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Alexander Aguilar as Fernando in Gotta Dance

The Chicago-area native caught the dancing bug as a young Michael Jackson fan

Photograph: Teddy Wolff
Alexander Aguilar

Growing up in Oswego, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, Alexander Aguilar knew from an early age that dancing was in his future.

“I am a die-hard, lifelong Michael Jackson fan,” Aguilar says during a break from a Gotta Dance rehearsal in New York. “From the first time I saw him dance when I was probably three years old, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I spent hours and hours and hours studying footage of Michael Jackson and wanting to be him.”

Following that ambition, Aguilar eventually attended the Chicago Academy for the Arts high school in the city’s River West neighborhood, commuting all the way from Oswego. “I traveled like four hours every day to get there—two hours there, two hours back.” 

Aguilar’s older brother, Adrian, is also an actor; in 2013, the two performed together, playing brothers in the two-man musical Double Trouble at Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre. While Adrian has largely made his career in Chicago, Alexander headed straight for New York after college.

“I love Chicago, and I love performing there, and I always hope that I’m welcome to come back,” Aguilar says. “But I always knew that I wanted to see if I could cut it with the best of them. I always wanted to do new Broadway shows, to be the first person [to play a role].”

When the company heads east, Gotta Dance will become Aguilar’s second show to reach Broadway, after Lysistrata Jones. “I just have that type of personality, where if I were an athlete, I would have wanted to play in the NBA or the NFL. I’m kind of a slave to my own ambition.” 

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