Mason Gross Alum Dances Alongside J.Lo and Other Music Industry Stars
As a kid, Nicolette Alberti loved watching awards shows and going to concerts with her mom, not just to see big-name stars but also the dancers who appeared alongside them.
Alberti would rush home from school and tune in to TRL on MTV to catch the weekly countdown of music videos featuring singers known perhaps more for their killer dance moves than their voices, including Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
She didn’t want to be them—she wanted to join them.
“I’ve always loved that part of the industry—the big stages, the lights, performing in front of 60,000 people,” says Alberti, who grew up on Staten Island, New York. “I wanted to be able to do what I love at a massive scale for huge audiences and work with the best of the best in entertainment.”
After graduating with a BFA degree in dance from Mason Gross School of the Arts in 2015 and dancing professionally with contemporary and modern companies including Von Howard Project and Company Stefanie Batten Bland, Alberti made her way to Los Angeles in 2018 to pursue commercial dance opportunities in music videos, TV, and live productions.
In just three-and-a-half years, she has catapulted her career, dancing in music videos by some of the industry’s biggest names including Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Maluma, Kanye West, and Iggy Azalea and appearing on TV shows like The Voice and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
She has also performed in live stage shows including the 2019 Grammy Awards with Camila Cabello, Ricky Martin, and J Balvin and at the Hollywood Bowl with Tyga. These live shows are the performances Alberti loves best because, she says, they carry an energy that is unmatched by anything else she’s ever done.
“It’s a different level of being. You feel superhuman,” says Alberti. “It’s crazy to look out and see so many people…and the sound, even on stage, you can’t hear anything over the roar of the crowds. It really pushes you to turn into a superhero version of yourself on stage.”
And one performance has stood out among them all: dancing with Jennifer Lopez, whom Alberti calls her “dream artist,” in the Super Bowl LIV halftime show in Miami, Florida, in 2020.
Alberti spent four months working on the event, first as part of a 10-person skeleton crew in Los Angeles to map out a creative blueprint for the performance, followed by three months in Miami filled with nine-hour rehearsal days overseen by Lopez herself.
“It was definitely the best experience of my life to date,” says Alberti. “From booking the job to doing the show and everything in between...I got to see it from a seed to completion.”
Alberti says she’s never worked harder than in rehearsals with Lopez—a reflection of her own drive as well as the example set by the idol she says she’s looked up to her whole life.
“[Lopez] is definitely the hardest-working artist I’ve seen,” says Alberti. “She was there from day one until the very end, and she was so involved. She cared, and that’s really inspiring because it makes you feel extremely valued.”
Breaking into commercial dance hasn’t been easy for Alberti, who points out that waves of talented performers show up in Los Angeles all the time. Competition at auditions is fierce, and even the slightest miscalculation—like not dressing the part or standing in the back—can make the difference between getting a callback and losing the audition, says Alberti.
To hone her skills, she enrolled in hip-hop, street, and jazz classes.
“It was really hard for me in the beginning. I couldn’t even get through four eight-counts without forgetting moves,” says Alberti, who had no previous training in these styles of dance. “I was definitely an underdog, but I really committed myself.”
Alberti’s networking strategy included focusing on which artists she wanted to dance for, and finding classes taught by their choreographers, assistants, or other dancers who had performed with that artist.
Alberti also stresses the importance of being the artist that other artists want to work with. Basics like punctuality, positivity, and an easygoing attitude go a long way in the industry, she says.
“You could be the best dancer, but are you a hard worker? Are you good energy?” says Alberti. “What do you bring to the table? If it’s just smooth moves that might not be enough.”
That combination of hard work and intense focus has opened many doors for Alberti, but she’s quick to acknowledge that her path to success was made possible by people who took chances on her and believed in her, going back to her days as a college student.
“All the teachers at Rutgers, they were very invested in me and supported me—even after I was out of school, they came to my shows,” says Alberti, who credits Mason Gross Dance faculty member Julia M. Ritter with giving Alberti her first professional job, as a collaborator on a site-specific dance theater project in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2014.
Ritter remembers Alberti as a “a singular, stellar presence from the moment she walked through the doors of Rehearsal Hall as a first-year dancer.”
“She is and always has been imminently watchable,” Ritter adds. “She has a rare ability to learn choreography at lightning speed while attuning herself to the most subtle nuances of movement. As an improviser, she is undeniably mesmeric, drawing upon an enormous qualitative range and making sophisticated choices in the moment to captivate viewers.”
Now, Alberti is committed to helping other dancers achieve success in the industry through recommendations and sharing her connections.
“It’s important to me to be able to pay it forward because it definitely has been done for me,” says Alberti. “People can say they’re self-made, but no one can say they’ve done everything on their own. There are people who help you along the way.”