The Dance Enthusiast Meets the 2014 Bessie Award Nominee Nicholas Young (Part 4)
"STOMP" Dancer is Nominated for Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design for "Rhythm in Motion"
In the three years since the New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessies“) have returned from their brief hiatus we have seen diversity abound through an expanse of categories and a range of exciting nominees.
In this season’s Bessie Awards Interview Series, The Dance Enthusiast seeks to represent that diversity. There is so much greatness in this year’s pool of artists – the beautiful movement of Mimulus Cia de Dança’s Dolores, the sociopolitical commentary of Camille A. Brown’s Mr. TOL E. RAncE, the cultural celebration of Asase Yaa’s Djembe in the New Millenium – and those are just some of the nominees for Outstanding Production. Add to that revivals that range from Twlya Tharp to Nora Chipaumire, performers from across the globe, and designers who seem to know no bounds, and you truly see the best of what New York Dance and Performance has to offer.
So how does one become a Bessie nominee? What kind of training, practice, process, and narrative defines such an artist? There may be no singular answer, but each of the creators in our Dance Enthusiast Bessie series generously offers a glimpse of their experience along with some fun anecdotes in the fashion of dance enthusiasm.
Enjoy getting to know these nominees and we hope to see you on the red carpet outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem on October 20!
Meet 2014 Bessie Nominee for Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design for his inventive tap 'percussion platforms' in Rhythm in Motion - Nicholas Young:
Nicholas Young is a New York City-based dancer, musician, and choreographer, and most recently a cast member of the off-Broadway sensation STOMP. Nicholas performed the lead role for both the touring and New York companies, acted as rehearsal director for the American tour, and is grateful to have spent more than nine years total as an integral part of the show.
Since moving to New York, Nicholas has performed with Manhattan Tap, Rumba Tap, Hoofing to Hitting with Jared Grimes, Jazz in Motion with Sarah and Leela Petronio in Paris, and most recently, with Michelle Dorrance's company, Dorrance Dance, in her critically acclaimed work, Sound Space. His original compositions and productions were included in the newly released tap dance documentary "Tap or Die," directed by Jackie Pare'. Nicholas has been a Master Teacher for festivals worldwide teaching tap and body percussion for Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Soul to Sole, New York's Tap City, Stockholm Tap Festival, and many others.
He recently premiered his New York-based dance company and ETM The Initial Aproach, a collaboration with Bessie Award winner Michelle Dorrance for the Jacobs Pillow 2014 season.
A. Nia Austin-Edwards of The Dance Enthusiast: When and where does your artistic story begin?
Nicholas Young: I began dancing at a very young age, probably around five. My mother, Linda Young, was a dance teacher and studio owner. She often tells the story that she went into labor teaching a tap class. As hard as I've tried to get her to admit it is an exaggeration, she swears up and down that's how it happened. After growing up in dance studios in Austin, TX, I eventually found my way to Tapestry Dance Company, directed by Acia Gray and Deirdre Strand, where I studied Ballet, Modern, and Tap. In my ten years with Tapestry, I grew from apprentice to principal dancer to resident choreographer. At the same time, I was growing into the national Tap community and was fortunate enough to attend many festivals while the masters were still alive and teaching. In my early 20s I decided to see what NYC was about. I moved and started dancing on the streets with the Hoofin to Hittin crew: Jared Grimes, Dewitt Fleming, James Sutherland and I, along with bucket drummer William B Johnson. Attending the The St. Louis Tap Festival as a young dancer not only brought Jared and I together, but it also introduced me to Michelle Dorrance, who became one of my dearest friends. Shortly after moving to NYC, I auditioned and was cast in STOMP where I danced five roles in ten years and acted as rehearsal directer for the North and South American Tour. Currently I am a member of Dorrance Dance, and have my own company called SoundMovement.
TDE: Have you always known you would be a dancer, particularly a tap dancer?
NY: Yes, I always knew I would be a dancer. I always loved and connected with tap the most – from growing up watching movie musicals with my grandma to seeing Diane Walker and Jimmy Slyde on stage when I was eight. That set it in stone. Then, seeing and meeting Gregory Hines when I was ten set my world on fire!
As always, there are so many more influences and happenings that shaped my desire and path to being a dancer and musician. In the end, I never would have had the creative freedom to explore dance and music if it had not been for my mom. She supported me fully, and allowed me to take my passions as far as I could.
TDE: How did you come to work on Rhythm In Motion? Can you tell us a bit about the creative and collaborative process?
NY: This is a long story of development and experimentation. The short answer is that Tony Waag, brought me in as an Artist-in-Residence and asked me to create a piece with my company for the show. The piece I ended up doing is part of a long-term project involving a tap dance instrument that is in constant development. It has been growing, and morphing for close to three years now. Originally, I was only performing solos using this mix of technology and tap, but have since done the group piece SoundMovement performed for Rhythm in Motion and a large scale collaboration with Michelle Dorrance, which ran for two weeks at Jacobs Pillow. Essentially the music is being created in real time by the dancers and is composed/produced with the tap dance as an integral part of the sonic picture.
As far as my general creative process, I am building and creating constantly in my home studio whenever I have free time. I take ideas to the floor, finding ways I can incorporate tap dance, body percussion, electronic and acoustic instrumentation to satisfy my urge for exploratory experimentation. When I've locked down a concept or Idea I want to turn into a larger piece of choreography, I mostly create on the fly, shaping the ideas or phrases as the rehearsal continues. There are always lots of sketches and notes scribbled onto a pad, and sometimes hours of research on old Google.
Also, my recent collaboration with Michelle was just amazing. We have been working and dreaming together for years and this was a dream come true for me. With Michelle ideas move fast, and there is a frenetic buzz of creativity constantly spiraling in the room. It is incredibly fun. She is enormously generous, accepting, and willing to try anything. It’s the best collaborative experience I've ever had.
TDE: What do you do when you're not creating?
NY: Listen to music, go biking, cook for my wife, research other artists, and think about what I want to create.
TDE: This Fall we’ll be hosting an Enthusiastic Event highlighting the relationship between dance and fashion. Any ideas what your fashion look will be for Bessies night?
NY: Unfortunately, I don't think too much about fashion. I phase between short hair and long beards and long hair and short beards. My go to is gym shorts and an American Apparel V neck. On a night out I go for a favorite pair of "nice jeans," a simple solid colored shirt "untucked," a colorful tie, and one of the many suit jackets I've collected over time. There was a while where I was into three piece suits and expensive shoes, but it was short lived.
For the Bessies, I will probably go with the former, but with some nice shoes. I'm a big spend thrift so in all honesty I will probably buy something new. Lately I'm into Banana Republic. Maybe I’ll get a new pair of fluevogs.
TDE: Describe your creative style and process in only five words . . .
NY: Imagine, experiment, create, critique, revise
TDE: Is there any upcoming work you'd like to share?
NY: I'm working on building a new tap Instrument that I'm really excited about. Otherwise I am really excited about Michelle's and my ETM, The Initial Approach. I'm looking forward to revisiting that, revising the music, and working on a presentation for the City. I am also hoping to collaborate soon with my friends James Sutherland and Sean Jackson on an evening of experimental tap dance and music. I'm imagining a small room and audience, where we can really go out, play in the fields and return an altered beast.