Performance » Dance

Dancing through Life

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By age 40, most professional dancers have dimmed the lights on their stage careers to open their own studios, become full-time choreographers or to raise a family.

At age 42, Nicole Hargro doesn't seem to be anywhere near the light switch.

Since June, she's been rehearsing at least eight to 10 hours per week with the local touring production of Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple: The Musical, which opens Aug. 1 at Marian University Theatre.

She's currently in her third week of teaching a summer dance camp through her Beyond the Pointe Dance Company (a contemporary ballet and modern dance company), and is preparing to enter her eighth year as a dance instructor at Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts & Humanities this fall.

She's also a wife and mother of four children (ages 20, 18, 8 and 7 -- all dancers, except the youngest).

Nicole Hargro (pictured in pink blouse) is surrounded by members of Beyond the Pointe Dance, a contemporary ballet and modern dance company she founded in 2001. - FREDDIE KELVIN
  • Freddie Kelvin
  • Nicole Hargro (pictured in pink blouse) is surrounded by members of Beyond the Pointe Dance, a contemporary ballet and modern dance company she founded in 2001.

When The Color Purple -- a story about a Southern woman who, through adversity, finds her voice and place in the world -- begins its three-and-a-half month run, Hargro will rely on her family to keep things running smoothly at home.

"The reason I can do what I do is because I have a supportive husband," says Hargro, one of the musical's feature dancers. "We met as students at Ball State University, and he knew then that I was a performing artist."

Twenty-one years of marriage and four kids later, Hargro's husband, Ronald, is still one of her biggest supporters.

"I remember sometimes being the only guy in the audience at Nicole's performances at Ball State. I would be standing there with roses. ... For me, it's refreshing to see my wife on stage, because I know that she gets refreshed when she's up there," he says. "When she's happy, I'm happy, and that's all that matters."

Although being away from her family on weekends will be hard, Hargro won't be traveling alone. The couple's 18-year-old son, Phillip, will be on the tour bus with her and is a dancer in the show. Hargro says the tour will work out well for Phillip, a theater major at Indiana State University, because the cast will only travel and perform on weekends, with shows mostly on Saturdays and Sundays in cities everywhere from Indianapolis and Muncie to New York City and Toronto, Canada.

The musical is based on the film by Steven Spielberg and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker. The local traveling production is being presented by The Cupboard Presents, founded by local actress, singer and entertainer Joyce Licorish, and it features an all-local cast. 

Nicole Hargro makes a cameo performance in 2012's "Naptown Nutcracker" at the Madame Walker Theatre Center. An urban version of the holiday classic, "Naptown Nutcracker" that Hargro created is best described as "The Nutcracker" meets "The Wiz," she says. - LEON IRA MALLORY
  • Leon Ira Mallory
  • Nicole Hargro makes a cameo performance in 2012's "Naptown Nutcracker" at the Madame Walker Theatre Center. An urban version of the holiday classic, "Naptown Nutcracker" that Hargro created is best described as "The Nutcracker" meets "The Wiz," she says.

"Being part of this cast and production is awesome," says Hargro. "It really feels like a family, and they all love the arts, so that makes it even better."

Hargro, however, is anxious to hit the stage on opening night. When the curtain finally rises and the spotlight sets, she'll be in her element -- on stage, performing.

"I am a performer by nature," says Hargro, who started formal dance training in junior high school at Shortridge in 1984.

Hargro recalls learning about an open audition for a new performing arts school during her 6th-grade year. All she knew back then was that she loved to dance, mainly the latest street dances at the time. But she took a chance and auditioned, landing a spot in both the dance and theater programs.

It wasn't until high school at Broad Ripple, where she began to solely focus on dance. While there, Hargro says she started choreographing pieces and fell in love with that side of the art form. When she arrived at Ball State as a freshman, she knew she wanted dance to be her full-time profession.

"But it was somewhere between high school and college when I really became a performer and instructor," says Hargro.

The Indianapolis native fulfills her need to be on stage by taking professional gigs -- such as The Color Purple -- whenever she can. She's also performed in The Wiz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Tempest, among other professional productions.

Nicole Hargro in a promotional image for the Nicholas Owens Dance Company performance for the annual "Spotlight" show at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University. - NICHOLAS OWENS
  • Nicholas Owens
  • Nicole Hargro in a promotional image for the Nicholas Owens Dance Company performance for the annual "Spotlight" show at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University.

The vast majority of her professional career, however, has been helping students -- in Indianapolis and in her husband's hometown of Gary -- develop their own love for dance. Some of her former students have become professional dancers at some of the most respected companies in the world, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

"My goal is to expose the urban student to the performing arts and go beyond the call of duty," says Hargro. "I want to help them build the technique, the work ethic and the rigor that it takes to develop their craft and to take their careers to the next level. I want them to know what it takes to become a professional in the dance world."

Always the teacher, Hargro even sees her role in The Color Purple: The Musical as more than just a vehicle to fulfill her own passion for performing. She hopes it also serves as a teaching tool for her students at Broad Ripple and at her dance studio, Beyond the Pointe Dance.

"Yes, at 42, I'm dancing the entire show," says Hargro. "When my kids see me, I want them to see the work (and dedication) that it takes to get to the stage."


The Color Purple: The Musical

What: A touring production of the Broadway musical, based on the film by Steven Spielberg and the book by Alice Walker. This touring production, presented by The Cupboard Presents, features an all-local cast.

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 7 p.m. Aug. 2, 3 p.m. Aug. 3.

Where: Marian University Theatre, 3200 Cold Spring Road.

Tickets: $25-$15.

Info:www.thecupboardpresents.org or www.brownpapertickets.com. 

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