She’s danced for Madonna, Rihanna, and Kylie Minogue, and has assisted choreographers such as Mandy Moore, Mia Michaels, Tessandra Chavez, Wade Robson, and Tabitha and Napoleon. But now, Martha Nichols is stepping into her own spotlight. Nichols recently won the 2016 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, an annual choreography competition where the top three finalists receive funding to produce their own full-length shows. Nichols won first place out of over 200 applicants and 22 semi-finalists who performed live in front of a panel of judges at the annual Dance Teacher Summit in New York City. Her fun and funky piece, “Tilted”, scored her upcoming features in Dance Spirit and Dance Teacher magazines and a $15,000 production budget for her choreography debut in a Los Angeles show later this year. Amidst the excitement of her recent win, Nichols managed to squeeze in an interview with Dance Informa.

When did you begin dancing, and in what styles did you train?

“My mother put me in dance when I was three years old, and I studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and modern. Once I got a little older, I added contemporary and hip-hop.”

What are your current inspirations?

“My current inspiration comes from quite a few places: my emotions, music and lyrics always, and people as well. I also enjoy analyzing movies, pictures and news articles.”

Why did you decide to submit to this year’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards?

“I decided to submit to this year’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards because I’ve always wanted to create a show, and I saw the Capezio A.C.E. Awards as my window of opportunity. To even be accepted was an honor because it was another chance to ‘say something’. Also, my little sister kept insisting that I submit!”

What inspired your piece ‘Tilted’?

“’Tilted’ was mostly inspired by the song itself (by Christine and the Queens) — both lyrically and how the music made me feel. What stuck most with me lyrically was the beginning of the chorus: ‘But I’m actually good; can’t help it if we’re tilted’. I love everything about it – the acceptance of the unfamiliar/change and the reassurance of trusting your gut. I recently was reminded that when you grow in one aspect of your life, it leads to a transition in all aspects. And sometimes with a transition, beautiful things can come to an end. Even though I may not understand all the details, I still go with my gut. I have faith that everything happens for a reason because I believe that God is intentional. ‘Tilted’ is my happy dance — my acceptance of the fact that sometimes I don’t have all the answers, and I’m okay with that.”

What was it like to perform in your own piece for the A.C.E. Awards in front of such a huge audience and esteemed panel of judges?

“I love performing, so performing with my friends for that amazing audience felt incredible. I was so happy and so present. There was a brief ‘Holy Moly! I can’t believe this is happening!’ moment toward the end of the piece, and I remember looking at the dancers beside me, taking in what was happening and becoming extremely giddy.”

How would you describe your movement aesthetic and vision as a choreographer?

“I would describe my style as musical, athletic, technical, funky and emotional.”

Do you already have ideas for your Capezio A.C.E. Awards show? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?

“Yes, I already have some ideas for my Capezio A.C.E. Awards show, but it’s all under wraps right now. So now I’ll focus on developing those ideas and continue to come up with new ones. And in the near future, you can look forward to hearing and seeing much more from me. I’m excited to learn, grow and share more of myself.”

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