"I was 19. I worked three different jobs and tried to keep busy."
Photos by Megan Monday
Nicole | Milwaukee, WI
“My parents are professional dancers. Until age four, I basically grew up as a 'stage rat,' following my parents from the studio rehearsals to backstage of the theaters they were performing in. I used to sit in the back of the studio and had to be very quiet. I would always have dolls with me, because I spent a lot of time on my own when I was really young. I had to memorize who was doing what piece during the performance so I could figure out which dancer could open up the doors for me to take me to the restroom or to get water because I was too small to reach the handles. I'd sit backstage and I'd just watch and memorize what everyone was doing and what pieces they were performing.”
“I didn’t take a ballet class until I was eight years old. I was way too shy when I was a kid and just didn’t want to dance. My parents opened up their own ballet school in southern California and I started taking classes with them. It was a new school and everyone there was just starting out, so I wasn't so afraid of doing it anymore.
My parents were my teachers the entire time. It wasn't always easy being a teenage girl taking class from your parents. Sometimes I'd be a little defiant. But, overall, it was great.”
“I never knew I was going to be a professional. I heard stories from my parents about the friends that they've made through dancing and the experiences they've had. Artistically it all sounded very fulfilling and wonderful. I wanted to have experiences like that, too, so I kept with it.
When I was 17 I auditioned for Colorado Ballet and became a professional dancer. I knew by then that dancing was what I wanted to do. I had a strong passion for it, especially for performing.
There was a moment when I quit dancing for a year because I didn't know if I was really cut out for it. I was 19. I worked three different jobs and tried to keep busy, but I couldn’t really fill the void with anything else. Ballet was always something that really fulfilled me. I felt like I wasn’t whole.
So my passion was just driven back to dancing, and I couldn’t live without it. I started taking classes again and then I auditioned and got accepted as a trainee here at the Milwaukee Ballet. I came to Milwaukee for the summer program, basically to get back into shape. I didn’t know if I would ever be a professional again. But then I became part of the second company here, and after two years I auditioned for the Milwaukee Ballet and I got in. I was an artist for three years and now I’m a leading artist.”
“I love performing. No matter how nervous I may get beforehand, once I step out onto stage I don't feel like I'm performing. It's a different state of mind going out there...you're not really able to really see the audience but you know they're there and taking that journey with me. There's something really magical about it.
I have no fear and I just want to share and I just want to tell the story. It's my most favorite thing to do. And I just hope that it can be an honest performance. That's the most important thing to me...not to fake anything, just to give as much as I can. Michael Pink really gives us opportunity to do that. He’s a master storyteller. I'm so lucky dancing in his company.”
"I feel like I've found a home here in Milwaukee, and I feel so lucky to have found Michael Pink and this company. People can dance their whole careers without finding what I've found...this gem. It's such a gem for me. I feel so lucky to have created for myself what I think my parents have in their careers. I get to tell my own stories now. It's kind of full-circle. If I ever have children I hope that they can be involved and hear all the stories that I've created for myself and be inspired to do so themselves. That's special to me.”
-Nicole | 1st Generation | Milwaukee, WI