I get there I usually have a granola bar and some coconut water before I warm up. It’s a great atmosphere; everyone is just focused on getting their bodies in the right alignment. When I have a good class, I have a good day on stage.
PRE-SHOW PASTA I usually get to the theater by noon, an hour earlier than call-time, and I order shrimp and spaghetti from an Italian restaurant and take little bites while I’m putting on my makeup, and the entire dressing room starts smelling like pasta. I spend about a half-hour doing my makeup and another half-hour doing my hair, and then I stretch a bit more. It gets hectic at that point because the dressers start putting our clothes out. About 1:40, I start getting excited because I can begin to hear the crowd coming in. Right before the matinee starts, I like to go on stage and watch the acrobats rehearse and check my marks and maybe run through the beginning of a few dance numbers with some of my cast mates.
INTERMISSION After the matinee, a bunch of us like to walk over to Bryant Park to unwind, even though we’re still in makeup and wearing hats to cover our wig preps. Some days I’ll get ice cream, or I’ll just take my spaghetti and shrimp with me and eat it there. Sometimes we get recognized, and people want to take pictures with us.
KEEP IT LOOSE We get back to the theater by about 5:30, and I take a short nap in the greenroom on a little bed I made using a big lawn cushion from Kmart, a small pillow and a kid’s blanket. By our next call-time, I like to drink a milkshake while I work on my makeup. Then I’ll get loose again by doing some chin-ups or using the elliptical or exercising with some other gadget. They call “Places” at 7:30.
HOME AGAIN After our second show, I catch the 10:30 boat and get home by 11. I like to get into bed and binge-watch “Orange Is the New Black,” which helps settle my nerves before I fall asleep sometime in the middle of the night. International New York Times