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

Photography: Ana Ochoa, Design: Holly Childs

Growing up in Fayetteville, NC, Nicole Burdett, or “Coley” as some call her, found her passion for everything related to performing arts. Nicole’s talents are boundless, and she seamlessly blends her passion of dance, choreography, acting, and modeling.

Finding Her Passion

Nicole spent a lot of her young years in the dance studio, so there was no question about her love for dance. But it wasn’t until she participated in a local Christmas show that she found a few other passions: performance and philanthropy. The show, called The Heart of Christmas Show, raised $775,000 with 100 percent of ticket sales given to local children’s charities. “[It] was the first time in my life where I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself,” Nicole shared. “It’s what made me realize where my heart is.”

Dance will always be her first love, but when she can combine it with positive change, its potential is limitless. Nicole believes that “art has the power to heal, implement change, and influence people positively.”

Dream Come True

Inspired by her passion for performance, Nicole began training at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) which she described as “a dream come true.” Training with some of the industry’s leading performers, Nicole found many mentors that “helped mold and guide [her] through her career.” “I had a teacher who would show up and teach my 8 AM ballet class, then directly head downtown to 42nd Street for their Broadway matinee show. AMBDA helped me find my voice and light in the performing arts and I’m grateful for the experience.”

Ana Ochoa

Seas the Day

Nicole’s first professional job was for Norwegian Cruise Lines where she was a rehearsal swing (an understudy of several roles). It didn’t come with hardships, though, and Nicole had to learn six tracks for four shows in a short amount of time. “[It] challenged me mentally but set me up for success in a lot of ways,” Nicole revealed. Every night, I could be found running through the tracks in case I was needed the next day. I never wanted to be caught unprepared.”

While it took her a bit to get the lay of the land (sea?), it ended up being an incredibly rewarding experience. “Being a swing is one of the hardest jobs, and it gave me a huge respect for the position,” she shared. It allows performers to see the show inside-out and from multiple characters’ perspectives.”

Facing Challenges

While Nicole has gone on to dance, model, choreograph, and teach (for Showstopper!), it hasn’t always come easy due to her height. “My entire life I grew up being the tallest dancer,” she explained. “Sometimes, I’d go to 20 auditions, and I’d be lucky if I fell into the height requirement for one of them,” she said. It hurt because it was something she couldn’t change. “I couldn’t shrink three inches like I could nail a triple pirouette.”

She soon realized she had to shift her mindset. “If you want it, you have to keep showing up and putting in the work. The right show, commercial, or movie would be looking to hire me, and when they came looking, I had to be ready.”

She began showing up to everything and learning which casting directors were known to hire tall dancers. And, at the same time, she began modeling which “helped [her] build a confidence [she] needed. Suddenly, she was praised for something she felt was holding her back. “Modeling came at a time when I needed it most,” she shared.

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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)!