By Kristy Johnson.
As Madonna’s personal trainer and the creative director of the ‘Addicted to Sweat’ program at Hardy Candy gyms, Nicole Winhoffer knows what it takes to keep Hollywood’s elite in tip-top shape. Yet, from speaking with the fitness guru, it becomes clear that it’s her passion for dance that has led her down such a successful path. Securing her first Broadway show at only 17 gave her a taste of what the future could hold with hard work and dedication.
Here we chat with Nicole about her dance background, working on Broadway and what it’s like to choreograph alongside the Queen of Pop.
Can you tell us about your dance background?
I began dancing at 7 years old. At 12, I began to seriously train in the Balanchine method of ballet and all other forms of modern, jazz, musical theatre and hip-hop. I was exposed to the best teachers who not only offered the best training, but were also working in the industry. I would have my parents take me to Manhattan to take adult classes at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. Training with adults and professionals pushed me to the next level.
At 17, I booked my first Broadway show! This was the first national tour of 42nd Street. I didn’t get to go to my senior prom, but it was worth it! The best school in life is pure life experience.
How was the experience of working on Broadway?
I was a swing and assistant dance captain for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams on Broadway. I was also attending Fordham University simultaneously; living in the dorms, going to class full-time, and by night, doing eight shows a week. My schedule was jam-packed as we began the show in New York with lots of rehearsals. But the experience was amazing! I was 19 and matured quickly. I had a lot of responsibility by covering eight girls and understudying four.
What did you learn from this experience?
Broadway is such a great gig. You live in New York, have a call time 30 minutes prior to the show, work with talented artists and perform on stage. Your theatre is your ‘home’. After the show is over New York is your oyster!
As a dancer, I learned the importance of warming up and taking care of your body. Once you become a working dancer, it’s up to you to continue your training, including warming up, and body conditioning. With eight shows a week, heavy costumes, heavy wigs, heels and choreography repetition, taking care of your body is essential.
Was becoming a personal trainer a natural progression for you?
I come from an athletic family. With mum, dad and three soccer-playing younger brothers – fitness was in the blood! I would wake-up every morning before school to do my personal workouts: stretching, running, dancing and improving my craft. By dancing every afternoon after school, my curiosity toward the human body grew. I saw the amount of power and control that one had to change and improve their body.
This curiosity carried through up until now. During my work as a Broadway dancer, I developed my own body conditioning routine that allowed me to perform eight shows a week. I take class and have been a member at many different gyms. Being a student allows me to continue to learn. So, to answer your question – No I never thought I would be doing what I am doing today! It kind of just chose me!
How did you become Madonna’s personal trainer?
I was on the European leg of her Sticky and Sweet Tour in 2009. I worked and assisted her and her dancers on their dance-conditioning regime. Watching her creative process inspired me. I watched her shows and danced with her and her dancers. I developed new solutions to fitness, combining performance, dance, anatomy, physiology and kinetic energy, and in the process, became her primary trainer.
How would you describe your working relationship with Madonna?
I love working with Madonna. We’ve seen each other six days a week for the past four years. It’s hard work, discipline, focus, perfection and high energy. Every day is a new day. We are machines, pushing our body to its potential. I have notebooks filled with all her programs and choreography. If she doesn’t like something, she will suggest a change to fix it. I like working like this. When we workout it’s a collaborative exchange and process. We stay creative even while working out!
What’s next for you?
I want to be the best in my industry – hone my craft, develop more innovative programming, collaborate with musicians and DJs, collaborate with fitness apparel brands, travel the world, shoot more DVDs, finish updating my website, collaborate with artists, take care of my clients and continue to stay grateful and in love with the world!
Photo (top): Nicole Winhoffer. Photo by Adam Rindy.