“It’s my first professional performing experience, and it just happens to be on Broadway!” exclaims Meredith Miles. Indeed, last March, this leggy platinum blonde made her professional debut on Broadway as an ensemble member in Twyla Tharp’s dance-centric Come Fly Away. And even among the show’s Tony-nominated dance elite, Miles is an unforgettable force who holds her own. Her pure lines and sultry persona are on display, especially during ensemble numbers like “Take Five” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” But a career on Broadway wasn’t Miles’ initial plan.
Originally from Columbia, MO, Miles trained primarily at the Columbia Performing Arts Centre. After graduating high school, she went to San Francisco to continue her education at the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA program. But before returning for her third year, Miles took a leave of absence in order to pursue her dream career with Netherlands Dance Theatre. She had attended the NDT Summer Intensive in 2009, and, at the urging of faculty members and other dancers, bravely stayed in Holland to take classes with NDT, hoping to break into the company. However, two months later, a still jobless Miles moved back home and then to NYC—which quickly led her to her Broadway destiny.
It wasn’t long before Miles signed on with an agent and started auditioning for jobs—and, eventually, Tharp’s new Broadway production based on the songs of Frank Sinatra. “My agent asked the producers if I could skip the open call and attend an invite-only audition,” says Miles, “but they told her I was too young for the show entirely.” Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, Miles attended the open cattle call audition. Kim Craven, Come Fly Away’s resident director, saw Miles at the first audition. “Meredith’s confidence and lines stuck out immediately. I kept looking at her resumé, wondering why I didn’t see numerous Broadway credits. She was so good!”
Like Craven, Keith Roberts, former American Ballet Theatre principal and star of Tharp’s Movin’ Out and Come Fly Away, was at first surprised that Miles was so inexperienced. “But once I saw her working,” Roberts says, “I immediately understood what Twyla saw in her.” Although she’s the baby of the tight-knit group of Tharp regulars—the majority of the cast is 10 to 15 years older—Miles fits in just fine both onstage and off. “It was a little tough for her in the beginning,” Roberts says. “A lot of us have known each other since Movin’ Out, and some of us have even grown up together, so anyone coming into the show would be intimidated. But Meredith’s definitely found her place.”
Miles actually sees her youth as an advantage: “I’m in the best position because I am the least experienced. I’m so fortunate to be able to look up to everyone in the cast,” she says. “I keep my eyes wide open and observe everything.” Roberts admires her drive backstage. “Already at 21, she’s incredibly professional,” he says.
Almost all of Tharp’s choreography in Come Fly Away involves tricky, contemporary partnering. Girls fly through the air in complicated and elaborate pathways. “It helps when you’re partnered with more experienced guys,” says Miles, who’s paired with Roberts in “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” “Meredith really does her homework,” Craven says. “She comes prepared and ready to give 110 percent every day.” But Miles’ work ethic stems from her respect for the production and its leader. “It’s such an honor to be working with a legend like Twyla Tharp, and to be in the original cast,” Miles says. “And since she took a chance on me, and invested time and energy in me, I’m going to do nothing but the best for her.”
Now, Miles’ talent and hard work are paying off even further: She has recently begun rehearsing the role of Slim, a principal character played by Rika Okamoto. “Things are still up in the air, but after I finish learning it, maybe I’ll go on during a matinee or if someone is injured,” Miles says.
Just six months after her first performance, Miles is still learning the ins and outs of being on Broadway. “It’s a struggle to be consistent and do the same show every day,” she says. “Being a professional dancer really means learning how to remain calm and efficient in an ever-changing environment.”
Although she has a standout duet in the show and is on a principal performance track, Miles’ favorite Come Fly Away scene is the last one, in which principals and ensemble members share the stage. Sinatra’s “New York, New York” echoes through the theater and the entire cast dances through their curtain calls. “The very end of the show is the first time everyone in the cast is touching and connected,” Miles says. “Then, after everything is done, getting to bow for your work, knowing it was a great night—that’s my favorite part.”
Birthday: May 8, 1989
Favorite music right now: Norah Jones. “NYC gets so crazy. I want something soothing when I get home.”
Favorite movies: Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II. “They’re oldies, but goodies!”
Must-see TV: “Grey’s Anatomy”
Favorite foods: Sweet potatoes and dark chocolate
Siblings: 3. “I’m the bologna in the middle! It goes girl, girl (me), boy, boy.”
Fave NYC dance classes: Nancy Bielski’s ballet class and Joe Lanteri’s jazz class, both at Steps on Broadway
Who would play her in a movie: “Any strong leading lady—maybe Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock. I’d be OK with that!”
Cool job: “I was working on the film Black Swan as an extra and dancer while I was auditioning for Come Fly Away. It was a crazy schedule!”
Hobbies: “I love to cook and go running with my dog. I have a maltipoo and I love taking her to the river or Central Park. I love to be outside. Being from the Midwest, I went through tree withdrawal when I moved to NYC.”