Some of us have heard the idiom “the student becomes the master,” but Nicole Clarke-Springer has lived it. Decades ago, she joined Deeply Rooted Dance Theater as an apprentice; now she’s the artistic director. An accomplished dancer and choreographer, Clarke-Springer is no stranger to strenuous exercise. But the 48-year-old isn’t a drill sergeant — especially given the pandemic’s toll. “There’s something to be said for not apologizing for who you are physically right now,” she says. Instead, it’s about “knowing how to move forward with grace and ease.” For Clarke-Springer, who lives in Skokie with her husband and two daughters, it’s a practice based in acceptance: “I’m not the physical specimen that I was in my 20s, and that’s OK,” she says. Amen.

Step Aside

“I walk for about an hour a day. I have to get my 10,000 steps in. I actually have a competition going with my sister, so if I think she’s going to beat me, it might be 12,000. I love boxing, too.”

Natural Healing

“There’s a walking area near my daughter’s school, so I start there and then go out into the neighborhood. It’s filled with lots of beautiful trees and flowers that calm me down.”

Pedal Head

“I love SoulCycle — it’s dancing on a bike! I’m always inviting the company members and my friends to join me.


“I start every day with green tea with lemon and honey. If I’m feeling icky, I’ll put a little apple cider vinegar in.”

Snack Attack

“Fruit and nuts are my go-to in the middle of the day. I like pineapples and watermelon, almonds and cashews.”

Soul Food

“Generally, I listen to gospel and R&B. I’m also a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band, and I love Fleetwood Mac. My father was a musician, so I like music that makes me remember my childhood: Earth, Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross. I’m a huge Diana Ross fan; she’s on my wall! Anything that evokes my childhood memories.”


“Meditation is really key for me, just letting go and not having any expectations of myself or my work. The stress of having to create something that’s going to be a hit or the next best thing doesn’t serve me well at all. Instead, I have to go within and just breathe and say, OK, what are you trying to do here? What’s inspiring you? ”

See Her Work in Action On October 23, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater wraps its 25th anniversary season with Roots & Wings, a one-night performance at the Auditorium Theatre featuring GOSHEN, a collaboration with gospel artist Donald Lawrence.