As kids, we could’ve sworn we had the whole world in our hands. We could dream as big as our minds would take us, and we could be whatever we wanted. Well, sometimes our childhood dreams change. We grow up, and we either find a new dream to chase or steer to a new, perhaps even a more realistic path. But for one talented Broadway performer, she held tight to her childhood dream and now is part of 2016’s Best Musical, Hamilton.
Stephanie Klemons started dancing at the age of two and hasn’t seemed to stop since. From a young age, she knew she wanted to become a professional dancer and was determined to make it to Broadway. Today, Stephanie has gone above and beyond.
For the past ten years, the dancer has been dance captain, associated choreographer, swing and understudy for Broadway shows Hamilton, In The Heights, Bring it On, and If/Then. All of which were nominated for Best Musical, with Hamilton claiming the award only months ago.
Before working in Hamilton, Stephanie thought once she was done with Bring It On, she would focus more on performing. Little did she know that would quickly change.
While at lunch one day in Atlanta with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire, the masterminds behind Hamilton, Stephanie heard the song “My Shot” from the award-winning show and knew she had to be a part of it. “When I understood what was going to be created, I couldn’t not be a part of Hamilton,” she said. “So I chose to be a swing, which gave me the opportunity to perform in the show from time to time and choreograph with Andy.”
Taking on this new job wasn’t easy. While helping Andy put the choreography together, Stephanie was also performing eight times a week in If/Then as an understudy for two roles along with being the dance captain. Stephanie was doing “double duty” which she described as, “No day off, no time to sleep.”
She spent a lot of her time exhausted on the train from her home in Long Island to where she and Andy were choreographing in Harlem. “I started to get loopy, and things that wouldn't normally stress me out felt like the biggest, most insurmountable problems. I’ve had a few moments in my life where I’m like, well, I lived through that. That was one of them.”
Stephanie was born in Manhattan and grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey. When she was young, she saw Cats on Broadway, which she claimed to be the Broadway “bug” that bit her. But it wasn’t until she was nine years old when she saw Will Rogers Follies that got her saying, “I can do that!"
Stephanie has never let anyone tear her down from that dream. She went to school for Genetics and Microbiology Research in addition to Modern Dance. During her junior year, when her Broadway dream was right around the corner, people started asking her what she really wanted to do with her life. She was shocked. “I haven’t changed my answer my whole life people!”
She knew it would be difficult, but being a hard-worker has never been a problem for the Broadway dancer. Since her first Broadway show, Stephanie shared with us that she has become a smarter performer. When she was younger, she tried hitting everything hard all the time, but she learned as she grew up, how to pace herself.
Kids may have the world at their hands, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose it when we grow up. “Work harder than everyone around you,” Stephanie advises Broadway dreamers. “Be really good at your job, and people will ask you to work for them again and again.”