From Salsa to Modern: Nicole Durrett ’17 Finds Freedom, Friendship in Dance


While whirling and twisting in her first salsa dancing class at MoveStudio in her hometown of Charlotte, NC., Nicole Durrett ’17 caught the eyes of Rodrigo and Wendy Jimenez, professional salsa instructors and performers. Durrett, then only 14-years old, impressed the pair so much that she was offered a position in the Rodrigo and Wendy Salsa Company as their student, explained Durrett in an interview with The Phillipian.

Due to her enrollment at Andover, Durrett had to turn down the offer at the Salsa Company – but that has not stopped her from dancing, a passion that she’s had ever since the age of four. As most of her friends were enrolled in ballet lessons at the time, Durret decided that she, too, should learn ballet, and hasn’t stopped since.

“[Dance is] one of the best parts of my day. It’s one of the places where I have the most friends. It’s one of the places where I get to have the most fun,” said Durrett. “I’ve felt most at home [at the dance studio] in the sense that I don’t feel that I can do anything really wrong or that can’t be corrected… [Dance has] given me the ability to make mistakes and to learn from them in a safe environment.”

Since she began ballet, Durrett has taken numerous classes in different dance styles, both in her hometown and at Andover. Her favorite styles are modern, salsa and aerial dance, as they are not as rigid as ballet and allow for more interpretation, she said.

“I’m not the typical image of a dancer… You [usually] think of the stick-thin ballerinas who can do 32 fouetté [turns]. I’m not that, but modern, salsa and aerial dancers can be a lot of different things, and that flexibility has really afforded me a place to experience what I can do for dance and what dance can do for me,” said Durrett.


One of Durrett’s favorite aspects of dance is the sense of community. Throughout her dance career, Durrett said that she has faced criticism over her body. As a result, she said she tends to befriend other dancers so that they can positively encourage each other.

“[Dance is] focused a lot on image. Basically, you’re perfection – or you’re not good at all… When you’re sharing something like that with someone else, it’s pretty hard not to have a very close bond, because that’s a lot of pressure to be under, and it’s definitely helpful to share it with other people,” said Durrett.

Some of the other people Durrett has danced with include Kailey Kirkwood ’16 and Katie Graber in Durrett’s Junior year Dance Open. The trio performed to Birdy’s rendition of “Skinny Love.” Even though Kirkwood and Graber are older and more experienced that Durrett, she did not feel intimidated.

“It was the first big performance for me at Andover, so naturally I was a good bit scared of messing up something or another. But all of the older dancers, they looked so relaxed about it, and they were having so much fun, and I realized that there was really nothing different about a performance [at Andover] than at my home studio… Most importantly, they helped me recognize what an amazing feat it was for us to have put together a show,” said Durrett.

Looking forward, Durrett plans to continue improving her technical skills and also add more of an individual flair to her dancing. Durrett said this individuality is what pushes a performance beyond just technical excellence.

“You look at the best dancers in the world, and they’ve got this something that you can’t really describe that makes them know their movements and know the meaning behind their movements, and without that you can be a good dancer, but you’ll never be a great dancer… You’ll never be the star of the show unless you have that something that makes your movement unique and have meaning,” said Durrett.

“I haven’t found it yet, but I’m on the way to finding that something,” said Durrett.