Growing up in small town Moorhead, Minnesota (population: <40,000), opportunities in Nicole's dream career path of professional dance were understandably limited.
In 2010, she moved to Chicago for college and managed to graduate a year early, nabbing an enviable gig at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
It wasn't long before she yearned to check one major thing off her bucket list: a spontaneous relocation to sunny LA with her filmmaker fiancé, Zach.
How has your dance career grown from city to city?
Nicole: Each city offered a unique learning experience. Chicago broadened my horizons with concert dance. The dance program at Columbia emphasizes ballet and modern techniques, so I became a better technical dancer in Chicago. The environment at Walt Disney World pushed me as a performer and gave me insight into auditions and the theatrical industry. LA has provided the best education by far. Obviously being the dance capitol of the world – next to New York – the classes and instructors are magnificent. I've learned so much in this past year!
A lot of people in creative fields dream of relocating to New York or LA. Do you think location matters if you're trying to make a name for yourself?
Nicole: Most definitely! It is all about connections and working with the right teachers and choreographers. Nowadays, artists think if they become “Internet Famous” they've made a name for themselves, but it’s much more than that now. The work is in LA or NY, so if you want to have a solid career, moving is crucial.
Imagine you never left Moorhead. How would your life be different?
Nicole: I can’t even imagine! I have no idea! Growing up in a small town, it was very difficult to receive the proper training and opportunities that prepared me for a future in dance. I would travel to cities like Minneapolis and Denver just to keep growing. Luckily, my family knew I could do it and did what they could to make sure I was prepared for my career. I wasn't born into an “artsy” family, so they had to learn about the dance world just as much as I had to train.
Your fiancé is a big part of your moving journey. Tell us about him! Where did you meet and when is the wedding?!??
Nicole: Zachary and I met while attending school at Columbia College Chicago. I actually graduated from Columbia a year early (so I only attended for three years) so I could head to Orlando. Working for Disney was a dream of mine since I was 13 years old, so when we started dating, Zach was aware of my plans. As I was down in Florida working, he was wrapping up his final semester in Chicago. He proposed to me on my 22nd birthday at the Boardwalk Resort at Walt Disney World!
We’re heading back to the Windy City this May for our wedding! We’re so excited!!
Now that you're living in LA, what are 3 things you still haven't done that you are dying to do?
1. GO TO DISNEYLAND!
2. Sign to a dance agency
3. Have my family visit
Nicole: LA is a unique crowd. Very different from the Midwest! Yes, I've made a few friends, but it’s a challenge being social in a place where everyone is working all the time. Making plans is pretty much impossible. Also, just living in the city is an obstacle. You may live in the Valley and your friend may live in Downtown, so meeting up for lunch can take hours. One of my bridesmaids lives down the street, and we've gone months without seeing each other because of our busy schedules.
Thinking back on all of your moves, which one was the trickiest?
Nicole: LA was the most challenging, because I purchased a one-way ticket knowing that I didn't have a place to live or a job. My family was very hesitant because my plan was, “I’m moving to LA and we’ll see what happens.” Thankfully, Zach and I made it work. We knew it would be difficult, but we believed in each other. Neither one of us had visited LA before moving. The hardest and biggest struggle, no matter where we live, is missing family. I miss them so much.
What are your top resources for anyone looking to pursue a dance career in Los Angeles?
Nicole: There are so many awesome dance studios! I spend a majority of my free time taking classes at Millennium Dance Complex and Movement Lifestyle. Recently, I started training in aerial arts at InFit Dance in Woodland Hills. An online source that is very beneficial for dancers is called answers4dancers.com. I've been on this site since I was sixteen and it helped me so much!