In August I made it a point to attend an IndyFringe Theatre Festival performance of “Divos” that showcased the choreography of Dance Kaleidoscope company members. The show, and I said as much in a glowing review, was a highlight of the 2017 Fringe. One of the dancers who caught my eye and who ultimately stood out for his stage presence, personality and dramatic skills, was DK apprentice Cody Miley. Miley, who relocated to Indy from Texas was hired by DK in June 2016. How he found his way to Indy is one of those small world kinds of stories and one I was eager to tell. Ever since Miley arrived in town I wanted to interview him but the timing was never quite right. However, after seeing him perform in “Divos,” I knew I knew it was time. Eventually I contacted Miley and we finally met at a Northside coffee shop for an extensive interview.
Here is bit of background on the multi-talented 26-year old performer who is in his second season with DK. Miley, 26, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but moved to Texas when he was thirteen. After graduating high school, he attended McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas where he began his dance training. He later transferred to Sam Houston State University and received his B.F.A. in acting and directing. A founding member of Nicolay Dance Works led by artistic director Dana Nicolay, Miley performed in several concert dance pieces as well as dance festivals including, the Houston Fringe Festival, the Bailando Dance Festival and the 2015 Dance Gallery Festival in New York City. He is also an actor and has been in many theater productions. Miley was hired by Dance Kaleidoscope in June 2, 2016 and started rehearsing with the company on July 5, 2016.
Miley’s route to Indianapolis and DK was a circuitous one. A football player at Barbers Hill High school in Mont Belvieu, Texas, that he said has a superb theatre department. Miley auditioned for a play directed by Travis Poe (a descendant of the poet) who eventually became a mentor. He didn’t get cast but on his second time out, he landed a role in “Dearly Beloved,” and later “It’s a Wonderful Life.” From that point on Miley was hooked and he continued performing in plays all throughout high school.
After high school Miley attended McClellan Community College where he discovered dance. He went to that school because it was his mentor Poe’s alma mater. The school also offered a university style education and trained its theatre majors to be triple threats as actors, dancers and singers. There he would find, what has become life-long pattern, another mentor in Jerry MaClauchlin, a dance instructor who Miley says “Took me under his wing and introduced me to ballet, tap and jazz. It was awesome. I said to myself ‘Guess what, I am going to be a dancer.”
Sam Houston State University was Miley’s next stop. After in audition at a huge theatre convention in which over 100 in and out of state colleges and universities participated, Miley received a call back from his first choice, Sam Houston. There he studied with dance instructor Dana Nicolay who would become yet another mentor. While there he met the theatre’s department’s costumer Barry Doss, who had seen him dance with Nicolay Dance Works. It is at this point that Miley’s life takes a turn and starts him on journey to Indianapolis.
Doss was impressed enough with Miley that he made him a proposal. He told him he was travelling to Indianapolis for the 25th anniversary of David Hochoy’s masterpiece” Scheherazade” that Doss had costumed when he was DK’s costumer. He suggested that Miley accompany him. In the meantime, Doss said he would contact DK about allowing Miley to take a class with the company. “I said ‘Deal.’ I had the money. I wasn’t doing anything. My girlfriend and I had broken up, which basically freed me, so I knew I had nothing to lose.” said Miley. As luck would have it, another dancer had left the company so Hochoy called Doss to inform Miley that instead of simply taking class with the company, he would be auditioning. Miley said that he auditioned from Monday through Thursday of performance week. Then when he saw “Scheherazade” he thought “Wow, I don’t know when I will be on that IRT stage. I can’t wait until it happens. Then a year later, from the day I said that I was performing on that stage.” says Miley.
I reached out to Hochoy to ask him to for an assessment of Miley. In an email he replied “Cody is very charming and has good manners, is very good humored and cheerful and loves to have fun. And he loves being a part of Dance Kaleidoscope. A very talented actor, he is committed to whatever he is doing at a given moment onstage, and that is very endearing. He works exceedingly hard. He knows that he has a lot to learn and a lot of “catching up” to do. This makes him very determined. Cody is also very open to my criticism, which is sometimes very hard and very honest, but he knows that it is in his best interest and wants to give the best performance he can. If he keeps on working like a demon there will be no stopping him.”
As for Miley’s estimation of David he says “The first year, I was very intimidated by him. I didn’t want to do anything to upset him. I was on my toes all the time. Since then I think we have developed a good relationship. I have always been able to take correction and direction. He sometimes yells at me. My dad was a drill sergeant. He was an Army sergeant first class. I was raised in a military life style and I am used to taking orders. I wouldn’t be motivated otherwise. I am hard headed. For the longest time I would make the same mistake repeatedly. I used to put myself though a lot of pain before I learned a lesson. David and I have gotten a little bit closer. I feel I can confide in him now.”
I observed that Miley is self-assured and secure about who is so I asked him about what it feels like to be a straight man immersed in a world some consider unmanly. “I have been called gay my entire life. It bothers me that society defines you through your sexual orientation. I never will understand that. All through high school and ever through college people made presumptions about my sexual orientation and though it sometimes bothered me, I just kept doing what I loved.” he says. When asked about what he says to boys or men who want to become dancers he says “I want to be a role model. I see men and boys taking ballet and I say to them ‘Dude, stick with it. If you don’t like it and this is something your parents make you do, that is one thing, but if you do like it, keep dancing. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you will always have people preventing you from succeeding. The thing to keep in mind is, if it makes you happy and keeps you fulfilled as well as doesn’t cause you harm, it’s probably something you should be doing.” he proclaimed. He also says that there are advantages to being a straight man in a dance company. “I get to work with and see beautiful women every day. I get to hold them and they know they can trust me to catch them. That, in itself, is a pretty cool reward.”
And now that he has been here for a while how does Miley like living in Indy? “I enjoy it. I especially like the weather. Honest, that is my favorite thing. It is so humid in Texas. I am really in tune with nature. The sky here is also different and so are clouds. I love the seasons. I get to see all four seasons. In Texas you have hot and sometimes cold and the leaves don’t change. Fall and spring are always going to be my favorite seasons because they are transitional seasons. I like change.” he states.
Besides practicing his art with DK, Miley also holds down two part jobs working as a bar back at popular night spot Tini on Mass Ave. and at the elegant Chef Joseph’s at the Connoisseur Room where he tends bar. Though he understands that he must be responsible and thus a good representative for his employers, he nevertheless likes to play hard when he is able, saying “I am transitioning into adulthood and embracing it. I am now more deliberate about my decisions.”
As we wrapped up the interview I asked Miley what lay ahead for him at DK. “Magical Mystery Tour” opens Oct. 19 and runs through the 22nd at the IRT. I am so pleased David has cast me in it. I am in the entire show. The music is great. I have always loved the Beatles. It is hard to find a person who doesn’t love the Beatles. Now when I hear these songs all I can think of is the movement David has given me. We are almost halfway through so I am still trying to get it into my body. But I will get there and can’t wait to perform in the concert. When I’m on stage I feel vulnerable and powerful at the same time. It comforts me to have an audience at my command.”
As we said our goodbyes, I asked Miley some final questions. What is your dream role as an actor? “Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream” he says. What dream role would you like to dance? “The slave in Le Corsair” he exclaimed. What is your long-term goal? “To be a successful and working performer. I believe I’m a product that can be utilized in different art forms and multimedia.” Given his drive, talent and discipline, it appears inevitable that this drill sergeant’s son turned dance artist will move from DK’s apprentice ranks to full-fledged company member. In the meantime, Indianapolis audiences can take immense pleasure in witnessing his professional climb.