By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor
From touring in 13 countries with the dance company MOMIX to appearing in the top six on NBC’s hit show America’s Got Talent, Jaime Verazin has found success in all corners of the dance world. Her latest endeavor is performing in the new Broadway musical Finding Neverland, which debuted March 15. However, it wasn’t too long ago that Verazin was a freshman dance major at DeSales University.
Verazin attended DeSales in 2003 as a freshman and spent two weeks as a sophomore before being offered a position in a world-renowned dance company MOMIX. Jaime decided to accept the position and would go on to tour with MOMIX for nearly five years.
Jaime attributes a lot of her success to her mentor and DeSales dance professor, Trinette Singleton. Singleton is known for her many years spent dancing in the esteemed Joffrey Ballet Company and for appearing on the cover of Time magazine in 1968, making her the first dancer to appear on the cover of a national news magazine.
Singleton taught Jaime at a young age and Jaime refers to her as a “second mom.” Verazin was inspired by how Singleton continued to “break boundaries and get to a place where her passion was her life.” Coincidentally, DeSales was looking for a master ballet teacher at the time, and Verazin’s connection to Singleton, who was considering moving to the Lehigh Valley, was one of the contributing factors that led to DeSales hiring Singleton.
It was also Singleton who initially encouraged Verazin to audition for MOMIX. Verazin enjoyed the audition and was grateful for the experience, but left the audition with little expectation that she’d receive a callback. She recalls moving into her sophomore year, eating lunch in the then-newly built DeSales University Center and getting a call from an unusual number.
“I got the call from MOMIX telling me they wanted to have me for a callback. I immediately dropped my tray and books,” says Verazin. “Getting that call was life-changing.”
“It was sad that I had to leave so early because I really loved it [at DeSales],” she adds. “Yet my family and friends reassured me in my decision. I knew my body is my instrument and it will only last so long.”
After touring with MOMIX, Verazin returned to the United States, auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and landed roles in three different operas. She also went on to perform aerial roles at the opera dangling 30 feet in the air.
Shortly after, Verazin met fellow dancer Mark Stuart, who would become her partner in dance as well as in life. Stuart started the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre, which is known for its “gravity-defying movement and dramatic storytelling.”
Verazin’s experiences with aerial forms of dance and dancing with props eventually led to Adam Battlestein approaching Verazin about returning to his shadow-dance troupe Catapult, in which Verazin was an original member years prior, to perform on the 2013 season of America’s Got Talent. Verazin and Catapult would go on to make it to the top six before being voted off the show.
Verazin returned to collaborating with Stuart on their show Standard Time. After finishing their tour in Pennsylvania, Verazin began working for the American Repertory Theater (ART) at Harvard University. Verazin had worked with Susan Misner as her assistant choreographer previously on ART’s award-winning The Shapes She Makes. Misner, who has appeared in various films and TV shows including Chicago and The Americans, recommended Verazin for Finding Neverland, a show ART had been developing and performing in Boston to prepare for Broadway.
“My agent also said I should audition, so I watched the movie to educate myself. I remember crying because the story was sad, but so beautiful,” says Verazin. “I had never known where the story of Peter Pan came from.”
Verazin auditioned and was cast as a swing, which is a performer whose job is to play multiple roles in the ensemble of a show when someone else is sick or injured, but also sometimes so that the missing performer who is an understudy to a principal role can watch the show and study their additional roles. Shortly after, Verazin also became a dance captain to assist with the choreography and not much later was promoted to assistant choreographer.
Verazin credits her continued achievements in dance to the many opportunities and connections she’s made in New York City. She encourages current DeSales dancers and others in the arts to not be afraid to follow their dreams.
“New York City allows a dancer to find a steady paying job, but also explore and experiment with many styles of dance,” she says. “While affording to live in New York can be a challenge, if you are responsible and determined like most dancers are, then you will find a way to make your dream happen.”
Verazin adds that anyone pursuing a career in dance must be willing to not let anything stop him or her from reaching his or her goals.
“I’ll never forget how Trinette taught me when I was 10 years old, and crying because it was hard, that you have to have the toughest ‘snake-skin’ and be able to shed it so that you can handle anything that anyone throws your way. This advice has helped me even now in reaching my goal of performing on Broadway by age 30,” says Verazin.
“You have to realize that in taking risks, you sometimes have to let things go and sacrifice to achieve your goals,” she adds. “Never forget to go with your gut, because you’ll find that it’s always right.”
You can see Finding Neverland on Broadway debut now. Tickets are available at http://www.broadway.com/shows/finding-neverland.