The Nashville Ballet is opening its 2019-20 season with a production of the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Nicolas Scheuer, a young gay dancer who has been with the Nashville Ballet since 2012, is set to play the lead.
Scheuer, originally from Joinville, Brazil, began his ballet studies at the Bolshoi Theatre School of Brazil, affiliated with the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia. He continued his education, dancing with the Boston Ballet School, and took his first full time dance position with the New English Ballet Theatre in London.
Since joining Nashville Ballet in 2012, he has performed in Nashville Ballet Artistic Director Paul Vasterling's Nashville's Nutcracker, as well as Benno in Swan Lake, John Darling in Vasterling's Peter Pan, the Waltz Man in George Balanchine's Serenade, the title role in Afternoon of a Faun by Salvatore Aiello, and the Fair Youth in Vasterling’s revolutionary Lucy Negro Redux.
Tell me about how you got into ballet as a kid. What was it like doing ballet as a young boy in Brazil?
Scheuer: I started dance when I was nine years old. At first it was just for fun and to get out of the house, to be honest. After my first month taking dance classes, I told my parents “I’m going to be a professional ballet dancer when I grow up,” and here I am, getting ready to be Romeo.
As a little boy, it was really hard when I started taking ballet classes, I was the only guy in my school taking dance for extra credit and because of that I was always the target for bullying. I even got into a school fight with a classmate in 4th grade because he thought men weren’t supposed to dance.
I thought about stopping dancing many times because of so much hate coming from my classmates. But letting someone destroy my dreams wasn’t an option: it was always an opportunity to get stronger and better, to make my dreams come true.
When did you come to terms with your sexuality? Was your family accepting?
Scheuer: Growing up, dancing opened a door to a new world that allowed me to express myself and be the man I am today. I came out to my parents and friends when I was 15. I always knew I was gay though. I’ve always felt different from my brother and cousins.
I’m very blessed to have parents who gave me support and helped to understand being gay was okay. My mom cried when I told her I was gay. She was just scared for me, and she didn’t know much about it. The same night, she said, “I love you and we’re always here for you!”
Dance is a such beautiful way to express your feelings and coming out gave me the confidence to be able to explore my emotions. I was afraid to explore that part of me before I came out.
What were some of your “big breaks” as a dancer, and what drew you or brought you to Nashvillle?
Scheuer: I met Paul Vasterling in New York during an open company audition. I got a job offer a couple of weeks later and immediately said, “Yes!” This organization has been my home since 2012. I was so excited about the Company repertoire and the amazing dancers we have in the Company. Paul has been a big part of my career success. He keeps pushing me to be a better dancer and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.
What was it like coming to Nashville? How did you find your place in the LGBTQ community here, and what have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards of living in this community?
Scheuer: Coming from Brazil to Nashville was a little scary. I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t know much about the city either. But since the beginning, I’ve felt like I was at home. Looking back, I met great friends that made it feel that way.
I’m still trying to find my place in the LGBTQ community with my busy schedule between dancing from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and teaching ballet for kids three nights a week. Lately, it has been a little more challenging to have a life outside of the studio, but it is worth it because of the work I’m doing.
The biggest challenge of living in Nashville and being part of the community is dating. I feel like in Nashville, gay guys are caught up in these old gay stereotypes, and to me that’s a big no. Art has taught me to be open for anything, to exist in a judgement free zone. One day I’ll find my Prince Charming though!
What have been some high points of your career here?
Scheuer: I know I’m going to sound really cheesy, but Romeo and Juliet has been one of my favorite ballets since forever. I’m so excited to play Romeo with my partner Kayla Rowser as Juliet.
My very first male lead role was very special to me too—I was Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty. It was a dream come true to be on stage with so many people watching you dance and applauding you after you finished the hardest male dance variation.
What’s it like playing the lead in Romeo and Juliet? Do you think being a gay man affects how you approach the role?
Scheuer: Playing the male lead is a lot of pressure. You’re in front of the room, you have to make sure your partner is looking her best, but without forgetting your own technique. I love it though—when the curtains come down I can’t describe how great I feel after a good show.
I don’t think being gay affects how I approach each role. For Romeo, I have to fall in love with a woman, and to me love is love. I’ll give everything I have to this role and make the audience believe I’m in love with my partner. That’s my job. Being gay is just an extra point.
What are some of your goals and aspirations going forward?
Scheuer: I’m a very technical dancer and moving forward I do want to explore my feelings on stage more. I’d like to stop focusing on being so “perfect” and start letting my feelings lead me—and being Romeo is a great start. I’m so excited to be able to do what I love and still have fun. I’m excited for the future!
The Nashville Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet runs September 20–22, 2019, and more information about tickets can be found at www.nashvilleballet.com/ticket-information-and-discounts.