Nika Lindsay, Professional Dancer
[Interview Date: November 9. 2020]
First National Tour of Frozen, Disney Cruise Lines, and more.
What was the week of March 12, 2020 like for you? And what did it feel like for your tour to go on an unexpected layoff so abruptly?
I definitely remember it was super strange. Because we were in Seattle, I believe, when Covid started to really escalate in the states. But I honestly didn’t see or hear much about it until we were in Portland. I definitely became a little bit more wary of things. I noticed the empty balconies, when, you know, the curtain would open, and we looked out into the audience. We didn’t do Broadway Cares things; we stopped signing at the stage door. So, that’s kind of when it started to settle in my mind that something was really wrong. And then, I remember one of our castmates said he predicted that we weren’t going to go to San Diego, which was our next stop. But that wasn’t for another week or two, I believe. And then, it was actually the next day, we were told we were going home. So, it was super crazy. I just remember crying. Lots of crying.
How did the shutdown initially disrupt your plans?
I feel like with Frozen, and booking that show; I had just kind of gotten my foot in the door. I had done Disney Cruise Line before, but that was my first big, big job. So, I’d been feeling on Cloud Nine for the last, you know, five-six months since we’ve started. I’d never been to any of these cities on the West Coast. So, I was super excited about going to all the places; especially San Diego. I was so excited. So, it was really just a huge bummer. It wasn’t too devastating at the moment, because we were under the impression that it was just going to be a short break.
How did the shut-down affect your immediate plans?
Yeah, I didn’t even try to come up with a different plan. Also, my dad is a doctor and we hadn’t really talked about much Covid stuff. I had filled him in a little here and there, being like, “There’s some talk about maybe a little break. We don’t know, maybe we’ll go to San Diego. But we won’t perform shows right away. Like, we don’t really know what’s going on. Just something feels kind of off.” And he had sent me an envelope of five disposable masks. The envelope arrived, and our company manager gave it to me as we were loading out. And I was like, “Wait, this is weird”. And I opened it, and it was the masks. The most convenient thing, perfect timing, but no one was wearing them at that point. It was ridiculous. And I didn’t want to wear it on the plane. I was like “No one else is wearing these; everyone’s gonna think I’m sick.” I’m just grateful he sent them. It was the craziest synchronicity. I knew I was flying home to Wisconsin, and my family wanted me to come home too, so that made the most sense for me.
The Frozen tour was your first big job right out of school. What advice do you have for artists and performers who haven’t had their big break yet? What wisdom can you pass on to them after having this experience?
I’d say, initially, not even related to Covid, just to invest in yourself; time, money, energy. Go full force, full throttle with it. Because at the end of the day, you are what’s gonna book you the job. It’s the work you put into yourself that’s gonna make you a better performer and make other people see that. So, I think if you work really hard, and you have the drive and determination, then I’d say your chances are pretty high.
Did you initially anticipate that Broadway and other theatre productions, including your tour, would be closed for this long?
No, no, no. I wasn't too into what was going on in the world. Kind of like, a little oblivious, even, maybe. They told us four or five weeks, and I thought that that was exactly what was gonna happen. Just because I didn’t quite understand how serious and you know, honestly, deadly it even was at the time. So, it was definitely a shock. But it kept getting pushed later and later and later.
Have you been able to keep dancing during this time? What are your feelings on online dance classes? How are they different/more challenging than class in-person/a lifesaver during this time?
Yes, I’ve continued to dance. I’d say for the first 6-ish months, I was home in Wisconsin, so I used my basement as a dance workout space. I think online classes are great. I’m thankful that they’re there, and we’re able to still get some instruction and learn combos and be taught in that way. But I also find it extremely frustrating. I miss feeling the energy of the teacher and students in a classroom. I do better when people are watching me. In a way, it makes me work harder, because my self-discipline isn’t that great. The stakes aren’t as high and I’m the only one that’s seeing me. It just feels kind of lonely, taking a class by myself in my basement. Now I’m in New York, so I can rent studio space. And being in the correct dance environment has helped make Zoom classes and online classes a lot more enjoyable. But it’s just not as inspiring.
What have you been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
I think the thing that helps the most is making sure that I am active, and I move my body every day. Whether it’s dancing, doing a HIIT, high intensity interval workout… But, also, just singing. Even if I’m home, just sitting on my bed, I’ve found that if I’m kind of bored or anxious, or I don’t know what to do, I’ll just put on the track to a song that I really like singing, and I’ll just sing for, like, an hour. Yeah, and it’s just kind of fun. And I feel like I’m still working on my instrument and bettering myself as a performer, in a way.
Also, a big, big thing is, moving back to New York has helped my mental health a lot. Just because, living at home, especially in Wisconsin, where I don’t really have many friends there anymore. My parents were working; my siblings weren’t home for the most part. So, I spent a lot of time by myself. And it just got a little sad after a while; not having access to a dance studio; things like that. So, now, I just feel more like an adult; paying for my own apartment, working five days a week, seeing friends. Feeling, just, the energy that is in New York City. And it’s nice being able to go out and walk the streets and see a lot of people, also doing their everyday, normal life. Yeah, so that’s been helpful, for sure.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
Probably, staying inspired and not getting bored. I found it’s been quite helpful to have a routine. But sometimes the routine gets old, you know. And I think it was a really drastic change going from being on tour, specifically. Because, you’re moving cities constantly and experiencing fun new things all the time. And things were changing like that. And like that, and like that. And now, everything just feels kind of monotonous.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
Probably spending a lot more time with my family. At the beginning, that was really amazing. And I’ve found that I enjoy—It sounds silly—but just, working out. Like, I hate going to the gym. I’ve always hated it. I’ve just always preferred dance classes and dance things. But it’s been hard for me to really enjoy dance during this time because of the reasons I said earlier with not having the right space and not being able to go take a class in person. So, I have been doing a lot more Pilates and other kinds of dance cardio-involved workouts that I’ve found that I really enjoyed doing. I’ll definitely continue to do even after quarantine is done.
I hope to continue to find new hobbies and interests. Because we still have quite a bit of time. Maybe arts and crafts. Or a new hobby, we’ll see.
You went back to your hometown for a bit when the pandemic first began. What was that like for you? What positives and negatives came out of that experience?
Positives: I’d say my family. The fresh air and the nature that is in Madison. And also, it was just kind of a nice reset. And then, negatives would be not many friends. So, kind of lonely when my parents were busy working. And no dance studio.
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
I’m just constantly being reminded why I went into this industry. It’s just so inspiring. I miss being around other artists 24/7. Honestly, the people probably. Theatre people are my people. We all get each other. We all want the same things. So, I’m still around other artists; artists and performers make up the majority of my friends. But I guess I miss all of us being in the same place.
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
I would say Opening an LA. The anticipation leading up to that, and then specifically, we’ll always remember hearing the drums and we go. “Na na na hey ana.” And, the curtain rises. And just seeing the whole audience at the gorgeous Pantages Theatre. That was the coolest thing. And that moment, honestly, every show is like one of my favorite moments. Yeah, but when the curtain rises, like, extra crazy.
What is the thing you’re most excited to do when live theatre is back?
Hug my sweets! And do a show again! Even, just rehearsals for Frozen back in, you know, September was one of the coolest, best experiences, by itself. And obviously, when we go back, we’re going to need a good chunk of rehearsal time. And I think that will be really fun. And just like, everyone coming together again to full force with more energy than we had the first time around, in a way. I’m really excited for that! And then yeah, of course, to actually perform for an audience again.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
I think that this community; theater, musical theater, dance; the whole industry is so strong. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. There’s been a lot of talk of people wondering, “What if it never comes back?” A lot of people that aren’t at all involved in the industry, putting their opinions out there, say theatre is never coming back. It makes me so mad. I know it’s going to. It’s way too important to even like, muggles; normal people. They love it, too. So, I would just say, keep your head up. Don’t give up on it. Even though times are hard and strange. But I think that the energy that comes with it when we come back is going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.
Favorite Broadway Musical: Hadestown. Classic musical: Probably, West Side Story
Dream role: Lise in An American in Paris
Favorite Movie Musical: The Last Five Years
Movie that you think should be a musical: Burlesque. The songs are great. The dancing is so fierce but fun.
Favorite Dance Icon: Right now and probably forever: Robyn Hurder.
Fosse or Jerome Robbins: Fosse
Michael Bennett or Jack Cole: I think Michael Bennett because A Chorus Line.
Gillian Lynne or Agnes DeMille: Gillian Lynne. I’m one of those people that actually really likes Cats!
Favorite Broadway Theatre Ritual and/or tradition: It’s the circle-up and the stuff for the swings and understudies before they go on, because it’s a moment when we all come together, without fail, every time with the cast before the show. It’s just, peer support, love and excitement.
Favorite city on tour: I’d say LA, just because I’ve never been. The weather was beautiful. It was the first big city, so the excitement was kind of special there. And I loved Malibu; just being able to explore going on hikes and stuff.
Favorite Dressing Room item: I always have peppermint essential oil. And there have been so many times where it’s come in handy for other people.
Favorite trunk item: I’d say my heating pad. That’s a good staple to have in your trunk.