The Interrogator with Nicola Collie

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Nicola Collie is, you could say, a sculptor of space. She moves swiftly and with purpose, carving air with lean arms, slicing through the world with capable legs. Her dances straddle the line between elegant and feral. There is a toughness to her, one that belies the delicateness of her figure. What she offers is both familiar and unique. It is ballet, to use a term coined herself, gone rogue.

Based in Los Angeles, Collie’s work explores the relationship between subject and setting. Her proximity to the deserts of California means she often uses their sandy stage for improv routines. There, between rocks and before blue skies, she drags leather boots through the dust. It is her thesis in action. The environment has an effect on the performance—or, rather, on your perception of the performance. It strips the pretense of dance and makes it accessible, a thing to be done anywhere.

Collie, that rare combination of talent and beauty, has understandably become a bit of a brand darling. She has performed pieces for Warby Parker, Adidas, and Converse, to name just a few. But she also holds relevance beyond the commercial sphere. Collie has worked with celebrated choreographers like Ryan Heffington, Nina McNeely, and Celia Rowlson-Hall. Below, Collie turns her husband’s motorcycle shop into a dance studio, and talks American accents, dairy delegation, and a craving for an eternal Wild West.

Nicola Collie leaning against a black wall, legs crossed

Place of residence:

Los Angeles.

Current occupation:

Dancer, actor, model—a classic cliché.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This! If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I could happily say I did everything in my power to live the way I wanted to.

Nicola Collie sitting atop a motorcycle

Quote to live by:

“Nobody ever died of embarrassment.”

First job you ever had:

Flipping burgers at a local burger joint in New Zealand. Actually, to be fair, I was slicing tomatoes and onions because the boss had control issues in the kitchen. As I’ve aged, I can identify with that a lot more, because I adore cooking in solitude. The only tasks I’ll ever delegate are grating cheese or peeling vegetables.

Least favorite part of your day:

Getting out of the softest, warmest place we know as bed.

Nicola Collie inside a workshop, standing on a table on one leg

Windows down, the song you’re playing is:

“Thrown Down” by Fleetwood Mac.

Three guilty pleasures:

Furiously talking to myself in my car to practice my American accent. Big Macs. Bad diner coffee.

If you had to watch one movie on repeat for eternity, what would it be?

Call Me By Your Name.

Nicola Collie standing on one leg, the other leg stretched above her wait resting on wall

You have a million dollars to spend on art, you buy…

My own time… to keep making my work with fewer interruptions. But also I’d love anything by Kandinsky.

Plane, train or automobile for a trip?

Automobile—preferably a classic.

What IS your favorite trip?

The Southwest. A landscape that ebbs and flows between dry and lush, orange rock and green foliage, prickly cacti, huge canyons. It’s otherworldly. Wild West forever.

woman sitting, head and arms down

Personal travel ethos:

Be early.

Drink of choice:

Gin martini, extra dirty. I want a minimum of five olives so I get a snack and a drink.

Beach house or tree house:

Desert house!

Nicola Collie dancing, jumping on one leg

Where was the best meal you ever had and what was it?

Duck confit with my best friend Inès in Bordeaux, France, August 2016. Crispy, salty, falling off the bone with perfectly cubed roasted potatoes, peppery arugula, and the softest prunes on the side. And the custard tarts sprinkled with cinnamon in Lisbon were sublime!

What is the best news you ever received?

Honestly, every time I book a job I think it’s a miracle.

Who or what is largely overrated? Explain.

Convenience! Without getting too woeful (she says before getting woeful), it seems to be the downfall of humanity. This obsession with prepackaged, ready-to-go meals, takeout, paying by machine instead of to a person—it’s all completely removed our ability to connect and interact with each other. It feels like a loss to humanity. Choosing to regard something as ritualistic as food and meal times as a necessity and not a pleasure is such a loss. And the amount of waste and single-use plastics that all stems from someone wanting to save 20 minutes is heartbreaking and permanent.

Nicola Collie standing, hands in pockets

Briefly describe the best concert you have ever gone to.

The War on Drugs in New York. It’s the nostalgic/melancholic sound, especially in a track like “Red Eyes” that gets me choked up, man. I’m always attracted to work of any medium that has that thing that makes me a little sad. When something affects you that much, it has to mean that it got to you somehow.

Where do you go for inspiration, peace of mind?

Into a dance studio alone, or somewhere where I’m consumed by wilderness. As gregarious as I consider myself, I require time alone to even it out.

Photos by Tyler William Parker for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.