Ten years ago, I was working at Colorado Ballet, touring my first school show for kids called, “The King Who Danced.” This show is about the history of ballet from King Louis XIV through the modern age. One of my favorite characters, Marie Camargo (ballet’s first female star) was danced by a sprightly, doe-eyed dancer named Nicole Teague. Like the historical figure who changed ballet by shortening her skirts and flashing her fancy footwork, Nicole had stunning stage presence and undeniable charisma. She and I became fast friends – in life and in ballet. We became obsessed with King Louis and Marie Camargo and still talk about getting matching tattoos that incorporate both of them. Our paths have circled around each other for ten years and we regularly thank our lucky stars that we ended up in Milwaukee together.
Nicole literally grew up in the wings of the theatre. She was on tour with her parents, professional dancers Tom and Muriel Teague, for the first four years of her life – with Minnesota Dance Theatre and Oregon Ballet Theatre. As a tiny “stage rat” she quickly learned to entertain herself, sitting alone in the audience with her Barbies. The theatre was home in every sense of the word. Ironically, Nicole didn’t start ballet until she was eight-years-old because she was too shy to give it a go.
It hasn’t been the easiest road for her, despite being born to dance. After her two years as a trainee in Colorado, Nicole took a year off from ballet. She wasn’t sure if this life was right for her, or if she could handle all it entailed. By this time, I had moved to Milwaukee to start the new community outreach program. In the summer of 2006, Nicole called me to ask about the Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program (MBII) and the Summer Intensive Program. She had to get back to ballet. Milwaukee was where she wanted to be – dancing in Michael Pink’s Company. Nicole had met Michael Pink and Ballet Mistress Nadia Thompson while dancing in “Dracula” and “Esmeralda” at Colorado Ballet. She moved into my tiny apartment for the summer and got serious. “I was prepared to work for what I believed in. I knew what life was like without it.”
Lucky for us, Nicole didn’t have to live without ballet anymore. Two years in the MBII program got her ready for the Company. She was a natural fit for Michael Pink’s choreography and vision for the Company. Of course, I see Nicole as my little sister, but if you’ve followed her career over the years, you’ve gotten to see her grow up onstage just like I have. In 2011, Nicole was cast as Lucy in Michael Pink’s “Dracula.” To say this was a dream come true is an understatement. Nicole is well-versed in vampire lore (another obsession we share) and had probably seen the ballet 100 times. She thought she knew Lucy, but the character was so much more layered and complex than she ever imagined. Going from playing Clara in “The Nutcracker” or little Michael Darling in “Peter Pan” to a bloodthirsty, lustful woman was the perfect vehicle for Nicole to show how much she had matured as an artist.
Nicole isn’t afraid to go all in; she dives in and gets deep. She is a passionate person in real life and onstage. She loves love, she feels things to the depths of her soul. When she’s onstage she takes you there with her. I have so many goosebump moments in my ballet memory file of watching this person I know so well who continues to surprise me with something funny, something poignant, something thrilling. Two seasons ago, in the midst of the usual injuries and exhaustion during the run of "The Nutcracker," the artistic staff told Nicole that she would have to go in and dance the lead role of Marie in just two days time. She crammed choreography into her brain, she came to extra rehearsals. I will never forget what it felt like to watch her do the Snow pas de deux with Ryan Martin for the first time. The wings were packed - the school kids got silent, the dancers stopped stretching and doing sit-ups, the staff huddled around and everyone held their breath. Needless to say, I cried. She was gorgeous. Then there’s the sensual pas de deux she did with Alexandre Ferreira in Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Extremely Close.” The quirky entanglement of two gorgeous bodies, the strange way she had to bite Alex’s chin, and the haunting moment at the end when he literally sweeps her into darkness was one of my favorites.
This year will bring us more of these moments. Nicole has just been promoted to a leading artist and will be one of our Juliets this fall. Yes! Who better to play one of the stage’s most well-known lovers? This is her dream role, she told me. She’s seen all the versions, she’s read the play, she loves the music. She knows what that “insane love” is like and she can’t wait to dance this impetuous, feisty character. Her transition from an artist to a leading artist will be visible as she transitions from an innocent girl to a rebellious, young woman in Juliet.
This season will be full of drama and passion, classical beauty and contemporary edge; from one of Michael Pink’s most gorgeous retellings of a famous love story to the world premiere of “Mirror Mirror”. Nicole and the rest of the Company will give us all that we yearn for while sitting in the theatre – escape, emotion, excitement. Congratulations to one of my dearest friends, Nicole Teague! I can’t wait to see what this season will bring. I have goosebumps already.
Director of Community Outreach
Top: Nicole Teague and Alexandre Ferreira. Photo: Mark Frohna.
Center: Photo: Jessica Kaminski
Bottom: Nicole Teague and Susan Gartell. Photo: Jessica Kaminski.