This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 Life Without Limits issue of Showstopper Magazine.

Photography: Ana Ochoa, Design: Holly Childs

Anya Nichols’ passion for dance was “sparked by her family.” Growing up with a professional dancer as a mother, she started her journey at Denise Wall’s dance studio where her mother also trained. “It was full circle for me to be starting there as well,” she shared. “I grew up trying a lot of sports, like soccer, basketball, and baseball. But once I started doing studio, competing, and going to conventions…I [knew] that dance was what I wanted to do. It was the only sport I had drive for and full happiness in. There’s nothing that compares to how I feel when I’m able to express myself and dance.”

Styles and Inspiration

Growing up in the studio led her to discover her favorite styles of dance. “I really enjoyed lyrical and ballet,” she shared. However, as she planned for her future in the industry, she recognized the importance of training in hip hop and stage, which eventually became her favorites. “I find I am the most confident and comfortable when doing those styles.” Now, she gets a lot of her inspiration from choreographers like Cameron Lee, Luther Brown, Ysabelle Caps, Nat Bat, and Sean Bankhead.

Overcoming Challenges

The dance world is not without its challenges of course, but Anya saw them as opportunities to grow. She moved to California and Joined Mather Dance Company which was a difficult but transformative experience. “Mentally and physically it was very challenging, but I have never grown so much,” she reflected. “Their training is absolutely amazing and really shaped me into the dancer I am today.” Getting signed by an agency and booking her first job at the Latin Grammys for J Balvin also marked a huge milestone. “It was such a surreal moment for me and it really gave me validation that I can do dance as my job,” she shared.

On top of career challenges, Anya has also had to find ways to work through wavering self-esteem. “Staying positive and having mindfulness is a big thing that gets me through those tough times,” she explained. “I continue to always stay thankful for any experience I have. Knowing that I should be grateful that I am able to pursue something I’ve loved for so long.”

Photography: Ana Ochoa, Design: Holly Childs

Expressing Herself

Dance has also helped Anya to “connect to people in a different way.” “[In] dance, people show different parts of themselves they usually wouldn’t show anywhere else. Having that intimacy with people is what makes these dance connections so great.” She also believes dance has helped her grow as a person and process her emotions. “[It] has really made me who I am,” she shared. “It’s helped me so much with self-expression. When I was younger, I had such a hard time expressing my emotions. However, dance was always that outlet for me to do so. It was a way for me to get out of my head and be fully present within myself and body. It was a way for me to fully feel [the] emotions that I was never able to express outside of dance. There’s a genuine connection within dance and how you are feeling. Emotion is always connected in dance. It is literally fueled by emotion.”

As she looks towards the future, Anya simply hopes to be “booked and blessed.” Inspired by her mom’s touring and traveling days, she’s made it one of her goals, too. “Hearing the things she learned and how much she grew from that experience makes me want to reach that goal even more.” In the meantime, she plans to stay focused on her training and to keep working hard towards her goals.

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Holly is the Editor-in-Chief of Showstopper Magazine! A designer, writer, and photographer, keeping up with Holly is easier said than done as she regularly travels to new places. As the mastermind behind the magazine, Holly has a knack for finding great stories and getting them on the page. She and her furry assistant Cornelius are always up to something fabulous! You can follow Holly's travels and breathtaking experiences (and even magazine updates) on Instagram (@hollyachilds)!