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Getting to know company artist

A Chicago native, Nia Lyons has trained with The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, and Chicago High School for the Arts. Nia’s diverse training includes classical ballet, modern, African, Latin, jazz, and hip hop and has taken her around the world to numerous countries, including Barcelona, St. Thomas, and South Korea. This is Nia’s first season with Collage Dance and she comes to us from the Dance Theatre of Harlem School in New York.

Nia looks forward to inspiring and mentoring young dancers while continuing to break barriers as a professional ballet dancer. Learn more about her, below!

When did you begin dancing and how did you get started?
 I started dancing at the age of 4. I stopped dancing for a while to pursue other sports and hobbies. At the age of 13 I was inspired by Homer Bryant to start dancing again. I used to walk past his studio every day and watch beautiful brown dancers in the windows and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

What’s your favorite part of being a professional dancer and why?
Performing is my favorite part of being a dancer. Nothing beats the feeling you get before you step on stage. The butterflies in your stomach and just the right amount of nervousness and excitement.

Why Collage? What’s one thing that excited you about working with (and dancing with) Collage?
I was drawn to Collage’s diversity and the choreography. The Collage audition was one of the most enjoyable auditions I’ve been to and the rep that I was taught left me wanting to learn even more.

For the new dancer and even the young trainee, what advice would you give?
No matter what don’t forget who you are and your worth. Also, don’t let other peoples’ opinions of you become your own.


Nia’s Favorite Quote

“The lioness doesn’t concern herself with the opinion of the sheep.”

This is one of my favorite quotes because while growing up I used to care a lot about what people thought of me and I tried to be a people-pleaser. My mother told me this quote when I was very distraught and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Why should people experience a ballet performance at least once in their life?
Seeing a ballet performance allows you to get a better understanding of this art form and to appreciate it more. Many people don’t realize how hard ballet truly is and how much strength and precision it takes for us to perform.

What’s one thing people might be surprised to know about you?
I have modeled over the years and have booked several professional fashion shows, editorial, billboard ads and television commercials. Some notable ones include Vogue, Nordstrom, Desigual, Le Coq and Refinery 29.

If you weren’t a professional ballet dancer what would you be doing?
Dance related, I would be a full-time costume designer and choreographer. Non-Dance related, I would be marine biologist.

Who’s your biggest fan?
My Mother and Father

Must have item in your dance bags and dressing room?
DEODORANT AND BODY MIST! I am really big on making sure I smell nice, especially if I’m partnering and after a long day of dancing.

What music artists are you listening to right now?
I’m currently listening to Vanessa Mae who is one of my favorite violinists.

Best movie you’ve seen recently?
Queen and Slim. I rarely cry during a movie and by the end of Queen and Slim I was bawling like a baby.

What TV shows are you binge watching to make it through the quarantine?
I am currently binge-watching Queen of the South, The Umbrella Academy and Green Leaf.

First place you plan to go to when we can go “out” again?
An amusement park!

What’s one thing you simply had to bring with you to your new home of Memphis?
I absolutely had to bring my porcelain gold colored pointe shoes that my grandmother gave to me when I was younger. She knew I was to become a ballet dancer long before I did.


Images captured by Raphael Baker and Brittney Scales. Video captured by Jacob Geyer for Pigeon Roost.