It might be hard to imagine being just out of college and in your dream job, but Fallston High grad Jennifer Muccioli already has the only job she’s ever wanted.
When Muccioli was 10 years old, she saw Lanouva, a Cirque de Soleil show, in Orlando, Fla.
“That’s what made me want to be a performer and work for Cirque,” said Muccioli, who’s been dancing since she was 2 ½ years old. “They were so athletic, so passionate, so entertaining. It was just a crazy moment and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
Thirteen years later, at 23 years old, as a dancer in Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles LOVE in Las Vegas, the 2012 Fallston High graduate is doing what she set out to do.
And she’s loving every single minute of it.
“What I like most is entertaining people, making people feel something, mostly happy,” Muccioli said during a visit home to Forest Hill at the end of the summer. “I enjoy happiness and making other people happy.”
When she’s performing, Muccioli always has a smile on her face and says she does things people can connect to, she said.
She enjoys performing for people who aren’t familiar with dance, because “they have more real, natural emotions.”
“That’s why I love the show I’m in – everyone can understand every single part,” Muccioli said.
Full of joy and happiness, the show is what the world needs, Muccioli said.
“That’s what I love about LOVE, the whole show celebrates joy and happiness,” she said. “It’s so perfect right now and I love contributing to it.”
Muccioli’s mom, Karen, was a dance teacher at then Towson State University. But since the school didn’t have any programs for students Jennifer’s age, she began dancing at Harford Dance Center.
A few years later she started at Harford Gymnastics and was on the competitive team.
Eventually, though, because of the demands of each, Muccioli had to make a choice.
“If she chose gymnastics, there would be no dance. If she chose dance, she could still do gymnastics,” Karen Muccioli, owner of Rage Box Dancer Center in Forest Hill, where her daughter trained most of her childhood, said.
“I took full force with dance,” Jennifer Muccioli said. “I was so young when I made the choice, 7 or 8. I think I chose it just because it was more familiar to me.”
She was still able to take tumbling classes, so gymnastics wasn’t completely eliminated.
“I’m very happy I made the choice,” she said nearly 20 years later.
After graduated from Fallston High in 2012, Muccioli attended Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a conservator of performing arts that is one of the top five arts colleges in the country with dance, theater and acting.
Muccioli majored in dance performance, jazz specifically, but really studied a little bit of everything.
“That’s how that school is, they want you to cover it all,” Muccioli said.
Growing up, Muccioli trained all the time, taking classes from as many people as she could, learning as many types of dances as she could, to make herself as diverse as possible.
Fortunately, she said, she grew up at Rage Box in Forest Hill, the dance studio owned by her mother that offered every style of dance she could imagine, Muccioli said.
After graduating from college, Muccioli worked on a cruise ship, where she learned how to ballroom dance.
“It was one thing I didn’t know,” she said.
She had also done some acting, landing stints on television shows – “enough for a SAG card, because Cirque is always a character. You’re never playing a normal person.”
“I really try to spread out to be good at everything I possibly can,” Muccioli said, “and perfect at everything I can.”
“Your strength is your versatility,” Karen Muccioli told her daughter.
Getting into Cirque
It’s not easy – at all, Muccioli said, and it’s quite nerve-wracking.
For many performers, it takes multiple auditions. Muccioli made it on her second try.
The first time, Muccioli was still in college. She spent two days auditioning and was cut after three to four rounds on the second day.
“I was totally OK, I was happy I made it as far as I did,” she said.
In January 2016, “I was so ready, feeling so good about it,” Muccioli said.
What started as 300 people ended with 15 girls and 15 guys earning parts in Beatles LOVE – Muccioli was one of them.
The audition started with a jazzy, contemporary number, she said, that the performers had to pick up immediately. They auditioned in groups of five and had to show emotion, do the moves correctly with proper technique.
After those cuts came a hip hop number, then more cuts, an acting exercise, then more cuts.
By the end of the first day, 70 people were left.
“I was exhausted. I was focused so much in the nine to 10 hours of audition, about not getting cut,” Muccioli said.
As the audition pool was narrowed down, the performers began doing numbers from Beatles LOVE, including the finale, “Sergeant Pepper.”
“It felt so comfortable for me,” Muccioli said, “but I was trying to block those feelings.”
After one more acting exercise, producers told Muccioli she’d made it – into the database.
Performers can be in the Cirque database for years without ever being called to perform. But it’s a huge deal, Muccioli said.
“I bawled my eyes out,” she said. “I still get chills when I think about getting into the database.”
Being in the database meant Muccioli could be hired for any Cirque show, anywhere.
While she waited to see when, or if, she would be called to perform, Muccioli moved to Las Vegas. She arrived in May to see what was there, and in a few days, she was dancing in a fashion show.
Not long after she moved there, Muccioli received an email asking if she was interested in a position with Beatles LOVE.
“Obviously I said yes,” she said.
“It’s a dance heavy show and they needed good dancers, so I felt good about my abilities,” Muccioli said.
She started rehearsals on June 29 and was in her first show less than three weeks later, on July 17.
Maybe it was the nerves of the first day at her dream job, but in her first show, Muccioli was late off her entrance – “I missed it by a hair.”
“I was supposed to run on stage screaming, as a groupie running. I had so much energy, I was so excited,” she said.
After the final number of the show, confetti rained down in front of the peace sign and Muccioli was ready to cry.
“It was the greatest experience. I still feel that way after every show,” she said. “The talent in the show is so inspiring. I’ve never felt as inspired as I do when I go to work.”
Muccioli signed a six-month contract which is up in November, when she and the producers will decide what’s next – another temporary contact or full-time.
“I hope they keep me around,” she said.
‘You don’t stop’
Muccioli’s schedule is grueling. She works five days a week, an average of 10 shows a week, Thursday through Monday. She works from 3 p.m. to about 12:30 a.m. doing two shows a night.
She also has physical training, rehearsals, costume fittings and makeup to be done.
“It’s very physically demanding. You don’t stop,” she said.
Her weekend is Tuesday and Wednesday. Some of her down time is spent with the cast, with whom she quickly formed a close relationship, Muccioli said.
“It took one day to feel like part of the case. They were so welcoming,” she said. “They want to know everything about you.”
If she’s not with the cast, Muccioli can be found in her apartment, playing with her cat or watching television.
She planned to do some hiking in Red Rock Canyon with her girlfriend, Carlee Lund, who moved to Las Vegas with Muccioli.
The two have been friends since their days together at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary.
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‘One proud mom’
Karen Muccioli and her husband, Gerry, a senior vice president of Colombo Bank, were in Las Vegas for their daughter’s early shows.
Karen Muccioli calls her daughter, and others like her, “Swiss Army knife dancers,” because they can do a little bit of everything.
Jennifer, she said, is the epitome of what she and her staff train young dancers at the Rage Box to be.
“She knew her dream, and it was kind of my dream as well,” Karen said.
There were times it wasn’t always easy to be the director’s daughter when Muccioli was growing up, but Karen Muccioli said it made her daughter tough.
“She’s probably the strongest and toughest kid I know,” Karen Muccioli said. “I’m one proud mom.”