Right after graduating college, my friend decided to start his own dance company, which he called NSquared Dance. I was actually a member of his company for a little over a year and we performed in a couple of locations throughout Queens (and sometimes Manhattan).
The company is entering its 3rd season and so I thought I would interview my friend and artistic director, Nick Betty-Neagle.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Chester, New Hampshire and started dancing at the age of 8. I studied dance at many different dance studios growing up. My first studio, I was there from age 8-13. I truly found my passion for dance when I was a junior in high school. I then went on to study dance at Marymount Manhattan College where I received a BFA in Dance with a concentration in choreography.
When & why did you start dancing?
I started as a gymnast. When I was about 7 years old, I saw my sister dancing in her recital. This is what got me into dance. I saw her pretty costumes and thought “hey I want to do that!”
Right after college, you started your own dance company. Tell us a little bit about this company. Why did you start a company so early in your dance career? How would you describe your company/ style?
I created the NSquared Dance Company right after college because I found my passion in creating dance. My time at Marymount was great, and being a choreographer / director (the behind the scene guy) was where I belong in the world of dance. Of course everyone wants to be on the stage and in the spotlight, but I found something special in the art of creating work. I loved being in the studio with dancers and creating work with them. Choreographing for me isn’t about the choreographer saying “hey do this” or “that is not what I want”; it is a dialogue that happens between everyone in the room. When the energy is right in the room, that is when the most genuine work can be created. The NSquared Dance Company is a contemporary dance company but dancers have told me that a dancer would need a strong technical background to execute the work produced.
What’s your choreographic process? How do you normally create dances? What inspires you to create dance?
I start my process in a couple of different ways:1. I find a beautiful piece of music; from there I listen to it and dissect the harmonies and rhythms. I start to picture what I am going to do in my head.2. I LOVE a good skirt. If I find a costume (mostly something that flows and has movement) I will bring that into the studio and see where that guides me.3. A theme or inspiration for a piece. This is probably the option that happens the least in my process. However I am working of a “fire” work because I have built 2 other works that have become about the earth and water. I thought it would be cool to make an element suite. I get my inspiration from my dancers in the room. They bring just as much to the table as I do. As I mentioned about, I like to have my rehearsals full of communication, there is a constant dialogue between all the artist in the room!
Anything you learned as a choreographer that you didn’t know or think much about when you were a dancer?
As a choreographer, I feel more of a reward when my piece is completed and performed. As a performer, I just went on stage and did my “dancing” thing, however as a choreographer, I know all the heart and soul that goes into creating dance. As a dancer, I wish I could have seen the choreographic process more as a student. Yes I choreographed work in college, but I want to go back in time and see the other choreographers at home listening to music and finding their inspirations.
What do you look for in a dancer? What do you think is most important?
I look for a dancer that will be dedicated and ready to work. Yes my work can need a strong technical foundation, but you can do a beautiful pirouette, but have an awful attitude. I want dancers who are going to bring a good and positive energy in to the studio!
Teaching vs Choreographing…. which do you prefer? or do you believe that they are equal?
I recently started teaching dance as a part-time job this past fall. In college I always thought to myself “UGH I never want to teach kids”! After the first month of teaching, I absolutely fell in love with teaching! Going into the studio each week and see how the kids have progressed and have them say, “Mr. Nick, look I have been practicing”. It makes me smile even answering this question. For me, I think that teaching is very different than choreographing a dance. However, in my life I am glad to say that they both bring me smiles and joy; if I had to chose one over the other, I do not think I could!
What are some of the hardships that you’ve come across as an artistic director & choreographer? Do you have any tips or advice to those who are trying to start a company?
My advice for all artist is to never give up. I have seen great dancers just give up on their dreams. As a director, I find it hard to balance the dance side vs the business side. Do not forget, this is a business you want to create. It can get costly with all the application fees, rehearsal space, dancer pay; BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET. Look at how much money you can spend on this and don’t surpass it! Lastly HAVE FUN! After all, this is your dream you are chasing; do not let it become something that you wake up hating everyday!