When Tanairi Vazquez was cast in her very first Super Bowl commercial, she had no idea that she would be the star, or that Dolly Parton would be involved. But Vazquez was one of several dancers featured in the Squarespace commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl, featuring a 2021 remix of the country music legend's hit song "9 to 5."
The commercial, choreographed by New York City Ballet's Justin Peck, is Vazquez's first job since the Broadway shutdown—up until Broadway's closure last year, she appeared in the Hamilton ensemble. She plays the lead accountant in the spot, and feels that the role marks a milestone in her career as a Latinx performer.
"It's nice to see the versatility that Latinos have too. We can be leads," says Vazquez. "For me to be in a national Super Bowl commercial—hello! That, to me, is one of the most important things as an artist."
Dance Spirit: What was the pressure like to be in a Super Bowl commercial?
Tanairi Vazquez: It's major. Millions of people watch. I was so overwhelmed, especially when people saw it on "Good Morning America." I woke up to so many texts, calls and Instagram notifications from people that I know—and that I don't know. Being able to represent the arts right now on such a huge platform like the Super Bowl is incredible.
DS: How did you book the job?
TV: I got an audition through my commercial agent. I knew it was for Squarespace, but I didn't know who was a part of it. I didn't know there was a celebrity involved at all.
For the audition they sent me a video of Justin Peck demonstrating the choreography. The style was very Justin Peck—athletic, grounded, with quick footwork. At the time, I was on vacation with my parents, so I learned the choreography in the Airbnb that we were staying in. My mom recorded me doing it on concrete in the parking lot. So that was crazy.
A couple days later, I got a callback saying they want me to do it again, asking if I could improv for 30 or 60 seconds. They also asked me to do a little bit of acting for the accountant part. So I made a video where I redid the choreography, and added a little somethin'-somethin'.
I got another callback via Zoom. It was just for the acting beat as the accountant. The next day, I got the call. And they're like, "Congratulations! We're giving you the accountant role!"
DS: What was the process of filming like?
TV: We filmed this in the beginning of January. The whole experience was crazy. We had a car service to the airport. We flew out to Nashville, where Dolly Parton lives, in first class, and they put us up in a really nice hotel.
We get there and I had my costume fitting—that's when I found out that I was going to play a lead role in this commercial. Thank goodness I had the next day off, because I needed the whole day to process it. I've never been a lead in something this big. Justin was like, "Surprise!"
DS: What about COVID safety protocols?
TV: We got tested every day, and had to fill out a form every time before testing. We also had our temperatures checked every day, too. The crew, makeup and wardrobe teams did as well.
Vazquez behind the scenes of the commercial (courtesy Vazquez)
DS: What was it like getting back to work after being sidelined for nearly a year due to the pandemic?
TV: I felt very insecure. I haven't been on set. I haven't been with bodies. I was doubting myself, like "Am I good enough?," because of what we've been through.
But it was an amazing feeling when we had our first rehearsal. I realized how much I missed this. It gave me hope.
DS: What did booking this role mean to you?
TV: When I got on set, I realized, "This is where I want to be." During this pandemic, there were moments where I thought, "I don't know if I can do this job. Maybe I need to do something else." But the amount of love and support that I have gotten since the commercial debuted just re-inspired me to dream big and just keep going.
My parents instilled that in me. They said: "You are Puerto Rican. You bring your best foot forward. You can do what other people can do."