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Buckeye brings it on new Broadway show in debut

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Performing in the Broadway production “Bring It On: The Musical” is a dream come true for undergraduate dance student and former Ohio State cheerleader A.J. Blankenship.
Having a part in a Broadway musical and living in New York is “everything I have ever wanted,” Blankenship said. It has always been his dream to live in the city and perform on Broadway.
The Circleville, Ohio, native said he never thought he would be where he is today.
Kate Hale, program supervisor for the Department of Dance, said Blankenship is currently the only undergraduate student from OSU performing on Broadway.
“I think everybody is really thrilled for him and really excited. He is another example of the diversity we love to see in our students,” Hale said.
Blankenship said he is ecstatic to be given this opportunity.
“To be on Broadway, the biggest stage in the world, it makes me speechless. I wake up every morning so excited that this is what I get to do,” he said.
“Bring It On: The Musical,” which was inspired by the “Bring It On” film, which follows the story of rival high school cheerleading squads, combines Blankenship’s passion for dance and cheerleading, he said.
When Blankenship learned about the audition from a friend, he sought the advice of his instructors in the Department of Dance.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get prepared for the audition if it wasn’t for the faculty in the Department of Dance. They really pushed me out of the nest,” Blankenship said.
Meghan Durham-Wall, assistant professor in the Department of Dance, had Blankenship in class at the time and encouraged him to take the opportunity.
“A.J. is just like a bright light. He is very enthusiastic, very self-motivated and very creative,” Durham-Wall said.
Blankenship bought his plane ticket to New York the night before the first day of auditions for the musical.
“It was on a whim,” he said, “This was my first real audition for anything.”
The audition was “like a circus,” Blankenship said. “There were hundreds and hundreds of people who came.”
After four rounds of cuts, Blankenship found himself among 10 male finalists. However, after not hearing back from the show for a month, Blankenship said he did not think he got the part.
Blankenship received a phone call while in Durham-Wall’s class that proved him wrong. Durham-Wall said she shrieked when Blankenship told her he had gotten the part.
“The call happened on a Monday and four days later I was in Dallas, Texas, learning the show and joining the tour,” Blankenship said.
The OSU Department of Dance and his experience as a cheerleader was crucial in preparing him for a career on Broadway, Blankenship said.
During football games, he would perform in front of more people than he does on Broadway, and Blankenship said that really helped prepare him.
In addition, he said the “solid knowledge of the theory and history of dance” that courses at OSU have given him allow him to have a greater appreciation of being a part of a show.
Blankenship was on tour with the show for three months before its run on Broadway, which will continue until Jan. 20, with a possibility of extension.
Blankenship said his future is unclear.
“I’m definitely going to keep auditioning for things while I’m out here, but going back to school and finishing my degree is a huge priority for me,” he said.
Blankenship said his decision to put his education on hold to pursue his dream was a tough one, but the experience has been worth it.
This is “the best real-world experience you can get,” he said.

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