Young Pasadena dancer not fazed by national competition cancellation

Young Pasadena dancer not fazed by national competition cancellation

By Don Maines By Don Maines Correspondent

Published 12:59 pm CDT, Monday, April 6, 2020


Photo: Courtesy Nicole Sciarrotta Nichols
Dancer Kennedy Nichols, 13, and her mother, Nicole Sciarrotta Nichols, a former professional figure skater, attend a Monsters of Hip Hop dance event. Kennedy Nichols says her goal is “to travel the world, doing tours with Missy Elliott or Beyoncé. They are really empowering to me.”

For a Pasadena family that practices the “Mamba Mentality” espoused by the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the novel coronavirus is just another bear, as in the Bryant quote, “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.”

“This year was really going smoothly,” said Kennedy Nichols, 13, a dancer who recently had flown to Boston, Massachusetts for a national competition, only to learn that it was canceled because of the pandemic.
As she and her mother, Nicole Nichols, headed home, they knew this year’s competition season could be put on hold, but not Kennedy’s training.

“There is always somebody else who will be training that day,” she said. “I never miss a day of dance.”

In 2018, Kennedy toured throughout the United States and Canada in the Monsters of Hip Hop Legacy Show. She was a student at Carter Lomax Middle School in Pasadena until traveling to competitions and professional appearances made homeschooling a more convenient option.
“I would go with her,” said Nicole, a former professional figure skater who was a 1992 junior national pairs champion and a junior world competitor in 1991-93.

“I have the same mentality as Kennedy,” she added. “All of my kids have the Mamba Mentality.”

They include Parker Nichols, 16, a basketball player at Pasadena Memorial High School, and Keith Nichols, 20, a 2018 graduate of Pasadena Memorial who now studies percussion at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“Mamba Mentality is about dedication, consistency, never giving up and learning, even from your worst days,” said Nicole, 42, who began figure skating when she was 5 and who retired at 22.

The Mamba attitude reflects the approach used by Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, when he played and coached youth girls basketball.

Nicole was touring nine months a year in the Ice Capades when a coach lured her to Houston to teach ice skating at the Galleria during her off months. She has been teaching ice skating in the Houston area for more than 20 years.

Kennedy said she was introduced to Mamba Mentality by her dance instructor, Sheila Milner, a former Pearland resident who owns DanceZone in Stafford.

Milner began hearing about Mamba Mentality in TV interviews in 2018, when Bryant became the first African American to win an Academy Award for best animated short film, for “Dear Basketball.”

With Mamba Mentality in mind, Milner said, “I treat my dancers like athletes. My son has been an athlete in high school and college; I was married to an athlete. It’s all about training your mind, to always push yourself through to the next goal.”

Bryant’s 2018 book, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” has been at the top of the New York Times’ best-sellers list.

“I didn’t keep up with basketball; so his legacy to me is not in a basketball way, but the kind of human he is,” said Kennedy. “He taught perseverance, staying strong, never giving up.”

Kennedy said her goal is “to travel the world, doing tours with Missy Elliott or Beyoncé. They are really empowering to me. I also want to teach and choreograph.”

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be contacted at donmaines@att.net

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