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Life on the Grande Stage

Life on the Grande Stage

Photo by Cory Graves

All good things come to those who wait is a philosophy that has never resonated much with twins Brian and Scott Nicholson. While time and effort doesn’t guarantee results, the Cleveland-born brothers turned their natural talents and determination into success on the Grande stage.

The brothers currently reside in Los Angeles, where they’re gearing up for Ariana Grande’s Sweetener Tour in March, their third world tour with the pop star. These days, the twins serve as creative directors, choreographers, and dancers for the pop megastar. While the twins now spend much of their time on international tours, their tale began in the suburbs down I-71.

Brian and Scott were raised in Strongsville by parents Ellen and Harry Nicholson. Harry passed away when the boys were 11, leaving them a tight-knit family of four with their mom and sister. This mentality is something that would prove to be a valuable tool in pursuing their dreams.

“We were raised with a team mentality, especially once our father passed away,” Scott explained. “My mom was like, ‘we’ve been a team and we are going to stay a team.’”  

The duo attended the University of Akron together for five years. While they started out as voice majors, it wasn’t long before they realized that dance may be their true calling. After taking a tap class for a gym credit, they soon joined an on-campus dance group called Ill’u’syn and another off-campus crew. It wasn’t long before they were noticed by the dance department as stand-out talent.

Photo by Alfredo Flores

After college, Brian and Scott were offered a job to teach a hip-hop dance class at a studio in New Jersey. This would require a move to New York City, but it proved to be the right decision. After about two months, they signed with their first agency, Clear Talent Group, and started to land professional dancing gigs. This also meant occasionally auditioning against each other.

“Obviously we are in competition because we look exactly the same, but it was never an awkward thing,” Scott said. “We were happy just as long as one of us got it.”

Jobs rolled in and the duo started to dance for huge names in the entertainment industry, such as Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and the producers of Glee and Dancing with the Stars. In 2010, Scott got an audition for Ariana Grande. Brian couldn’t go because he was rehearsing for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with Nicki Minaj.

“I made it to the very end of the audition,” Scott said. “They found out I was a twin and asked where Brian was. Luckily, he was rehearsing in the studio right next door. I ran over and grabbed him on his lunch break for a quick audition. We both got the job. The rest is history.”

What was supposed to be one music video and two performances snowballed into an eight-year collaboration and friendship with arguably the biggest pop star in the world.

“They’re two of the most talented people on the face of the planet,” Grande said in her docuseries Dangerous Woman Diaries. “As a human, as an artist, I’m incomplete without Brian and Scott.”

The Dangerous Woman Tour launched in February of 2017 and was Grande’s most successful tour to date. Things took a tragic turn May 22 of that year when a suicide bomber took the lives of 22 concert-goers and wounded hundreds of others. Instead of focusing on the horrific aspects of that night, the twins reflected on the power of love in overcoming evil.

“We were scared, but we had each other to lean on,” Brian said. “It was traumatic, but it was also a huge learning experience. There were realizations of what’s important. How scary the world is, but how awesome it is when you overcome something. We turned it into a positive as much as we could.”

That positivity manifested into One Love Manchester, a benefit concert for the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund attended by 55,000 people two weeks after the attack.

“When we did the One Love Manchester event, so much beauty came out of so much pain and tragedy,” Scott said. “There was never a question of ‘do we do something positive? Do we stop or keep going?’’’

The value of acceptance and love for everyone is not something that the twins take lightly. For example, the brothers were thrilled to be the art directors and choreographers of the VMA performance of Grande’s “God is a Woman,” bringing their vision to life.

“We are huge allies to women—huge,” Brian said. “We wanted to celebrate every single woman and their individuality, but also their connectedness and wholeness. We wanted to make sure that everyone watching felt included and celebrated. We really put our heart and soul into that, and Ariana did too.”

Aside from dance, the twins have their own side projects. Scott actively works with Facebook groups and law enforcement to save endangered dogs. He uses his platform of 370,000 Instagram followers to showcase these animals and find them forever homes. Additionally, the duo recently launched a line of apparel and accessories called KiiD.

“The reason for the name is for that kid mentality,” Scott explains. “Kids don’t think about it, they just do it.”  

That same sentiment applies to the journey of two Cleveland kids whose blue-collar work ethic led them to become creative partners with a pop superstar. However, they still return to Strongsville to visit their family whenever they have a free day or two. It turns out that you can dance if you want to, but you don’t have to leave your home behind.

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