Lanie McAuley is a dancer, and she plays one on film. In real life, McAuley made the switch from concentrating on a dance career to choosing acting as her focus. However, she returned to dance with her role in Center Stage: On Pointe. It’s not often that one gets to appreciate who they were as a younger person and who they are just a few years later with such contrast. As a gifted young dancer from Canada, Lanie moved to New York when she won the audition for a production there. These days, as a successful actress she spends her days on film sets. Though she still pursues a creative life, the avenue which she pursues flexes different muscles, literally and figuratively. McAuley is a self-described practical person yet the vocations she has chosen to pursue seem to contradict that idea. A dreamer who began her professional career a little more than a week after high school graduation (with great success), it seems impossible to imagine her doing a job which involves a nine to five schedule and a 401K. Lanie’s view of herself is probably a product of her middle-class work ethic coupled with a desire to work her entire life at something which inspires passion in her. Even when she alters her path, Lanie McAuley always finds her way back to doing something creative…sometimes a number of things at the same time. It’s serendipitous that years after leaving dance for acting, Lanie’s acting career has brought her back to dance to star in the sequel to her all-time favorite dance film, the original Center Stage.
A young Lanie followed her sister’s footsteps into dance. At 18, McAuley attended a dance competition called New York City Dance Alliance, where auditions were being held for a tap/jazz show called Revolution. Her dance teacher suggested she go to the audition just for the experience; hundreds of female dancers were narrowed down to four and soon, Lanie was offered a spot in the show. She had just graduated from high school a week before. Suddenly she found herself moving into an apartment in Queens and taking the train to Manhattan every day for rehearsals. Literally overnight, she went from high school and living as her parents’ sheltered little girl to living alone in New York with a full time dance job. The hours were long and it was both physically and mentally exhausting. She was the youngest member in the cast and had to learn quickly. It was a quick and amazing kick off to adulthood and a professional career in dance. In addition to the achievement of being in a successful New York production, Lanie also made it into the finals of So You Think You Can Dance. Her focus changed from dance to acting as she became keenly aware of certain factors. She reveals, “I was clear on my love of dance but I started questioning how viable my career options were in that world. I’m a very practical person and the idea that an injury can blow your entire career seemed so frightening to me. I’d been acting since I was a toddler and acting had always been a part of my life. Though I still loved dance, I’d always wanted to make acting more of a focal point in my life rather than a side interest. I think my background in dance has been a huge asset in helping me gain roles as an actress. It made me very comfortable performing, whether on stage or in front of a camera. My dance training definitely gave me a posture and poise that I never would have had otherwise. I also think growing up in the dance world (particularly ballet) gave me a lot of discipline. Being an actor requires a lot of discipline, involving everything from memorizing sides, to committing to a scene, to taking care of yourself emotionally.”
It has often been said that nothing worth having comes easy. This can be true even if you have a head start. When McAuely’s agent called her about the audition for Center Stage: On Pointe, the actress was ecstatic. The original [Center Stage] is her favorite dance movie of all time and a highly motivated actress with a strong dance background was required for the role. Lanie’s character, Wendy, is meant to be a strong dancer who’s the measuring stick against which Bella (played by Nicole Munoz) is compared at the audition. The legendary Director X was involved in the production and ran a rigorous dance audition composed of ballet and modern dance styles. McAuley notes, “Auditioning for Director X was an intimidating experience. At the dance audition, I remember doing the ballet combo and him saying, ‘Again. Again. Again.’ I think he was testing my endurance. By the time I’d done it four or five times at 110%, I was exhausted. I had to hold my breath when they spoke with me afterward to hide how badly I was panting.” Lanie was awarded the role of Wendy in the film. Her costar, Nicole Munoz comments confirming the facets which made McAuley such a vital part of the film, “Captivating to watch, Lanie performed a contemporary dance solo. Her commitment and bright energy inspired the other dancers and raised morale on set. Multi-talented, Lanie was able to bring the character ‘Wendy’ to life by bringing an emotional depth that touched the cast and crew. We were filming on a tight schedule. Being a true professional, Lanie was able to bring a powerful energy to each take. Never once stumbling, she was always more than prepared. Lanie stands out from the crowd with her multiple talents, each and every one of them groomed and ready to go.”
Center Stage: On Pointe premiered with great success on the Lifetime network. While Lanie feels fortunate to have been in the cast of this popular film as well as challenging herself to unearth her dance proficiency, she concedes that she feels a reaffirmation that she made the correct choice in acting. She declares, “I think the main similarity between a career as a dancer and as an actress is that both careers are based on art and passion. Most people don’t enter these careers for the money; they enter them because they love the work. There are definitely some big differences between the two. Truthfully, acting is more lucrative, if you’re able to find success in it. There just doesn’t seem to be the same kind of funding and opportunity in the dance world that it deserves. There are certainly people who are enterprising enough to have thriving careers in dance (I’m so impressed by their drive and initiative) but for me, my passion for dance didn’t run deep enough to create those opportunities for myself. That’s likely because my practical brain couldn’t rationalize the risk of injury and the deterioration of opportunity with age. One of the coolest things about acting is that you can act professionally at any age. Acting is the art form of life…and life is all ages. When you’re 75 years old, there’s still a role for you. That’s a big part of why I focused on acting as my career.”