Erin Gray had a dream. And she’s danced her way right to it.
It’s 1am Los Angeles time, and Erin and I chat on Zoom. With the undeniable COVID-shaped elephant in the room, it’s a breath of fresh air for me to hear that an Aussie is successfully working in the arts during this tumultuous time. Launching her international career at Hong Kong Disneyland, Erin worked for three and a half years as a stunt artist, dancer and face character for The Little Mermaid’s Ariel. After Disney, she moved to Singapore and worked as a Maxim’s Doll as well as a Dinette at Universal Studios.
“I started dancing when I was three,” said Erin. “I started as a ballet dancer. I then moved into contemporary and jazz which was very technical in Sydney. I did full time after high school which was when I decided to join a hip hop crew because I was doing a lot of ballet. I was a very technical dancer, but my heart wasn’t in it. I really loved the commercial style of dancing. So I joined a hip hop crew, trained with them, performed with them, competed with them. And then when I moved to Hong Kong, I joined a crew there and did a lot of classes too. When I went to Singapore, I did the same thing. So I just kept training in hip hop and in technical as I kind of had to prepare myself for L.A. because L.A. is way more commercial based.”
Living and working in Los Angeles was always her ultimate dream. “I had always wanted to move to L.A. I came over here when I was around 14 with a dance troupe where we performed in Anaheim and did classes. When I got back from that I told my mom, “I’m going to move to L.A. I’m going to move to Hollywood.” So later down the track, one of my friends randomly hit me up and said, “Hey, if you ever want to come to L.A., if you want to move here, I can help you. I’ll sponsor you.” And so it happened. He helped me get here. That was my dream from a very young.”
Since moving to L.A., Erin has amassed an impressive list of dance credits including music videos for Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj’s ‘Bang Bang’, 5SOS’s ‘She Looks So Perfect’, and Redfoo’s ‘Booty Man’ and ‘Sock It To Ya’. She’s performed on tour with Dawn Richard, and danced at the Latin American Music Awards and People’s Choice Awards. She notes that working on music videos can be a totally different challenge. “When you do a live show you know you’re going to go on stage for an amount of time, and then have a break. But with music videos, you could be shooting like 12 times in a row, maybe get a sip of water, go back to it, depending on the set you’re working on. It’s such a different experience being on set. I love being on set a lot.”
Instagram has definitely changed the dance landscape as well, with Erin commenting that many casting panels and choreographers will investigate an auditionee’s social media profile to see what they can do. “Instagram is like a new résumé. A lot of choreographers will get all these resumes and stuff online, but sometimes they just go to Instagram and look at people’s videos and stories. Some will say you need to have a recent dance video up in your last six posts so we can see that you can dance. It’s been positive, I’ve gotten work from Instagram. But it’s also been negative because it’s taken away a lot of auditions. It’s a just a different energy, but I would suggest you have to use it to put yourself out there in L.A.”
Erin has had the chance to be on the other side of the table, having choreographed for Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney’s auditions. This year alone, she’s travelled across the U.S. and judged elite dancers in Seattle, Anaheim, Fallbrook, San Francisco, and many more. Her most recent project is judging on JoJo Siwa’s new TV show, Dance Pop Revolution, alongside other experienced dancers Markus Shields, Kyle Ponte and Robert Shultz. She comments that it’s really fulfilling to be in this mentor-like position as a dancer, being able to help guide the next generation of dancers.
With such a wealth of experience, Erin is keen to advise those hopeful of launching a career overseas. Her main pieces of advice? Training and exposure. “Definitely train. Go to a place, say you want to move to L.A., come here for two weeks, go to classes and meet choreographers. Get good responses, ask for feedback then stay in touch with them. So when you decide to make that move, those connections are already made because that’s how it works, you know. My biggest suggestion would be to make the connections first, and decide if you really want to do it. Even go to an audition, not to get the job because you can’t work yet, but go and see what it feels like to be in the mix. I did that, I didn’t have an agent at the time and I just went in and freestyled so I could get a feel for what I was up for basically. It confirmed that this was what I want to do.”
Erin continues to live her dreams in L.A. every day. To see her adventures and get inside access to the daily grind, follow her on Instagram @erinannegray