ick Silverio has already lived a dozen lives by the ripe old age of 21. He has been a dancer, a model, a salesman, a financial analyst, and most importantly, a student. However, his passion has always been dancing. Starting young, he enrolled in a jazz studio in his home in Central Massachusetts.
At 13, Silverio felt his dance skills were plateauing. He was still doing the same tricks and techniques that he learned at age eight. In order to improve, he had to find a more extensive studio.
“My mom saw in the newspaper that there was a new studio opening up, brand new, in our town, so she called and we visited. My only concern was: “can I compete for a title?” I wanted to win Junior Mr. DanceXplosion, and she said yes. I was the first student to register at Elite Academy of Dance. My sisters were the second and third.”
At Elite, Silverio learned ballet, tap, acrobatics, jazz, modern, and contemporary from teachers that were the best in their style. The studio has now been voted top 20 in the country, but at the time, was just a small, up-and-coming outfit. The owner of Elite, Lauren MacDonald, would become a mentor to Silverio and the first he would call when he received his first role.
When Silverio graduated high school, college seemed like the practical next step. Deciding between Wharton and the Stern School of Business at New York University, he did not see himself at Penn until he attended Quaker Days. Skeptical, Nick attended the Wharton Ambassador event to learn more about life at Penn. There, he was introduced to Kelly, a dancer at Arts House Dance Company at Penn.
“I was like this is going to be this not good dance group. [Kelly] said let’s follow each other on Instagram. The first thing I see is her on her toes in a backbend with no spinal cord. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, these people are amazing.’ I stalked. I did research. I watched their YouTube videos. I was so excited, and I committed that day,” Silverio said.
Although Silverio loved his freshman year at Penn, his heart was not fully in it.
“Penn has a great vibe. It’s really lovely to be here. But I wanted to be in New York. All my friends were in New York dancing at Pace or Marymount or Juilliard.”
Silverio decided, with the overwhelming support of his parents, to audition for Clear Talent Group in New York City. After rounds and rounds of auditions, they offered to represent him.
“On May 13, 2014, I moved out of my dorm in Harnwell, and I moved to New York. I signed with their talent group, we drove across town, we signed my lease for my apartment in Hamilton Heights, and we drove back to Massachusetts. It was the craziest day of my whole life,” Silverio said.
After a traditional summer internship in finance, Silverio moved to New York City and dove in the dance world. He worked as an assistant at Steps at Broadway, a dance studio on the West Side, while doing auditions in his free time.
His life changed when he saw a last-minute listing for The Elf National Tour. Posted at 9 am, Silverio had five hours to prepare for the audition. At the audition, Silverio came alive.
“It was the first time I was in New York where I felt this is what I should have been doing,” Silverio said. “The dance was so jazzy and really technique-based. It was super intricate. They looked for people who could pick it up really quickly, which is why I think my background came in handy because a lot of the people in the room are actors who can dance. I was a dancer who was trying to act and sing.”
Back at work later that day, Silverio was picking up Starbucks for his boss when he got a call from his roommate.
“I was in line, and I get a phone call from Sam, my roommate, and he said, ‘So you got Elf’. It was four hours [after the audition], and I was crying and Sam said ‘I knew it. I knew you would get it.’”
Silverio loved both the rehearsal and the touring process for Elf. Based at New 42nd Street Studios in Times Square, he was working in the same building as Bradley Cooper, who he jokingly referred to as his husband.
He toured across the nation from Grand Forks, North Dakota to San Francisco and loved every tiring moment of it.
“The coolest part about tour is you get paid to travel. It’s the best thing,” Silverio said.
His next big break came several months later when he was cast in La Cage Aux Folles, a musical based in a French drag club. The role of a drag queen challenged him both physically and mentally. “I had never danced in heels in a production before. I had only done a heels piece for Arts House freshman year,” he said.
Silverio, who identifies as a gay male, always felt insecure about expressing his femininity.
“I grew up life knowing I was very feminine, but not outwardly wanting to express it. It’s not something that society says you can do as a man. I was really uncomfortable putting on a corset everyday. I was fine with the heels. The makeup made me feel uncomfortable. For the first month, I felt like I had made a mistake. I felt so out of my element,” Silverio said.
With the help of his fellow cast mates, Silverio was able to come out of his shell and embrace this side of himself through La Cage.
“I dyed my hair platinum blond and was getting French manicures every week because it was for the show. I learned femininity is something you should never be afraid of. Gender is truly just a social construct,” he said.
The role in La Cage, only his second production, allowed Silverio to receive a membership in the Actor’s Equity Association. The labor union gives actors better pay, better treatment from theaters, and better opportunities.
With his membership in Equity, Silverio re-auditioned and, again, landed a role in the 2015 Elf National Tour. One of the stops on the tour was the Wang Theatre in Boston, less than an hour away from his hometown.
“My grandmother got to see me before she passed away. Her dream was to see me dance on a stage like that,” Silverio said. “I grew up seeing shows there. It was magical. It was my inner 8-year-old saying I was going to dance on that stage one day. I cried really hard on closing night. It was perfect.”
After fulfilling his dreams of dancing professionally, Silverio is now back at Penn, more committed than ever, and slated to graduate in spring of 2018. His dream now? To understand multiple regression in Stat 102.
“Having that autonomy to choose to come back [after my gap year], I can say I’m doing this for me,” Silverio said. “I want to learn. I want to get good grades. I dove into my Wharton classes.”
Silverio hopes to combine this love of dance with his business drive. During his time away from school, he also worked as a touring sales associate for Jo+Jax Activewear.
“Joey was a huge inspiration to me. She runs this incredibly successful activewear line. The products are amazing; the margins are amazing. Their brand is so strong. It is the best well known dance brand besides Capezio,” Silverio said. “I emailed her, and I was like ‘Joey, I need to work for you. You’re the perfect company’.”
Though he continues to dance for Arts House, after graduation, Silverio doesn’t see himself pursuing dancing as his career.
“Dance is great, but I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, I just simply can’t. I don’t have the facility to do this until I’m 60,” Silverio said. “I definitely enjoy [choreography], but I don’t think I could make a career out of it.”
With enough experience to fill up both a creative and business resume, Silverio’s future seems plenty bright. Remember his name; you might see it soon in lights on Broadway — or in the Fortune 500.
-Molly Hessel and Allison Walter
Photos by Emily Johnson. Styled by Julien Advaney, Emily Cieslak, Sonia Hussain, Olivia Klein, and Jessica Sulima. Clothes courtesy of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator and 611 Style.