Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Training: “Young Dance Academy”;
Founder/Artistic Director of “Rhythmatic” (@RhythmaticTapCo)
(Dance) Area of expertise: Tap
Nick has been featured on season one of “World of Dance” and season eight of “So You Think You Can Dance”. He is the founder/artistic director of “Rhythmatic“, a tap company that is bringing emotion to the classic art form.
More Than Dancers was lucky enough to talk with the talented tap artist in a raw, and candid interview. Enjoy!
When did you know that you wanted to be a professional dancer?
2 years ago. Trust me, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until very recently. I moved out to LA six years ago trying to convince myself, and others that I wasn’t moving to become famous. Lies. I’m pretty sure that’s what motivated me to move out to LA in the first place. I was fresh off of So You Think You Can Dance, and I knew I liked working in TV and film. I was aware that I wasn’t the best dancer in LA, but like everyone I believed I had something different to offer. I found the motivation to get back into tap class, which is where I found the urge to challenge myself through choreography. I started to feel something that I can’t describe, I listened to music differently. I would choreograph in my apartment, my hotel rooms, and in my head. I started seeing, and hearing things that I had never experienced before. But most importantly, I was having fun. I loved it. I was happy again, and I realized that I would rather do what makes me happy than anything else. I had finally found my “thing”.
What is your favorite piece you have choreographed? How about performed?
Oof. This is my least favorite question, but I think I have an answer for both. “Green Mountain State” was probably my favorite piece to choreograph. I choreographed it at an extremely low point in my life, and it ended up being one of the most joyous dances I’ve done. It’s crazy what art can do. I don’t even think I was choreographing it with the mindset of “I need this to get me through this”, I just loved the song. I think it was my subconscious guiding me when I needed it the most.
As for my favorite piece I have performed, I would say “Smoke” from our new show “On Top Of The World”. It’s playful, sultry, sad, and a fun emotional roller coaster.
Can you tell me a little about “The Light”, a tap piece you performed during the 2017 Capezio Ace Awards? What was the vision behind it? Is there a message you want the audience to understand?
How much time do you have?? I’ll give you the short version. “The Light” was the first piece I ever choreographed that had a significant emotional element to it. It was originally a duet for Luke Spring and I, and it sparked the concept for the show (“On Top Of The World”). When it came time to submit for the Ace Awards, the rules wouldn’t allow for a dancer younger than 16 and a group of less than 4, so the duet was out of the question. I changed the piece so it revolved around me and a woman. I’m wary of giving anything away, because I want people to come into our show having no idea what we are about to do. But whatever, I’ll be cryptic. The show is about a man who struggles to move forward after his death, and reluctantly takes a journey of discovery in the afterlife. Come see our show, and I promise you’ll get it.
Do you still get nervous before performing? How do you combat those nerves if you do?
It kind of depends on the situation. For example, I was in Bermuda performing at an arts festival, but I knew virtually no one in the crowd. Zero nerves whatsoever. None. Now, fast forward one month as I get ready to perform a duet from our show at a dance convention. This is a number that I feel confident saying is the best piece in the show. Easy, right? I was mortified. Performing for my peers is intimidating. I think I may care too much about what they think.
I combat the nerves by taking deep meditative breathes. But, the second I set foot on stage and the music starts, all of my nerves disappear and muscle memory takes over.
What would you say is the most memorable experience of your career?
The final bow of our first show in Bermuda. I cried. It felt like the culmination of not only the work I put into the show, but the years leading up to that moment. I can’t imagine a better feeling than looking at my best friends, and seeing the hard work and preparation finally come to fruition.
Who inspires you? Is there one dancer you find yourself looking to for inspiration?
Jason Janas. Although he probably has no idea, because I mostly admire him from afar. Tap dancers, right? I’m awestruck by his ability and his brain. He is a rare breed that has just as much rhythmical sense in his improv as he does in his choreography. It’s incredible.
Who was the easiest person to work with while collaborating on a piece, whether that be performance or choreography? Why?
I have two different answers for that one. Performance wise, I love dancing with Valerie Rockey. She’s incredibly talented, but even more importantly, she’s a true performer. I don’t know many tap dancers that can give off the same subtle, yet powerful emotion that she brings to the table.
Choreography wise, I gotta go with my man Luke Spring. I’ve worked with him for the past few years, so he understands my style better than anyone. He is the literal definition of a prodigy, and I’m just lucky that I get to spend time with him and his awesome family. Did I mention he’s 15?
You are known for being a triple threat, but do you consider yourself better at any particular craft?
Who told you that?? I hope you didn’t come across my singing videos on YouTube. I would say I dabble. I’m so immersed in my company work right now that I find it hard to focus on anything else, but that will change. I know myself well enough to know that I will never be content doing one thing for the rest of my life. I love to sing; I love to act. Let’s just say that if they actually go through with bringing “Singing In The Rain” to Broadway, my hat isn’t just being tossed in that ring, I’m chucking it in there.
What do you have to say to those who view tap as a dying trade?
Stop listening! Tap may never be as big as it once was, and that’s not a knock on tap dancing or current tap dancers, it just isn’t as popular in the public eye. However, that’s not to say there isn’t an interest there. Do you know how many conversations about tap dancing I’ve had with strangers on airplanes? There are tons of people that appreciate tap and if someone says that tap is dying, it’s because they believe it’s not the “it” thing anymore. Tap is alive and well, and it continues to grow everywhere in the world.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next generation of dancers?
I have no idea what it’s like to be a younger dancer in this generation, because there are so many things about social media that I just can’t fathom. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a dancer, let alone a teenager in this booming technological age. I’ll say this. Just understand that above all, personal relationships are always going to be the best way get a job.
What should we expect to see from you in the future?
I have a lot of ideas in my head about where I want my company to go, and what I want to do in my life. However, I like to keep things close to the chest in case life happens and things go in a completely different direction. I will say I would love to tour our show, and choreograph for Broadway. But most importantly, I want to continue to put tap on video. I have the best team. I’m blessed to have a producer/friend/editor like Mike Murphy and a cinematographer as talented and cool as Devin Jamieson. They are brilliant.
If you want to experience the talent of Nick Young and his company in person, click the information below and learn how YOU can get tickets to their upcoming show!
Sunday, June 3rd
El Portal Theatre, North Hollywood
*Click the link to purchase tickets
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Want to keep up with Nick? Follow him on Instagram!
Know someone else we should interview as a Spotlight? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.