I had the opportunity recently to ask Siobhan Nickell some questions about her journey as a ballerina. Siobhan is a phenomenal dancer, she graces the stage with incredible elegance and poise, her love for ballet is incredible. Below are her responses.
Q1: When did you start ballet?
I started ballet when I was 8 at a small arts center in a small town in Ohio. The class was in an old ballroom and there were no barres!
Q2: Where do you currently dance?
Currently I am a trainee with Cincinnati ballet!
Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?
I’ve been on pointe for 8 years. I started when I was 11 even though I wasn’t necessarily ready for it.
Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?
Currently I wear Suffolk Spotlights! This shoe really changed my pointe experience!
Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?
I first got involved in ballet after seeing Dayton Ballet’s Nutcracker. I would dance around the house in tutus until my mom finally signed me up for lessons!
Q6: What is your favourite variation?
I have so many favorite variations. It’s hard to narrow it down to just one so I’ll share two! I really like the Giselle act 1 variation because it’s very me. Giselle is very dainty and fragile and I feel like she is a character that is easy for me to portray. On the other side of things I also love Raymonda act 3. This variation is very confident and sassy. Raymonda is very sure of herself and it allows me to bring out another side of my personality.
Q7: What company would you love to work for?
I try not to have a super specific company in mind because the ballet world is very unpredictable and you never know what a specific director is looking for when you are auditioning. But I hope to be in a bigger company one day dancing lots of full length ballets!
Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?
One of my favorite memories/ moments in ballet was dancing as Clara in the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker on Christmas Eve! The energy from the audience was incredible and it was really a magical experience!
Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.
A few dancers that inspire me are Misty Copeland and Kathrine Morgan. When I started getting into the ballet world when I was younger Misty Copeland captivated me. She defied the odds and achieved her dreams even though a lot of factors could’ve prevented it from happening. Similarly, Katherine Morgan inspires me because she had an illness that kept her from dancing for years but she was able to join a company again and dance professionally after some time off. Her persistence inspires me because I went through a similar experience when I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease
Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
The best advice I’ve ever received from a teacher is “perfection is in doing”. It really changed my perspective on what ballet is and what perfection is. Perfection cannot be achieved and the more you push for it the farther away it gets. Perfection is found in the way you do the movement, the way you dance. Nobody is you and nobody can dance like you. You are already perfect just by being yourself!
Q11: Advise you’d give a young version of yourself?
Some advice I would give to my younger self is to enjoy the moment and not worry about the future. I was constantly worried about if I would make it, if I would be a professional, what the next opportunity would be and if it would even come my way. Everything comes with time and hard work, and if it is meant to be it’ll happen
Q12: Best thing about being a ballerina?
The best thing about being a ballerina is honestly working hard and getting the reward. It’s almost like an addiction to me. I love to put in the hours and work in order to improve or get promoted or get the role. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Q13: Hardest thing about being a ballerina?
The hardest thing about being a ballerina, for me at least, is the self doubt. I have worked really hard to get better at this, but I can get into bad habits like comparing myself to other dancers in the room by wondering why I don’t look or dance like them or why I don’t get certain roles that others do. A good quote that puts things back into perspective for me is “you can’t measure your own path with somebody else’s ruler”. Your path is unique and it won’t look like other people’s paths, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get there
Q14: It seems like such hard work, did you ever have days growing up where you were like “ugh maybe I’ll just pick an easier career so I can be like a normal teenager”?
Honestly I never had any doubts in my career choice. When I find something I am passionate about it’s hard for me not to give it my all. Yes I did give up a “normal” school experience. I didn’t do the football games or school dances or parties, and I even moved out of state my senior year of high school. But I wouldn’t have it any other way and I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.
Q15: Classical or romantic tutu?
For sure classical tutus! They make me feel like the ballerina I always dreamed of being when I was a little girl!
Q16: Have you ever suffered a serious injury?
Luckily I have never suffered a serious injury, but I have had a few set backs the past few years that kept me from dancing for a few months and led me to start over from scratch in terms of technique and strength. In February 2019 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. This diagnosis was mainly characterized with nutrient deficiencies and weight loss, as well as many other symptoms. Since I didn’t have much extra weight to lose to begin with, lost muscle mass. After I got my symptoms back under control and I started dancing again. It wasn’t easy though because I had nothing to work with. I remember one time specifically when I was trying to do a grande plié and I didn’t have the strength to come back up. It was devastating but I stayed persistent and was eventually able to build my strength back. Then in 2020 after a failed trial of medication, I had a second flare up of symptoms, but lucky for me it was right when quarantine was starting in March. I lost almost every thing for a second time but I had as much time as I needed to rebuild. Both of these experiences were devastating but ultimately helped me become the dancer and person I am today. Overall I feel more aware of my body and it’s needs and I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had no matter how tough they were at the time.
Q17: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
In my free time (what little of it I have!) I like to bake with my roommate, make jewelry ( I actually have an Etsy earring business!) and I am currently working on getting certified to teach Progressing Ballet Technique! I hope to start teaching some zoom classes in the near future!