How did you start dancing?
My sister was a dancer in high school. At one of her competitions, I saw an all boys number. It just looked really fun. They were really enjoying what they were doing. They were high school guys too, so it was really cool to me as a little kid.
At the time I was doing taekwondo and gymnastics—things that were coordination and movement based. My family is a very musical family. All my brothers play instruments. The addition of music to movement really hooked me. But because I have five siblings, I couldn’t do all the activities I wanted to. I had to pick one. I picked dance and gave everything else up. I loved it. I was 10.
How did your passion grow?
I loved it right away. I was really lucky that my mom and my dance teacher were so excited about how excited I was. Everything about my dance experience from people that mattered was really supportive. My mom took me to faraway things—flew to New York, LA, and my dad knew that my mom and I spoke the same love language, so my dad’s was to let us have our thing. The whole family definitely contributed to me being able to go to these things.
Everything I’ve gone through recently, coming out, has shown me that I grew up thinking about what I didn’t want to be versus what I did want to be. I knew I didn’t want to sit in an office. I knew I didn’t want to do something I didn’t love. And it wasn’t like I knew I wanted to be on Broadway or had Gene Kelly as an idol. I didn’t necessarily have anything in my life that I was going towards. I just knew what I didn’t want to do, and what I didn’t want to do was stay in the same town and become something that everyone expected me to become. I wanted to get out and figure out what I wanted to do.
How was your first move to the city?
The semantics of it were really easy. I had friends who were already here. I was with Sarah, who was my fiancé at the time, and we had all the same friends. I went to a school that trained me to have the best technique possible, so I felt like I was coming in as a prepared dancer. On top of that, all of my friends were connected in musical theatre circles. I came here with my equity card, which was amazing. I wasn’t really nervous to get the opportunities, but I was more nervous about life necessities like doing laundry and navigating in the city. I am a very lame adult. I don’t know how to do things for myself, so I think the hardest thing for me was figuring out how to set up electricity and do all these things that, whenever you’re in college, just happen. College is such a fake life. You want to claim all the adult things that you’re kind of doing, but you still have a lot of safety nets. Moving to New York was definitely the first time I was on my own. There are things you have to do here that you got a little bit of leniency in in college. I moved to Washington Heights, had a job at a burger joint, which I still go to whenever people visit from out of town. It was a smooth transition. I wasn’t too intimidated by it.
What are you up to now?
I just finished the Radio City New York Spectacular with the Rockettes, which was amazing. I got to do every genre of dance in one show. Mia Michaels is a great storyteller. She built so many worlds, so it was a lot of fun to be able to get to do everything in one show. Right now, I am back on the grind and auditioning and keeping my eyes open.
What are your aspirations?
I think I eventually want to be in charge of a room. I feel like one of my gifts is to identify in somebody else what they can be helped in. When I have the opportunity to teach or choreograph, I feel way more comfortable than when I am being told what to do. As a performer, if I am not understanding what I’m being told to do, I get a little bit confused and frustrated because I feel like I am not delivering. But if I am in charge of the room, I feel like I can really clearly express what I want, and I think people find that they can get something else out of it too. I definitely want to be the kind of person that gives somebody an experience that they didn’t think they’d have. I’ve had a lot of people like that in my life where if I hadn’t worked with this person, I wouldn’t have learned a huge thing about myself.
I think that we’re so lucky to have a career that’s so passionate. You’re never going to have to think about renewing your passion because you’re always going to meet somebody else that compliments it or challenges it in a different way. I feel like I don’t need to have one goal in my life because everything that’s happened so far has been exactly what should’ve happened and exactly what I needed. If I tried to find it, I don’t think I would have gotten what I did get out of it. As long as I can keep doing jobs with people that I want to work for and want to give 110% to, I think I’ll be really happy. Whenever you’re working for or with people, if they are the reason that you’re getting up, then whatever it is that you do is going to be really successful and fun.
My last job at Radio City gave me a really different definition of success. It’s ironic because it’s the first job where people knew exactly what it was and it already had a little bit of notoriety, so I thought that that’s what would have made me feel successful. But what actually made me feel successful was that I felt like I connected with an entire creative team, entire cast, and everybody was on stage with each other. It really wasn’t about the 7,000 people that were sitting out there, which is definitely not what I thought I was going to take away from the job. I felt really lucky to be able to exist within a group of people—however we were sprinkled together in the cast—where we all really existed super well. That’s what I want to do everyday. I want to exist in that kind of environment where I know that I always want to be there more than anywhere else.
Number one advice?
I think what I am learning and I still am not best at is—I think it’s more important to be somebody that people enjoy working with than to be the most talented person in the room or the cast. What I notice in people who work a lot is that they have this energy that is up for anything. They’re not argumentative and not egotistical. People that just come in and are a blank slate for whoever they’re working for and have positive energy on top of that are the people that seem to keep on working. They’re also the people that you feel like you can say they deserve what they get. People that feel like they pay it forward when they can or that are generous in spirit.
My biggest advice to people is to stop thinking so much about how everybody else is taking you in and try to take other people in. It’s a hard thing to do when you walk into a room full of people sitting behind the table judging you. So, of course, you’re going to become self-conscious about that, and I think my insecurities manifest in a way that makes me seem standoff-ish. I think that I miss out on a lot of good parts of a job because of that. I am so focused on trying to be what they need that I am not being what they need at all. All they need is a body in the room that’s ready and willing to learn. If you are always worrying about how you’re contributing to something, then you’re going to come off as a little bit anxious, I think. It’s a really hard thing to do, to always stay open. I want to be the person that’s leading a rehearsal and helping push it forward. But sometimes that’s counter-productive, and it gets in the way. I think my type-A personality is something I wish I knew how to tame a little bit.
I think my toughest time is when I am injured. I feel like I know my body really well, and when I know that something isn’t firing or performing the way I want it to, it really knocks me back. I get harder on myself. It ties back to that other question where I become less open and willing. I want to be able to do everything choreographers ask for. I always want to be the person that choreographers / teachers point to and say, “Yes, like Nick did.” I think that’s everybody’s goal. When I am injured and can’t do the job one more time or when the eyes start to leave me, I feel like I shut down. I think that’s what’s really hard for me. I had problems with my knee during this whole contract, and it was really hard for me to do things again. I did it well the first time, and if the next time wasn't as good, then I’d be really frustrated. It’s not fair to anybody else because it’s not anybody else’s problem to deal with. I am probably being a little too hard on myself. I think my biggest issue is definitely when I am injured and I feel like I can’t walk in full of confidence because I am worried about this little thing or that little thing. It’s hard for me to shake it off when I am not at my best.
During American Dance Machine, I remember watching tech sitting in the audience, and they were doing Pinball Wizard, which was my favorite number. I couldn’t be in it because I was in the next number. It was Wayne Cilento’s choreography, and I remember something happening—somebody hit a note or was infusing a step with their personality or something. He was literally jumping up and down, so excited to be able to tell them how good they just did it. It made everyone in the room work so hard for him because you were actually working for yourself. When you reached a new level for yourself, Wayne acknowledged it and made it yours and not his. It was completely your accomplishment and not his. It was such an amazing way to work, and to put together eight numbers under the guidance of this guy who was suggesting ways to maybe try something, when in fact he knew exactly what it was going to be, it made every discovery feel like your own.
In American Dance Machine, I was in the ensemble of several ensemble dance breaks, and Wayne made me feel like a star in the ensemble. I think that’s a really hard thing for people to come to terms with—the title of “ensemble dancer.” But It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I don’t really gravitate towards roles not because I don’t think I am a great singer, but because I don’t enjoy singing as much as I enjoy dancing. A lot of times people say that “I am just in the ensemble,” and I understand where they come from. But for me, it’s my dream. I loved every single thing I did in that show. I loved coming to work everyday. It’s funny, because during that process I got mono. Within the first three days, I was told maybe I’d have a hard time having energy even to walk for six weeks. I was having some knee issues, and it should’ve been a really stressful and anxious time for me, and we were rehearsing a lot and trying to get this thing together in a short time. But the whole cast was led by this person who wasn’t going to let anything stop us from sharing the energy we were creating in the studio on the stage. It just made everybody pull up in a way that was—if my back breaks the next time I do this, it will have been wonderful to have gotten to do it one more time. I remember being so elated to open the show and to know that he was going to be out in the audience only proud and only happy for whatever happened.
And then I remember closing the show, thinking that at some point in my life I want to be a Wayne Cilento to somebody. Having that kind of experience to always remember to put yourself back and have that be your check, I feel like I can step away from a situation that I am trying to tell myself is bad and take something out of it and try to see how somebody like Wayne Cilento or Brian Marcum or all these amazing male role models I’ve had—how they would approach the situation. And what makes them special is really their attitude. It’s not about their talent, even though they are incredibly talented. If you watch Wayne Cilento in Big Deal, it’s like, I’ve never seen dancing like that. But that’s not what you take away from working with him. It tells me that anybody has the ability to be an incredible leader, choreographer, stager. However you’re involved, you can really impact a lot of things.
Everything about that experience was so amazingly positive even though there were so many things and hurdles we were constantly jumping. My mom and my brothers got to come and see the show. It’s always so amazing when family is able to see a show in New York. I was dancing at the Joyce, so it was overall, a dream job.
Is there any last thing you want to share with the world?
I was thinking a lot about whether or not I want to talk about what Sarah and I have gone through recently and what I have gone through recently. I felt like, “How can I try to be a Wayne Cilento or a Brian Marcum if I am not able to talk about myself in a positive and affirming way?” I think what I have gone through in the last eight months is definitely something that somebody could maybe read about or hear about and think, “My god, that feels exactly like my story,” or “That feels exactly like something I could relate to enough to find the strength to have an experience of my own.”
When I came out to my wife eight months ago, I was met with so much grace and support and truly unconditional love. At that moment, I understood what all the songs are about—what it’s like to just know that somebody would do anything for you. I cried on her lap while I told her for the first time in my life that I was gay. She hugged me and the only reason she was crying was because I was sad. I think since then, we’ve both gone through a lot of stages of how to come to terms with that what we have isn’t a marriage but one of the greatest friendships of my entire life, and hopefully that extends into the future.
I grew up in a place where it was very subtly and not so subtly taught to me that being gay just wasn’t how you should be. The TV just got changed, and the conversation just got changed. The word gay was either the insult of all insults or was a taboo word. It was both extremes. It was meant to really, really hurt you, or it was something that people were shocked to hear. They didn’t know what it was. Again, I knew what I didn’t want to be in order to exist, and I don’t feel like I grew up lying to myself. I didn’t feel like I had attractions toward guys, because I was very intimidated by them. So I just felt like that’s what it was. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to enter a room and feel like a big guy that owned the room, and I never did. I always felt different. I grew up always being told I was too sensitive. I think I’ve come to learn that maybe other people aren’t sensitive enough. I’ve learned that qualities about me that people identify with being gay aren’t what make me gay. They’re just qualities that make me special. I think that I grew up listening more than I talked because I wanted to learn how to exist in the least confrontational way. I really learned the power of words and that’s what my mom always told me. My siblings and I were never allowed to say “I hate you” or “Shut up” to each other because I think she saw what that did to other kids. What I came home crying about, she wasn’t going to let that happen in her home. So my house was always a very safe place, but they didn’t experience homosexuality. They didn’t know anybody that they loved that was gay. When you’re a really religious person in a really religious area, and you get a lot of solace from this book—the Bible—that so many people find so much comfort from, I never really found comfort from. I found a lot of questions and a lot of things that I felt confused about. I still feel confused about but I am able to have conversations because my parents really, really love me. My family really, really loves me, and I think all of my friends understood that this wasn’t a choice I was making and it was something that I was just being honest about.
I met Marcelo Gomes who dances with ABT while doing a project called the Broadway Dance Lab. He was one of the choreographers, and I learned that being gay isn’t just about sex because what drew me so much to Marcelo was the man he was when he entered the room. He was so kind and so warm to everybody. Whenever he gave you his attention, you really, really felt like he wanted to know what you were saying. We were a group of dancers from all kinds of backgrounds, and he was coming in a principal from ABT. I think, again, each of us felt like we really mattered to whatever the vision he was creating. Whatever he was asking for, he wanted to find out how I would do it to be a part of it, not how he pictured it or how he would’ve done it. I remember doing a partnering section with him, and I felt like I knew everything he wanted me to do by the way he was moving me, and I also felt very connected to him in a way that I had never felt before.
I think I started to realize when you’re gay, you want somebody that loves you the same way as when you’re straight. You want somebody that is going to know how to make you feel better when you’re sad and someone that’s going to know how to make you laugh, know how to make you feel supported when you’re doing something important; you want them to feel proud of you. That has nothing to do with your sexual preference.
I think it’s really important in a relationship to want to be in contact with that person in every way possible—body, mind, and soul. For me, at 25, I realized that there was a part of my marriage that wasn’t going to keep us coming back together. We became great communicators, because if we didn’t, we were going to be pulled apart and stay apart, and there was nothing that was going to bring us back. There was not a physical love, on my part, that was going to make me get over whatever I was mad about. I was starting to realize that I was not celebrating her in a way that I could as a friend. I was not championing her in the way that I wanted to be championed back by her. I was realizing all these things and feeling like I was so lucky to have had so much support to continue our relationship. We’re still best friends. We still talk every day. When I am having any kind of issue, she’s still one of the first people, if not the first person, that I call and want to talk to about it. I really wanted to preserve that as much as I could. She’s such an incredible, truly remarkable person that I’ve never even given the credit that she deserves, and she was able to do that for me. She was on tour for all of this, which is part of why everything was happening. We were learning a lot about ourselves separately. I can’t believe how lucky I feel to be able to pursue this new relationship with a man who is a role model to me in so many ways and still have this deep and rich companionship with a woman that I will always consider my family. I will always want my brothers to call her their sister, and I will always want her in my life.
If I were to have anything extra to say, it would be, I am not embarrassed or sad to be gay. I am not embarrassed or sad to be who I am. I am sad that people got hurt in me realizing certain things so late, but I also think that had I not had six years with Sarah, I wouldn’t know what unconditional love is in a friendship or a relationship. If I had come out at any other point, it probably would have been very dark and angry, and it wasn’t. It was full of love and support and a lot of pride. I am very proud of the people that I have in my life and the reflection of myself that I see in them. It’s hard for me to see who I am sometimes, and when I see it mirrored in other people, I really like who the person seems to be. If I can continue surrounding myself with people who are a positive mirror for myself, I think it’s going to be easier and easier to be able to be those things. As long as you’re really honest about what it is that you’re asking for and you’re really open to hearing how somebody is going to react, you should always do what your heart is telling you. I don’t think it’s ever the wrong thing to listen to your heart. People are full of grace and forgiveness when they understand why you’re doing something or why you’re asking for something. I hope that anybody that reads this would know that I am so full of love for the people in my life, and I am really, really grateful for all the things and people who have helped bring light into my life.