When ballet dancer/choreographer Nicole Haskins ’05 hears music, she sees formations, scenes and colors. “I have to capture what I see somehow,” she says. “I’m not adept at drawing or sculpting. Choreography is how I envision the music.”
Nicole trained for 15 years with the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, starting at age 3. Early on, she performed original dances for her family. By age 11, she and her friends staged their own version of “Swan Lake.”
Nicole joined Crossroads School in seventh grade and immediately found she “was surrounded by people who were passionate and ambitious.” She appreciates how supportive the School was in devising a flexible schedule that accommodated her ballet training and “the way they valued my thoughts and opinions and treated me as an equal at the table.”
After graduation, she bypassed college to go pro—“I had to give it a try,” she says—signing on with the Sacramento Ballet. She had the confidence to “take that leap of faith” because of her training, her supportive parents and Crossroads’ nurturing arts environment, she says.
While dancing professionally, Nicole has been commissioned to choreograph works for many ballet schools and several companies, including Smuin Ballet in San Francisco, where she currently dances. In 2017, she was one of the winners of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Choreography XX competition. This summer, armed with grant funding, she began choreographing a new work for the Richmond Ballet, which will have its world premiere this November. Also this fall, she will restage an earlier work, “Merely Players,” for Smuin Ballet.
A dancer’s career can be fleeting. “Particularly in ballet, you’re always dealing with the confines of your own body,” says Nicole. Her greatest joy in working with other dancers is “helping them to identify ways they can keep growing and improving so they’re of greatest value to their companies.” In the long term, she pictures herself becoming a ballet master, mentoring and coaching dancers.
With each new piece she creates, Nicole sets a challenge for herself, then leaves room for the unexpected. “The best moments for me,” she says, “are spontaneous and unplanned.”