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Meet Nikki Charest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikki Charest.

Nikki, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
It’s so fun to think back to how my dance journey started! I tried classes at a very young age and initially did not enjoy dance too much. Thankfully I revisited it at 11 years old and fell in love! I joined a competitive dance team in Orange County, and spent all of my after school hours and weekends training in jazz, lyrical, ballet, and hip hop. I competed with my studio and eventually my high school dance team until I turned 18 and graduated.

It wasn’t until a year into college at Azusa Pacific University that I realized I couldn’t live without dance and I wanted to pursue some sort of a career in it. After having this realization, I auditioned and was accepted as a Dance Major at Chapman University. I transferred in immediately. At Chapman, I was introduced to modern and contemporary dance as well as the art of choreography. While pursuing both my Dance and Business degrees, I interned with The Movement Talent Agency in Los Angeles, where I got to learn the inner workings of the professional dance industry.

During college, I also began teaching once a week at a brand new studio called AVANTI Dance Company in Costa Mesa. I really enjoyed teaching and every year I began to do it a little bit more. Eventually, I was given opportunities from the executive director (Taryn Chavez) to choreograph competition pieces for AVANTI, which I really loved! Once I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Business and a Minor in Dance, I then signed with The Movement Talent Agency for professional representation as a dancer.

After a year or two of attending classes & auditions in LA while teaching at the same time, I came to a crossroads. I had been working my whole life to become a professional dancer, but I also had this newfound love for teaching and choreographing that seemed to be even greater than my love for performing. I felt that I needed to put my heart fully into one or the other to truly pursue it. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that my calling in life is teaching and choreography, and I wanted to dedicate everything I have to my students! Ever since then I have been pursuing teaching & choreography wholeheartedly.

In 2019, I became the Company Director at AVANTI, where I get to manage a pre-professional company of amazing young dancers alongside one of my best friends (studio owner), Taryn Chavez! Every day I get to train and choreograph on my students and witness their amazing growth. I have also recently started traveling to share my passion with other studios as well. I am so grateful for my job and I couldn’t imagine my journey having gone any other way!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As any journey in life, my road has had its ups and downs! I have had to work through a lot of my own self-doubt, and feelings that maybe I was choosing a path less noteworthy or glamorous than other dancers I had met pursuing careers. I often wondered if I would face regrets of not choosing to pursue a more performance-based career.

I also worried about the struggles people told me I would face having a career in the arts. I didn’t know if I would be good enough or if I would be able to find enough opportunities to support myself doing something that I loved.

The biggest struggle I have probably faced in my career both as a dancer and as a choreographer is trying not to compare my journey to others. I have learned over time that we all have our own unique paths with their own unique timing, and I shouldn’t worry about the way my career measures up to anyone else’s. Instead, I have tried to let others inspire my own work while I keep the focus on growing and becoming better than the artist and person I was yesterday!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in teaching and choreographing Contemporary dance. Over the last few years, I have been developing my own creative voice and style, playing with the different ways all types of music can be made visual. My favorite thing to do is take a piece of music and come up with movement to the song that might be surprising or unexpected. I also love to tell stories through my choreography using all different ranges of emotions. Something I think that sets my work apart is distinct musicality that is not limited to one specific genre of music or one specific style of Contemporary… I love coming up with all different creations! I also love using joy and comedy as inspiration for my work. As a teacher, I feel that my strength comes from my passion and ability to find each child’s unique strengths and build them up in those. I take time to get to know my students, and try to build them up as people as well as dancers. I am especially optimistic and like to create a very challenging environment for my students that is still positive and uplifting.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I love to collaborate with artists of other mediums such as musicians or those in film and photography! It’s fun for me to see two different art forms come together and I also enjoy getting to see my work in a different setting than the stage. I also love working with new dancers, teaching in new places, and getting to train new students at AVANTI!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Lee Gumbs Photography

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