Born and bred a bunhead, Kaitlyn Jenkins, 20, is reliving her dance memories onscreen. On ABC Family’s Bunheads, Kaitlyn plays Bettina “Boo” Jordan, a loveable dancer at Fanny’s studio. In this exclusive interview with Dance Magazine, Kaitlyn dishes on auditions, body type, and being Boo.
When did you start dancing? My mom was a dancer so I’ve always been dancing. From when I was 3 to 13 I was at a competition studio studying tap, jazz, and ballet. When I was 13, I switched to all ballet at the Anaheim Ballet. I did summer intensives every year: The Jilana School, Kaatsbaan, ABT New York, and Boston Ballet.
When did you start acting? I started acting when I was 16, and would go to different auditions. The first thing I booked was a Nintendo Wii commercial. In the audition the casting director saw the way I moved and asked if I was a dancer. I must’ve had some kind of poise.
How did you hear about Bunheads? Last September my mom saw a casting call for dancers and called my agent, who had already booked me for the audition. Two weeks later I auditioned and got a callback!
What was the audition process like? I had to come in and read for [director] Amy Sherman-Palladino, and then again with Emma [Dumont], who plays Melanie on the show. I had to audition for both acting and dancing. They made us dance in a small conference room, and I asked if I could mark the spacing beforehand. We were supposed to do a one-minute dance to see what jumps and tricks we could do, so I did the first-act Kitri variation from Don Quixote.
What’s a typical day like? We have to get on set early to give ourselves a warm up, then we spend time rehearsing what we’ll be dancing that day. Then we go into hair and makeup and start filming. They have to film from all angles, so we’ll do a dance 50 times by the end of the day. If it’s a combination, we’ll do it 15-16 times. They have to make sure they get close-ups of the feet, then the whole body, and then the whole class. Sometimes at the end we’ll mark it so they can film audience reactions.
What’s it like being on set with dancers? I love the dance days! If there’s a shot of us stretching or doing tendus in class, they’ll bring in girls from the local studio. It’s like being with a family; we’ll all sit around watching dance videos on YouTube. There’s a real sense of community.
Any similarities between you and Boo? Too many! When I was 15, Boo and I were the same person. I think I was a bit crazier and outgoing, but Boo has her moments. We’re the same; it’s like reliving my past. We have the same struggles with weight and injuries, but it’s good because I can look at them through different eyes now. I love being able to relive a time when ballet was everything to me. Now I have other passions, but I’m rediscovering those feelings.
What advice would you give young bunheads? Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses—focus on your strengths and what makes you happy! Anyone can dance; if you love it, people will watch. Telling the story, emoting to the music, and connecting with your partner are the things that matter. Everyone has a role and you don’t need to have the best feet or the best extension to be beautiful.
When you’re not being Boo, what do you do? I love to go to the gym. I’m getting back into regular dance classes. I like experimenting with fashion. I’m still a teenager at heart. I’m always at the beach, but that’s the California girl in me.
Catch Bunheads on ABC Family on Mondays at 9:00PM EST.