Seventeen-year-old Briar Nolet has all the qualities we've come to expect from a top-tier contemporary dancer: stunning control, impressive strength, seamless fluidity. But it's her emotional maturity that truly stands out. “Dance is a way of expressing myself without having to speak," she says. “I fully expose my soul onstage."
It makes sense that Briar approaches choreography like a seasoned actress—because she is one. She's practically grown up on the set of the teen drama “The Next Step," a Canadian TV series following a group of studio dancers and their competition stories. Briar has played the feisty and fiercely determined Richelle since she was 14, and recently finished up a live stage tour with the cast throughout Canada and Europe. For the past 10 years, Briar's also trained and competed with Oakville's Canadian Dance Company, under the direction of Allain and Dawn Lupien. She's studied everything from jazz to ballet to tap to hip hop—and she's become known for her daredevil acrobatic moves, which she credits to a stint in gymnastics before she discovered dance. “I love acro—doing flips out of turns, things like that," Briar says. “I'm constantly throwing my body around, trying to figure out new moves." That versatility has earned Briar a lot of success on the comp circuit. She's placed first overall at Showstopper in the Junior, Teen and Senior categories, and earned first runner-up at the American Dance Awards last year with her Travis Wall–choreographed solo “Day Drift." But while she's happy that her visibility on the scene has made her a role model for younger comp kids, she knows the titles aren't everything. “It's not about the winning at all," she says. “It's more about dancing for myself, sharing the love onstage and inspiring people to follow their dreams."
Currently homeschooled, Briar plans to head to college—hopefully her dream school, the University of California, Los Angeles—once she finishes her high school coursework, and she wants to keep up her acting career through movies and TV shows. But she's not hanging up her dancing shoes anytime soon: She also aspires to join a professional company. “Dance is like water to me," she says. “I've always lived with it, and I always plan to."
Photo by Erin Baiano
“Briar is chameleonlike: She turns like a professional ballerina and tumbles like an Olympic gymnast. You're simply mesmerized by her gorgeous lines and incredible dynamics. She's also always the camera's favorite person in the room."
—Allain Lupien, co-owner/director of Canadian Dance Company
Birthday: December 27, 1998
One thing she can't live without: “My phone. Wait, what am I saying? My family and friends, for sure."
Favorite dance memory: “Doing a contemporary trio with Myles Erlick and Devon Brown last year. The dance itself, and dancing with them, was absolutely incredible."
Guilty pleasure: “Candy is my weakness. It's terrible."
One thing no one knows about her: “I'm a baking fanatic. Even on tour, if we have kitchens in our hotel room, I'll go to the grocery store and find something to make."
Favorite foods: “I'm such a carb girl, so pasta and bread."
Favorite quote: “My mom sends me quotes throughout the week when I'm not with her, and she finds amazing ones. My favorite right now is, 'To make a difference in someone's life, you don't have to be wise, rich or beautiful—you just have to be there when they need you.' "