Baristanet Profile: Hilary Nicolai

Name: Hilary Nicolai

Where do you live? Montclair’s South End

When did you move there? We moved to Montclair in 2008 after the birth of my twin girls and were introduced to the South End through a friend. We relocated to this vibrant, historic, inclusive community in 2016 and are continuously amazed by the camaraderie and good neighborship of this particular area.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana – a small suburb west of Indianapolis. I moved to New York City to attend the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet’s official school, before joining the Metropolitan Opera Ballet at Lincoln Center. I continued to travel home to guest with Indianapolis Ballet Theater and Ballet International.

How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion? I’m fortunate in that I make my living doing what I love, which is teaching ballet. I started at Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts, then DanceWorks in Montclair, Prestige Academy of Dance in Fairfield, and Class Act Performing Arts Studio in West Orange. My home base has always been SMAPA, but when they closed on March 16 because of the pandemic, I decided to start my own business. The dance community has suffered tremendously, but we are a resourceful bunch. We find strength in our struggles, pivot and create anew. I launched two online platforms to remain connected and give back to the community I love so much – Ballet With Hilary on Facebook and @balletwithhilary on Instagram. I offer outdoor, in person ballet instruction and Zoom classes for children, teens and adults eight and up.

Coffee, tea or … ? Coffee, water, wine, repeat.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day? Because I’m so active during the week teaching, working out, raising three children on top of being generally prone to flitting around making unnecessary projects for myself and my family, I pull a full 180 on the weekends. I take great pride in not getting out of my pajamas. A perfect weekend day equates to zero commitments in my calendar so I have the flexibility to do what I want, especially if that includes binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer…or Community…or Umbrella Academy (you get the idea) with my family.

What’s your favorite local restaurant? Café Moso in the South End business district. Zina has created a warm, welcoming environment, Chef David delivers delicious comfort food, and they are very accommodating to dietary restrictions (keto, kids, vegetarian, you name it) and will work with you to provide off menu dishes. I’m a total fangirl.

What’s on your nightstand? The requisite himalayan salt lamp, Uma Pure Calm Wellness Oil, a cherished family photo, a gratitude rock that my best friend gifted me many years ago that I use for meditating, ear pods, my Madewell x Parachute sleep mask, a handful of unfinished books and a Rainbow Squishy Unicorn Poop that one of my daughters won from a claw machine at Funplex.

What are you listening to? Lately, a lot of audiobooks, especially when I’m working out. I listen to music in the bath or when I’m cleaning up after dinner. The genres are varied and random, but I’m always down for some 90’s hip hop, alt rock or power ballads. I belt along and imagine I sound the same. I don’t.

What are your current indulgences? More than anything right now, I love lazy mornings in bed before anyone else gets up. It’s my bit of uninterrupted time to reflect, plan, read, and scroll, and it only happens when no one knows I’m awake. Once I’m made, the hustle and bustle of the day begins — because kids.

What talent you would most like to have? I wish I could cook. That, or telekinesis.

What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about Montclair? If I tell you, it won’t be a secret.

What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? I don’t want anyone saying anything. I want a party with people drinking, singing, celebrating and shooting fireworks. Celebrate my life, don’t mourn the end of it.


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