Creative Guts

Zackery Betty

Episode Summary

In this episode of Creative Guts, co-hosts Laura Harper Lake and Sarah Wrightsman sit down with Zackery Betty, the artistic director at NSquared Dance! Zackery is a dancer and a choreographer with an MFA in Choreography and a BFA in dance! NSquared Dance was founded by Nick Neagle, creative director and Zackery’s husband, in New York City as his senior thesis! NSquared is now Manchester’s premiere contemporary dance company, and we’re so glad they landed in New Hampshire! In this episode, we answer the important questions, like are you better at the Cotton Eyed Joe just because you’re a professional dancer? The answer, of course, is yes. We also talk about stage fright, dance competitions (including the televised kind), how to get started, and more. Check out NSquared Dance online at and on Facebook at and Instagram at Listen to this episode wherever you listen to podcasts or on our website Be friends with us on Facebook at and Instagram at A special thank you to Art Up Front Street Studios and Gallery in Exeter for providing a space where Creative Guts can record! This episode is sponsored in part by the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts. Thank you to our friends in Rochester for their support of the show. If you love listening, consider making a donation to Creative Guts! Our budget is tiny, so donations of any size make a big difference. Learn more about us and make a tax deductible donation at

Episode Notes

In this episode of Creative Guts, co-hosts Laura Harper Lake and Sarah Wrightsman sit down with Zackery Betty, the artistic director at NSquared Dance! Zackery is a dancer and a choreographer with an MFA in Choreography and a BFA in dance!

NSquared Dance was founded by Nick Neagle, creative director and Zackery’s husband, in New York City as his senior thesis! NSquared is now Manchester’s premiere contemporary dance company, and we’re so glad they landed in New Hampshire!

In this episode, we answer the important questions, like are you better at the Cotton Eyed Joe just because you’re a professional dancer? The answer, of course, is yes. We also talk about stage fright, dance competitions (including the televised kind), how to get started, and more. 

Check out NSquared Dance online at and on Facebook at and Instagram at

Listen to this episode wherever you listen to podcasts or on our website Be friends with us on Facebook at and Instagram at

A special thank you to Art Up Front Street Studios and Gallery in Exeter for providing a space where Creative Guts can record! This episode is sponsored in part by the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts. Thank you to our friends in Rochester for their support of the show.

If you love listening, consider making a donation to Creative Guts! Our budget is tiny, so donations of any size make a big difference. Learn more about us and make a tax deductible donation at

Episode Transcription



[00:00:00] LHL: I'm Laura Harper Lake. 

[00:00:01] SW: And I'm Sarah Wrightsman. 

[00:00:03] LHL & SW: And you're listening to Creative Guts. 

[00:00:18] SW: Hello, listeners. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Creative Guts. 

[00:00:22] LHL: On today's episode, we're talking with Zackery Betty, a dancer and choreographer, and the Artistic Director at NSquared Dance in Manchester, New Hampshire.

[00:00:32] SW: We are so excited to talk with Zackery. Let's waltz right into this episode of Creative Guts with Zackery Betty.


[00:00:42] SW: Zackery? 

[00:00:42] ZB: Yes?

[00:00:44] SW: For our listeners who know nothing about you, will you just introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about Creative You.

[00:00:49] ZB: My name is Zackery Betty. I am the Artistic Director of NSquared Dance. NSquared Dance was founded in 2014 in New York City and I moved up to New Hampshire with my husband and myself in 2017. And now we are a company that is rooted and based of just New Hampshire-based dancers, which is exciting. I have an MFA in choreography, a BFA in dance, and I also work as a payroll specialist and an HR coordinator. 

[00:01:21] SW: Ooh. 

[00:01:23] LHL: You're a creative that's juggling your passions and a day job. 

[00:01:27] ZB: Correct. Yes.

[00:01:29] LHL: I do as well. I feel you. 

[00:01:31] SW: Are you one of the founders of NSquared? 

[00:01:34] ZB: I am. Yes. My husband founded the company as his senior thesis in undergrad.

[00:01:39] SW: Oh, my God. What? 

[00:01:42] ZB: And then he made it come to fruition when he got the opportunity to take a piece that he created in college and bring it to a festival. And then from there, it just started to snowball and so on and so forth. 10 years later, here we are as a nonprofit now. 

[00:01:58] SW: Oh, my gosh. I did not know that. 

[00:02:01] LHL: I didn't know that either. That's so fascinating that an assignment, a thesis from a project morphed into this beautiful thing. And now, New Hampshire is lucky enough to be where that is. Why did you move to New Hampshire? 

[00:02:14] ZB: My husband's originally from here. He grew up in Chester, New Hampshire.

[00:02:18] SW: Okay.

[00:02:18] LHL: I went to college in Chester. When it used to be a Chester College there.

[00:02:23] ZB: It is very nice there.

[00:02:24] LHL: It's a beautiful Town. 

[00:02:25] ZB: It is a beautiful town. It is very New Hampshire.

[00:02:28] LHL: Yes. Very quiet. Beautiful town. 

[00:02:33] ZB: We moved up to Manchester just because we had been living in New York for about 8 years up until that point. And then when you turn a certain age, you need to get your healthcare. My husband found a position that provided that for us. And we decided to make that move. And it was one of those moves that didn't feel right at the time. But looking back at it, it was probably the best choice that we have ever made for ourselves individually and as an artistic couple. 

[00:03:02] SW: That's beautiful.

[00:03:04] LHL: That is amazing. And what was it like coming into a new community with this – you were building this collective. How was it connecting with dancers in New Hampshire? 

[00:03:14] ZB: It was interesting because we didn't know much about the community here. I grew up in Maine. I had a little bit of a root system in Portland, Maine. We've done a few things in Boston. And then, obviously, we had our hub in New York. Creating this new root system for us here in New Hampshire was a little bit of a try-and-go situation of like, "Okay. Well, there's an open class here. Let's go take that class." Or, "Let's go see this performance that we hear of this company." 

And then we started to get introduced to a few more people and then it really became like, "Okay, this community is super welcoming. Very talented. And also just heartwarming and kind." It just felt like a place for us to settle in and be like, "Hey, we're here, too." 

[00:03:58] SW: Right. Is culture and opportunities around dance is a lot different here than in New York? Or has it been kind of easy to fit in here? 

[00:04:06] ZB: I would say it's been easy to fit in just because we also want to lead with our most positive and kind selves. Because we value not just artists, but humans. That's just our ideologies as people. And then taking that into the artistic realm as well. 

In New York, it's very saturated with dance, especially emerging choreographers, and several dancers. And then the competition just for anything that comes along for opportunity or for any kind of funding becomes very limited. Being here in New Hampshire, it's really opened up doors and windows for us to be able to understand what it's like to not only be a nonprofit but also to take the creativity to the next level and find collaboration that's not just with a dance company. But reaching out and maybe doing something with a different organization or a different community to cross paths with ourselves in more of an interdisciplinary way.

[00:05:03] LHL: That's amazing. 

[00:05:04] SW: It is.

[00:05:05] LHL: This is so cool. Yay. Could we talk a bit about you as a dancer and a choreographer? And break that down for someone who's just like dance. What is that? There are so many different kinds. Do you do them all? Do you do some? Is there one specific discipline that you're sort of in within the dance field? 

[00:05:22] ZB: I started dance. And I love tap and jazz. And I was just like, "I'm not going to put on tights. I can't do ballet." Fast forward about 10 years. I started when I was six. And then my sister who was also went to school for dance, she was like, "If you want to go to school for dance, you have to put tights on." And I was like, "Okay. I guess I have to do this." 

Then I started taking ballet classes more seriously. Because of my foundational training, I have had the capacity to do several different styles, such as modern, contemporary, ballet, and jazz. I'm not very versed in tap. Tap was like kind of like a one-off deal. My little joke I tell everyone is, in college, I went from tap one, to tap two, back to tap one. And, finally, when I went back to tap one, I finally learned the basics. Do not hire me to teach your tap classes. Do not hire me to do your tap choreography. I have a tap choreographer in the company. I will send her. She's fantastic. 

[00:06:23] SW: How old were you when you started dancing? 

[00:06:25] ZB: I was 6 years old.

[00:06:27] SW: Oh, okay. I always find it interesting when people have, say, you have a BFA and dance. And I'm like, "Well, that's weird?" Because who knows what they want to do and then does that thing and then continues to do that thing? It just seems like such a rarity. You've always kind of known you wanted to be a dancer even like as a wee one. 

[00:06:46] ZB: Yeah. It was one of those odd sensations of just knowing. It was sort of embedded in me. I used to break away from my mom during the dance recitals when my sister was on stage. And I tried to replicate everything that they were doing. And I was like, "I can do it too." And then she put me in dance classes and so on and so forth. Several years later, I'm still doing it. I have a BFA in dance from Marymount Manhattan College. I was gearing myself actually to go towards the jazz route. 

I'm very much in the Jazz realm. I wanted to go for like Broadway. And then I found modern dance very heavily in college. And there's a company that I really wanted to dance for. And then I made myself go for it. And I danced with them professionally for about four years. That was a dream come true. I'm very happy that I fulfilled that path. 

And then contemporary dance is this nice blend of most different styles of – you'll find your folk styles mixed within there. And then you'll find your foundational techniques, like ballet and modern blended in there. It's really just more of an innate storytelling that comes from the soul. And so, I guess that would be the one that I'm most versed in now, because that's sort of where the company sits, is more in like a contemporary dance realm with some highlights of tap and highlights of jazz. It can't just be one monotone color. You got to be the whole rainbow. 

[00:08:05] SW: That is so beautiful and lucky. 

[00:08:05] LHL: Yeah. I love that. 

[00:08:08] SW: I think I have envy issues. Whenever we meet someone on the podcast who's just like, "Oh, I just knew what I wanted to do. And then I did it." Okay. I have two questions. But one of them is really stupid. Are there any like dances where you're like, "I've never done that. I don't know how to do that?" Like contra, or like hip hop, or square? I mean, maybe in high school, right?

[00:08:32] ZB: That was totally something that they made us do in high school. It was like, "Okay, you got to learn square dancing and contra dancing." 

[00:08:38] SW: Why? 

[00:08:40] ZB: You know, it is – so, odd thing to note. I did a piece for my graduate degree about New Hampshire. It was a bi-regional exploration of New Hampshire told through dance. And that's where I actually like dug into contra dancing. Because Nelson Town Hall is like the hub of contra dancing, and it's here in New Hampshire. I'm not versed in it. But I will say that I kind of have a little dabble into it. But one style that I cannot do to save my life is ballroom dancing.

[00:09:11] LHL: Oh, interesting. Is it because with ballroom dancing, there's always a partner? Is that the case? 

[00:09:18] ZB: Because ballroom has such – it's very similar to each style of dance. Each genre has its own technique that goes with it. The technique of ballroom is so itself that it's almost like you have to unlearn certain things that you've learned. And I just have not mastered that.

[00:09:35] LHL: Wow. Odd question. Do you ever watch dance competition shows? Like Dancing With the Stars type stuff? Or are you just like, "Ew?" 

[00:09:45] ZB: I am not ew. But I will have my moments. Don't sit down and watch it with me, because I am commenting the entire time. However, I value that dance is still getting a platform to be seen that is not just on the stage. That it does have a place for it to be in the television sets of people that get to watch it in the evening. Is it the best representation of dance? Controversial. But, however, it still is dance. And there's value there.

[00:10:15] LHL: Mm-hmm. 

[00:10:17] SW: I commend you on that graceful answer. 

[00:10:22] LHL: My husband and I are not trained dancers. And we have plenty of commentary when we watch stuff like that. I can completely understand, especially from a trained background how that could be really – 

[00:10:32] SW: My husband started playing violin when he was like three. And he is incredibly annoying when there is somebody playing an instrument on television. Because he'll be like, "She's not even really playing that. She's not even holding the thing right." And I'm like, "What do you mean?" Yes, I know you types – 

[00:10:52] LHL: Well, we've talked about this before on here. But when people do like sip and paints, as an artist, I think like, "Well, they're doing something." But, jeez, I wish they would do something else in the art field. But I also don't want to throw shade, because it serves its purpose. And that's a whole – 

[00:11:08] SW: It's been a while since we've lightly ribbed sip and paint on this show. 

[00:11:14] LHL: Our yearly turn to do that, I guess. 

[00:11:16] SW: All right. Frivolous question, as a trained professional dancer, are you better at wedding dances like cha cha slide and Cotton Eye Joe than the average person?

[00:11:26] ZB: Yes. Period. There’s always a flare that gets added on. 

[00:11:34] SW: Of course. Of course. I'm glad that you answered that with the confidence that you have earned. 

[00:11:39] LHL: Yes. Cha cha-ing into a little bit of a more of a serious question now. 

[00:11:47] ZB: Yes. 

[00:11:49] LHL: How many dance puns can we do? You mentioned storytelling through dance. And I'd like to talk about that more, because I think that's – for folks that don't dance all the time in this type of setting, what does that look like? What does that mean exactly how you use your body, your movement, and the flow of the music to tell something to the audience? 

[00:12:06] ZB: Storytelling through movement is really just flipping through a page of a book. However, it doesn't have words on it. It has sort of this lens of what you are making of the story, unless it's like really much just straight in your face. But there are so many different outlets for storytelling and dance. Whether it be through lyrics. Whether it be through costumes. Whether it be through the movement, or relationship of the dancers on stage, or yourself as an audience member and the dancers. That comes into place of really the choreographer or the show's, I guess, goal of what it wants to produce and share with you. 

For me as a creative, there are two different ways that I like to do storytelling. And one is through relationships on stage. So that it is really clear that this person A has a relationship with this person B. And you really want to follow their story, which could infiltrate with C, D, and E. Or it's something that is of an abstraction and that the relationship is more to an abstract thing that the audience gets to sort of create their own story on top of. 

[00:13:15] SW: You're really good at this.

[00:13:17] ZB: Thanks. I hope so. 

[00:13:24] SW: Not everyone is good at talking about their art. But your answers are very like almost like you've been on a podcast before. 

[00:13:31] ZB: First time. 

[00:13:32] SW: It's very impressive. Is there like a big skill difference between choreography and dancing? Not all dancers can also choreograph. 

[00:13:42] ZB: That is true. 

[00:13:43] SW: That is fascinating.

[00:13:43] ZB: It is fascinating. And it's very similar I guess I would say to put it in perspective that not every artist has each skill set that is deemed. For someone who maybe is a visual artist, they may have something that is done in watercolor, but they're not skilled in oil pastels. It's very similar that, as a dancer, you could be skilled as this is what I'm told to do. This is like my training. You may have like choreographic things that you want to throw out. Or in our company, we allow there to be room for collaboration and communication. But sometimes there isn't a place. Like, you're just a dancer. And like that's something that is decided. I mean, each person sort of has their own little creative mindsets that go here and there. But choreographers pretty much strictly just creating the sets.

[00:14:35] SW: Okay. When you are doing the choreography part of this, is there such thing as like a dancer's block? Like, there is writer's block? Do you ever like struggle to come up with choreography? And where do you get inspiration for choreography? 

[00:14:49] ZB: Definitely get the choreographer's block. It's hard. It hits. And it's like, "So –" But then I look at it and it's hard because sometimes I look at it without understanding where I'm at in that point. But then once I get past it and I'm like, "Oh, no. That's just another layer that needed to be like taken away in order for me to appreciate and to go through this segment of this choreography to better myself as a human and better myself as a dancer and choreographer. 

Inspiration stems from so many different places. It can be either coming from the storyline that I'm trying to create or it could come from music, costumes, or even just the dancers who I'm working with. They really tend to flow with whatever is coming up mostly for like our season. An example would be what we're doing for our show that's coming up which is more of a one-piece elongated evening-length work. And that sort of had, "Okay, this is the story. This is how it's going to kind of work. Scene here. Scene there." It was more choreography movement. That was the inspiration.

[00:16:00] SW: That's great. 

[00:16:01] LHL: You had mentioned collaborations. You have a company where you have kind of this open atmosphere for folks to – can communicate different things that they're interested in doing. What is that like? And what are other types of collaboration within a dance company like? 

[00:16:17] ZB: Within our company, collaboration comes in the forms of teaching other styles. We have an open company class. And so, sometimes we’ll collaborate and have someone teach a different style. Because, mainly, it does default to myself as the artistic director or my husband who's the creative director. Either one of us. But since we are a group that has tap training, we'll have our resident choreographer come in and do tap classes. 

In the midst of creative time, if there's something that like a dancer sees like, ", this formation will work better if, A, this person moves to this segment over here." Then it really just kind of like opens up and it provides a space for whoever is choreographing at that time and able to see something new. Maybe release the block that could have been there for a choreographer's block at that time. 

And then, also, for any kind of like opportunity that like they have outside. If they're connected with a dance studio and say that dance studio wants to have a master class, then they may just be like, "All right. Let's collaborate and have like two of you that don't teach at the studio come and teach at the studio." So that way, they're getting this next level teaching that's from people that they don't see every day, which is really nice. 

[00:17:31] LHL: Your company teaches classes. And are those for adults? For kids? For both? Is it more for folks that are kind of serious about elevating their dance skill? Or are there folks going there for fitness? 

[00:17:41] ZB: It is geared towards the pre-professional and professional dancers. We welcome the space for anyone who is 18 or over. And it can be at whatever level that you're in. We provide the open space for people to come and make modifications or anything that needs to be changed for their body, whether it be injuries, restrictions, or just where they're at in their training. But we're opening it up as an advanced dance group. That's the level that we're going in with. But we don't expect everyone to match our level. We want it to be very much open and embrace where everyone is for that. But we do go to studios, to other places and teach and create on students as well that are younger than 18.

[00:18:27] LHL: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Because I do dance in a fitness-y lens. A Zumba or some other kind of – which I love doing. And I'm terrible. Zumba. But whatever. When it's for fitness, at least I can be like, "It doesn't matter. As long as I'm moving." 

[00:18:46] SW: Do you remember when we went to see the Fitness Marshall live? 

[00:18:46] LHL: Yes.

[00:18:47] SW: It was amazing. I think about it all the time. We went to a dance concert. It was like Zumba up on stage and we were in like a giant concert venue. And there was like hundreds of people. It was so cool.

[00:18:58] LHL: Have you heard of the Fitness Marshall? Caleb Marshall? 

[00:19:01] ZB: No. I have not.

[00:19:01] LHL: Oh, he's this fantastic personality with a couple of backup dancers. And he has like a YouTube and all that kind of stuff. But he's been doing this for a long time. And he started doing this thing where he would go around and do kind of dance concerts. Everybody goes with the lens that you're going to like dance and it's a class. But it's also just really fun and silly. He's very passionate and humorous. And he partners with local fitness folks whenever he tours. 

Angela from AG Fitness, who we've recorded on the podcast, was like his guest local dancer. And she's a choreographer as well. Yeah, it was just really refreshing. But I've been dancing to his YouTube lately. I was thinking of that time we went. 

[00:19:42] SW: Well, and it's so cool being in a concert venue versus being at like the YMCA where like there's no mirrors on the wall and it was dark. It didn't really matter what I looked like when we were at the dance concert. I always call it a dance concert. But that seems so silly. 

[00:19:56] LHL: It's kind of what it is though. It's a unique – it's a dance experience type thing. But when I think about – we try to think about how to make the arts in general more accessible to people who say, "I'm not creative. I can't dance. I can't draw. I can't do art." And thinking of ways to bring people into that. And if there were folks who were listening who are maybe after college and they want to get into dance, I think thinking of like what would be their next steps as far as opening up that side of them? 

[00:20:28] SW: Yes. I totally agree with that. Me, 34. Let's say I want to dance. I'm crappy at dancing. What do I do? 

[00:20:36] ZB: One – 

[00:20:37] SW: Take it down a notch. 

[00:20:42] ZB: One, take a deep breath. No. 

[00:20:47] LHL: I'm dying here. Oh, my God. But Zackery, we want to dance. How do we dance?

[00:20:56] ZB: Here are the diamonds I will share. Well, everyone has their own dance. Everyone has their own ability to dance. It's just the level that they are going into things with. And it's one of those things that the mindset that you have to go in. And whether it is an open class or whether it's um a fitness class, just know that you're there for yourself in that moment and appreciate where you are in your journey. 

And there are so many different ways. There's stretching. There's taking other classes for cross – what's that word? Cross-examine. No. Not cross-examine. 

[00:21:29] LHL: Cross-pollination? 

[00:21:32] SW: Cross-training.

[00:21:34] ZB: Cross-training. That's what I was looking for. Yes. Cross-training. Yeah. There's stretching. There's cross-training. But then there's also going and taking these classes and learning the technique. Whether it be something that you did learn from a while ago and that you're revisiting. Or if it's something that's brand new to you. Absorbing it into your body and just appreciating like where you are with it that your arms not going to look like the person in front of you's arms. And the legs aren't going to look the same either. But it's more of the sensation and the feeling. And then taking that and then letting it ride through your body.

[00:22:06] SW: Where you are in your career now, how do you – do you still take classes that are out of your element? Or like how are you sort of advancing and growing yourself as a dancer when you're also like busy running a dance collaborative? 

[00:22:18] ZB: I have not taken class in a while aside from when I teach class. Oh, I know. It's so bad. 

[00:22:28] LHL: You got a bit on your plate though. I think you're allowed to – you seem like a pretty busy person.

[00:22:34] ZB: I do want to take a class more. I guess I feel a little spoiled through having access to the internet of being like, "Okay, what's out there?" Just either what comes up on like the social media feed or anything that – I have a hard time with anything that's like super trendy. And like dance, like TikTok stuff, that stuff I have to like really push aside. It's more of like, "Okay. Well, this company that I follow that I respect is doing this. And this is what they're like producing." It's like, "Okay, let me dig into that." And then how can I make it my own language? 

[00:23:06] SW: Yeah. That's cool. Do you ever create dances and dance like just for you as like an emotional thing and like your own whatever? How runner just, "I got to go for a run?" 

[00:23:16] ZB: Oh, absolutely. 

[00:23:18] SW: Independent of the studio? 

[00:23:20] ZB: I am constantly moving. And whether that'd be in the grocery store, at my office. Or whether it'd be like walking literally from my car to any other place. It's therapy to me. It's innate in me. And I'm unapologetic about it.

[00:23:35] SW: I love that. There's definitely strangers out there, like, "Oh, yeah. That dancing guy." 

[00:23:40] ZB: Yeah. What's up with that one? And then I do something. He's like, "Oh, yeah. That's a dancer though. Okay."

[00:23:50] LHL: And what is the origin story for the name of the company? I know it. 

[00:23:54] ZB: Oh, you do? 

[00:23:55] SW: I do. I figured it out. I cracked the code.

[00:23:58] ZB: What is it? 

[00:23:59] SW: Well, NSquared. Nick Neagle. Boom. 

[00:24:04] ZB: You got it. Yeah. 

[00:24:06] SW: I thought to myself, "Don't I know another something squared?" And then I tried to like figure it out. And I never did. But I was like, "I think I know the answer." Anyway, I figured it out. 

[00:24:18] LHL: Oh, I should have asked you then.

[00:24:19] SW: Yeah. 

[00:24:22] ZB: It did stem from – he didn't want to use his name. And so, he came up with that. 

[00:24:25] SW: I love it. It's great. It's a great name. 

[00:24:27] LHL: Can we talk a bit about balancing time? Because you're a dancer. You are running a dance company. You're a choreographer. And you have a day job and, presumably, a life. How do you put it all together? 

[00:24:40] ZB: I'm a Libra. 

[00:24:42] LHL: Say no more.

[00:24:47] ZB: It's definitely a hard balance. But it's something I'm discovering now. It's finding boundaries. And then, also, discovering what needs to get done versus what has to get done. Really separating those. So that way, there can be life outside of the chaos.

[00:25:04] SW: Yep.

[00:25:05] LHL: Yeah. What other challenges do you face in the creative process and some of the administrative parts? The part of running the nonprofit.

[00:25:14] ZB: That definitely stems out of the time commitment for it. A lot of answering of emails tends to happen during the workday. It's really making sure that like I'm putting those pockets of time in to not only do my day job but also be able to do my other job. It's finding those little pockets of time. If it's like a 15-minute break. Okay, a 15-minute break is either I'm taking this break for me or I'm taking this break to do like admin stuff at this moment. 

I will say, it's just out there, the grants and funding. That's also very difficult in order to continue running not only a nonprofit but also to make a stamp of dance here in the Granite State. There are plenty of studios that offer dance. And so, there's so many different students that are going and they're being exposed to it. But beyond the studio, what is there for them here in the Granite State? Making sure that there is still something that is viable. 

Becoming part of the economic system here in New Hampshire I think is – I mean, dance provides joy. Dance provides education. Dance provides this connection. How else can we use that to not only make it part of the economy here in New Hampshire? But how can we make it a part of the community here? That's where some struggles come into play. 

[00:26:32] SW: Well, we're glad you're here. I feel like New Hampshire could benefit from a greater appreciation of dance as an art.

[00:26:40] LHL: Yes. Yeah. Not only to do it, but to go and see a performance of it. You perform here and you also tour, I understand. Or you have? 

[00:26:48] ZB: We have toured. Yes.

[00:26:49] LHL: What's that like, the tour life, versus dancing here? I don't know. Tell us a bit about what those experiences are like.

[00:26:56] ZB: Touring is very fun. It's like you create this like little home away from home. Depending, obviously, if you're ending up in a hotel or if you're ending up in like an Airbnb. The company, we've toured to Detroit. We did that back in 2021, which was like a very fun experience. We did the Detroit City Dance Festival. And it's coming in there and just being like, "Okay. We're from New Hampshire." And like sort of being like you don't know what to expect from us. And then like we show up on stage and we just go there and do what we do and have a good time. 

And then we're also just like kind humans, so we're coming in just with like our souls and our hearts and just being like, "Thank you very much for everything." And leaving that impression on people that dance does have this good side to it. And even if you have these people that are coming in and don't have the best attitudes, that we're always going to shine forward with ourselves.

[00:27:46] SW: Right. Right. Right. Is dance a competitive sport? Are there dance competitions? Do you participate in that lifestyle? 

[00:27:54] ZB: No. Dance competitions tend to be studios. There are a few that are like outside that will be maybe like West Coast. There are a few out there. And then there's a few that are kind of like more world. Kind of like World of Dance that's on television. They have like different levels of that. It is a realm that I am not skilled in. It's a realm that I have an appreciation for for that. However, it is a door that I like to look through and clap along with. But I have a really hard time putting myself in those situations. 

[00:28:27] SW: Interesting. Any insight into why? 

[00:28:28] ZB: I didn't grow up at a competition studio. I grew up at a recreational studio that also did like concert dance. I was part of a youth company that we went and we performed at either benefits or we went and performed at nursing homes. Or anything of those sorts. That was my exposure to how dance was. 

And then going to college, I met so many different people that were like, "Okay, I did this dance competition. I am the title of this." And I like, "What is that?" And then I started to learn that. And then like you would see videos of them and I'm, "What are these tricks? What are these doing?" And I'm just like, "All I know how to do is like roll down and like sit on the floor. What's happening? Who am I?" I make this stuff up. What? What's going on? You have someone who does that for you? 

It's just a realm that I wasn't really introduced into. I have very mad respect for people who have lived and do live in that realm because it does provide so much for a dancer and so much for a human. It creates discipline. It creates healthy competition. So you aren't just putting your – you are putting yourself out there, yes, to win something. But you're putting yourself out on stage, especially when you're doing a solo. That's really hard to do. And not a lot of people like understand how hard it is for students to go out there and like be on the stage just by themselves. It's a lot. It's so vulnerable. It's like so raw. 

Some people I feel just look at it like, "Oh, someone got a solo." And it's like, "No." They're getting an opportunity to be vulnerable. Yes, they're looking at X, Y, and Z for the technique, and their creativity, and their emotion. But give them credit for just stepping out on stage.

[00:30:02] LHL: Yep. And speaking of that vulnerability, do you get stage fright ever? Or is that a thing that comes into play since you've trained so much and this is so much a part of what you? Do does that still come up even after all these years? 

[00:30:15] ZB: Oh, yes. And it comes up in the oddest way. The only times that I tend to get nervous, one, is when it's brand-new work that we're putting out on stage as a company for the first time. I always say I go in that day, I'm like, "I'm here to get the job done. I'm not here to be liked. But I love you all." That's how I start my day. And it's putting that expectation. 

I get nervous when I'm doing like as a guest performer or when I am performing, say, like in The Nutcracker. Because I do those throughout the state.

[00:30:43] SW: Oh, my gosh.

[00:30:44] ZB: Yes. If there's someone in the audience I know, I get nervous. But if there's someone that I – if it's people that I've never had before, like no one's coming to support because maybe it's too far away or like it coincides with two other like different things that are happening, then I'm not nervous. But if I know one person in the audience, "I'm like –" 

[00:31:04] LHL: When we show up to your next performance, we won't tell you we're coming then. 

[00:31:08] ZB: Well, I would love to know that you're coming. Please do tell me. But do know that I will probably sweat a little bit more.

[00:31:22] LHL: This podcast will be coming out in early June, or mid-June. Something like that.

[00:31:27] SW: Yeah. Definitely June. 

[00:31:29] LHL: Yes. From mid-June on, is there anything that we could expect? Is there anything on the horizon? Or what's cooking right now that people could go check out? 

[00:31:38] SW: What's cooking, good looking? 

[00:31:40] ZB: Well, we definitely have a smorgasbord coming up. We are performing with Saving Grace Dance in Artfulness, which is actually being performed at Windhover Performing Art Center, which is out in Rockport, Massachusetts. That is on June 24th. And then on the same week, June 27th at 7 pm at The Rex Theater, we are performing the Lavender Scare, which is an evening-length work with just NSquared. 

And the Lavender Scare, if people aren't aware of it, it happened parallel of the Red Scare in the 1950s here in the US. And it was the mass firing of many federal workers that sort of started to spread throughout the US based off of sexual orientation, which then led to picket signs about job equality. And then sort of started to snowball into the Stonewall riots. And then so on and so forth for the Rights Movements. 

And since it's something that happened in the US history that isn't really shared or not much of it's known, it's something not only within Pride Month that we wanted to share, but also within our of being a company that really wants to push forward of being leading of equality and wanting to make sure that it's a safe place for all to come and still enjoy dance and continue to grow in dance. That each story still gets heard and told. We've paired with New Hampshire Dance Collaborative as well as Manchester True Collaborative for this performance. That one is on June 27th. And it's going to be fabulous.

[00:33:18] SW: Oh, my gosh.

[00:33:20] LHL: It sounds amazing? 

[00:33:21] SW: Right. Well, at first, I was going to say like you scheduled two dance things in the same week? What were you thinking? But now I'm distracted by the fact that I've never heard of the Lavender Scare. Have you seen the documentary? 

[00:33:31] ZB: Yes, I have. It's I highly suggest if there's any like – the only way to see it I think is like through public showings of it. If there ever is one, I highly suggest that many people go and they learn about it. It was a very impactful time for many individuals. 

[00:33:50] SW: They didn’t teach me anything in school.

[00:33:52] ZB: It affected more people than the Red Scare did.

[00:33:55] SW: Right.

[00:33:57] ZB: It's like we need to learn about that. 

[00:33:59] SW: Yes, please. Absolutely.

[00:34:01] ZB: And what better way to learn about it through an art form, in a medium that is movement-based. It's an education in the arts and an education in history at the same time.

[00:34:11] SW: Yeah. We'll have to share both of those performances on our socials absolutely in June.

[00:34:17] ZB: Yeah. 

[00:34:19] LHL: When it's like an evening performance, is there any spoken word? Or is it all dance? 

[00:34:24] SW: We're going to have to just go and find out for ourselves.

[00:34:26] LHL: You could leave it a mystery, I guess. 

[00:34:29] ZB: I'll just say that the bodies do all the talking.

[00:34:32] LHL: All right.

[00:34:32] SW: All right. Who and how is music chosen? 

[00:34:37] ZB: Music is chosen through two different ways. One is through either already knowing a piece of music that has been like either on the back burner or sat in a playlist for a while that's like, "Okay, I can pull this out." This is the time for it." Or it's something that just becomes discovered. Sometimes we'll do movement in rehearsal. And then I'll put on like four different songs and just be like, "Okay, let's see what it works." And then we go with whatever kind of fits and then go from there.

[00:35:04] LHL: I love it.

[00:35:05] SW: That's so great. Do you ever dance with live musicians? 

[00:35:09] ZB: I would love to do that so much. 

[00:35:10] SW: Oh, my God. That would be so cool.

[00:35:12] LHL: Yeah. Really, it would be just so lovely to have that symbiotic relationship.

[00:35:18] ZB: It's incredible. In undergrad, the classes that you take is with live musicians. I've done in my professional life as a dancer, I have danced with live musicians on stage. And it's been just the most amazing. And, I mean, there are some nutcrackers that happened or other story ballets that will have an orchestra that will play for you. And that's just the most synergetic feeling to have. Not only the music swell around you, but the movements. It's just this continuous upbringing of just dance, amazing, and art love, and blah. 

[00:35:56] LHL: Yeah. I feel like it must enhance that like Zen moment of being a performative creative. You're in it that much more. It's like resonating. There's such a vibrancy in what I imagine that would be like. 

[00:36:09] ZB: It's the best word to use. Vibrancy. There's that vibration.

[00:36:13] LHL: Yeah.

[00:36:12] ZB: That's paying off everything. 

[00:36:15] LHL: Yeah. Oh, that's so wonderful. 

[00:36:17] SW: I'm assuming maybe wrongly that New Hampshire doesn't have any dance festivals? 

[00:36:23] ZB: They do actually.

[00:36:24] SW: Stop that. Really? 

[00:36:27] ZB: Yes.

[00:36:26] SW: I'm so proud.

[00:36:27] ZB: They do. There are actually two that NSquared has participated in. The New England Inspirational Dance Festival, which is put on by the Saving Grace Dance Ensemble. And then there's also the LILA Dance Festival, which happens every summer. I think they're either going to their third or fourth year. And that happens in Rochester, New Hampshire. And both of them are great for not only emerging choreographers but around the area companies to come and present dance. But it's just a great exposure for dance in the Granite State.

[00:37:00] SW: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. That's so cool. Do you ever participate in any of the other festivals that happen? I'm thinking like the arts festivals. Or like a Concord Multicultural Festival I know has like dance at it often. 

[00:37:14] ZB: I have not participated in it. But I would love to. If anyone wants to reach out, please reach out. Happy to collaborate.

[00:37:20] SW: We got you. We'll slip the link where it needs to go. 

[00:37:25] LHL: I mean, you've been educating us on so much today. I think what the beauty of this podcast is, is there are so many disciplines of creatives that we interview. But I feel like dance has been an untapped, tap-tap-tap – yeah. And pas de bourree. 

[00:37:45] ZB: Get that terminology. 

[00:37:46] LHL: Yes. I don't go too much further than that. But, yeah. Really, it's just so lovely to have dance back. And I think we will have more of it with some of the folks at NSquared and maybe other places in New Hampshire. Because I think it's been far too long.

[00:38:01] SW: I feel smarter already. It's like been a while since we've talked to a dancer. And I like sort of forgot everything I learned.

[00:38:07] LHL: Yeah. It's so fascinating. I love it. 

[00:38:09] ZB: It's just your body moving in space.

[00:38:12] LHL: Yeah. I love dancing personally so much. And in my head, I choreograph. When I'm on the elliptical – when I listen to music, I envision – but then I envision how I want to paint it, because I'm a visual artist, you know? But I feel like it's just all connected in just different ways. And it's such a lovely thing. I'm really excited to be able to see you and your company in person hopefully soon.

[00:38:34] ZB: Yes. Absolutely. 

[00:38:35] LHL: Now it's time for rapid-fire, which is quick questions with quick answers.

[00:38:39] ZB: Cool.

[00:38:40] LHL: Do you have a favorite bad dance movie? 

[00:38:44] ZB: A bad dance movie. 

[00:38:46] SW: I'm sort of picturing along the lines of like Save the Last Dance. A dance move just occurred in front of our eyes. 

[00:38:53] SW: Yeah. Listeners, you can't see what's happening right now. But it's good.

[00:38:57] ZB: I would probably say – and it's not a bad dance movie, but like Center Stage. It's the acting that goes along with it. But the dancing. Oh, my God. 

[00:39:08] LHL: Love that movie. 

[00:39:12] ZB: Center Stage.

[00:39:12] LHL: What is your favorite dance move to do? 

[00:39:14] ZB: I've codified the back soutenu over the foot and the chasse with the arm swinging forward. That's just kind of like my innate things of like, "Oh, that's a Zackesim." 

[00:39:27] SW: Say more dance words to us.

[00:39:34] SW: Do you have a favorite music video for the dancing? 

[00:39:38] ZB: It depends on the kind of dancing I'm doing. 

[00:39:41] SW: Okay. 

[00:39:41] ZB: Yeah. If I'm like in jazz mode, Cold Hearted Snake by Paula Abdul. Oh, my God. She does a double pirouette in that one. And it is the best. The best. But then if I'm like going down the route of like wanting to do something a little bit more edgy, Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson. 

[00:39:59] SW: Okay.

[00:40:01] ZB: That one. And then the classic just like gets me in like a good mood would probably be. Oops! I Did It Again by Britney Spears. I'm a pop queen. I like my pop music. That's the music videos that I watch. I was like, "Okay. I'm in it. I can do it now."

[00:40:20] SW: I love that all three of your answers were like really cool, badass women who were just awesome. Have you listened to Britney Spears’ memoir yet or read it like a normal person? Sorry. 

[00:40:30] ZB: I have purchased it. When I go on vacation, it's my book for my vacation. Because I don't think I can like dig into it and then pop away. I like want to invest in it.

[00:40:39] LHL: Absorb it all.

[00:40:41] ZB: Yes. I need to. Ah, queen. 

[00:40:46] LHL: What other artist has influenced you the most? 


[00:40:49] ZB: I would say dance-wise, one of my mentors was Larry Keigwin, who I danced with his company for four years in New York. He was a very big attribute to how I choreograph, and how I get things done, and how he structured his company. But I also take big influence from like Mark Morris, who's based in New York. And then there is Matthew Bourne, who's based in the UK. And what struck me about him is that he did an all-male version of Swan Lake. And I just thought that that was a really great adaptation. 

[00:41:18] LHL: Awesome. 

[00:41:19] SW: This is a really hard one. What's your favorite color? 

[00:41:21] ZB: Yellow.

[00:41:21] SW: Ah. 

[00:41:24] LHL: Me too. What's your favorite scent? 

[00:41:28] ZB: Ooh, that's a good one. Maybe geranium.

[00:41:32] LHL: Oh, we haven't had that yet. 

[00:41:34] SW: What's your favorite sound? 

[00:41:36] ZB: Zing. Because it starts with a Z. 

[00:41:37] SW: Oh, my gosh. Zing. 

[00:41:42] LHL: What's your favorite texture to touch? 

[00:41:46] ZB: Definitely jersey material.

[00:41:47] LHL: Oh, interesting. 

[00:41:49] ZB: I like a good jersey sheet.

[00:41:50] LHL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:41:51] ZB: It's thick. It's comforting. But at the same time, it's not going to rip. 

[00:41:55] LHL: Yeah. 

[00:41:55] SW: Where is the most inspiring location you've been or traveled to? 

[00:41:59] ZB: I have two. One is when I was at grad school, which is in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Very small town. 11 miles from the Maryland border. That is where I discovered a lot about myself. And anytime that I've gone back there has been like, "Okay, there's a little piece of me here." 

[00:42:16] SW: That's so sweet.

[00:42:18] ZB: Very, very small town. And then the other place was actually at Lake Francis up in the Great North Woods in New Hampshire. That place just like spoke to me. I went there in November. That was a choice. Still learning about New Hampshire. Don't go to the Great Northwoods unless you're prepared. I like stood there shivering. But like was happily there for a good 10, 15 minutes. Just being like, "This is amazing." I'm crying. And everything's beautiful.”

[00:42:44] LHL: Now my tears are freezing.

[00:42:45] ZB: Now my tears are freezing. But it brought so much like inspiration once I went and warmed up. 

[00:42:53] LHL: What is the last new thing you've learned? 

[00:42:56] ZB: Oh, the last new thing that I learned. Great question. 

[00:43:01] LHL: This is always the hardest one.

[00:43:02] ZB: That is a hard one. I'm trying to think that I learned something today. I feel like I had to have. 

[00:43:06] SW: You have to. You learn something new every day. That's what my parents always told me. 

[00:43:10] ZB: This is true. I think the last thing that I learned, I think it was actually how to change – this is not creative at all. 

[00:43:21] LHL: It's okay. 

[00:43:22] ZB: It literally was the way to change the retro payment of someone who needed to be like repaid at work. And do you know what? They're going to get paid. Because that's like my job. But like I learned today on like how to like retro pay them correctly. I'm like, "You got it." 

[00:43:38] SW: Important stuff. 

[00:43:38] LHL: Very important. Very important.

[00:43:41] ZB: Everyone wants to get paid. I got you. 

[00:43:43] SW: Yes. 

[00:43:44] LHL: Nothing worse than not. 

[00:43:47] SW: Clincher question. We end every episode with this question. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self? 

[00:43:55] ZB: I would absolutely give my younger self the space to continue to be myself. To not have to put yourself in a box to just fit in. Just be yourself. That's all.

[00:44:08] LHL: I love that. Yes. That's very beautiful.

[00:44:11] ZB: Thank you. 

[00:44:11] LHL: Some of us probably need reminders of that sometimes. I love that. We can't thank you enough for being on the show.

[00:44:18] ZB: Thank you for having me. 

[00:44:20] LHL: This has been like truly a delight. This has been such a fun conversation. I already know it's going to be a blast listening back to it when we – right? I'm already like, "Oh, I can't wait to listen to it." 

[00:44:29] SW: I'm going to cringe at how little I know about dance. 

[00:44:33] ZB: Now you know a little bit more.

[00:44:35] SW: I know a little bit more.

[00:44:36] ZB: That's the thing that you learned today.

[00:44:38] SW: What's the last thing new thing I learned? Stuff about dance.

[00:44:47] ZB: I'll take it

[00:44:52] LHL: Thank you again, Zackery, for being on the Creative Guts podcast. 

[00:44:54] ZB: Thank you for having me. 

[00:44:56] LHL: And with that – 

[00:44:58] LHL, SW, ZB: – show us your creative guts. 


[00:45:04] SW: Another huge thank you to Zackery Betty for joining us on Creative Guts. 

[00:45:09] LHL: He was such a fantastic guest.

[00:45:11] SW: It was so much fun. That was one of those episodes that was like the perfect blend of like funny, and educational, and inspiring.

[00:45:18] LHL: Oh, yeah. My cheeks definitely hurt from smiling. That's always a good sign. And I feel like we really did learn a lot.

[00:45:24] SW: Me, too. Dance is one of those mediums that I don't know very much about as like an art medium. I guess I understand the concept of moving one's body. But I don't really know that much about dance as like a profession or like a thing. 

[00:45:37] LHL: Yeah. And it feels a lot like it's the type of thing that a lot of people get into when they're young and they continue on. And they continue on and they do it as adults. But I don't see as many adults going into it. It doesn't always feel like, "Hey, I could just try it out," in a more semiprofessional sort of way. 

[00:45:55] SW: Yep.

[00:45:57] LHL: And I think in talking with him, learning about some of the resources that their organization has, it seems like it's a little bit more possible than I thought it was. 

[00:46:03] SW: Yeah. Absolutely. Starting dance as an adult feels sort of like intimidating. Unless we're talking about like Zumba classes. And that feels very accessible. 

[00:46:11] LHL: But I think even if you start at a place like that, you're still experiencing just moving your body and getting comfortable with yourself. I think there is some real value in that.

[00:46:20] SW: Yeah.

[00:46:20] LHL: I think it's extra gutsy to go the next step and do performances and to create in that way. I think it's just such a lovely thing. And what Zackery and his husband Nick have built and brought to New Hampshire, I didn't quite realize they were a nonprofit, I guess. I'm really impressed by that. And it's such a dynamic and creative organization that seems to really value kindness and taking the individual as they are and being open and welcoming. And I just think, "Gosh. I think there is this like stigma that, "Oh, dance is competitive. And there could be "snobbery" in it. There could be judgment there." And it just sounds like they're very lovely, kind people. And it just makes me feel like way more reassured by that.

[00:47:06] SW: Yeah. Yeah. And the combination of like being a nonprofit and some of the performances that they have coming up like with Lavender Scare, it feels very like meaningful. They want their work to have meaning, which is beautiful. 

[00:47:19] LHL: Yes. 

[00:47:19] SW: It makes me – as a person, I think I'd like to vow to spectate dance more than I already do. I'm kind of like, "When is this dance festival in Rochester? Because I should probably go." 

[00:47:31] LHL: Yeah. It's in the seacoast. That's not too far.

[00:47:34] SW: Very accessible to me. 

[00:47:35] LHL: Yeah. I think about the way that we consume the arts, I think the most common way that most people consume is through film and television, and then books, and then music, and then comes visual arts. If I think about this like hierarchy, as you go down, below that, I think a lot of folks aren't necessarily taking in dance, or plays, or improv. There's all these other performative arts that I feel like kind of get the back burner of our attention. When it's really what a unique, special experience. Because the way that it's living, it's living in just that moment. Because another performance could have a different feel. And it's not ever going to be the same with the same audience. It's just – oh, you're harnessing that special moment. 

[00:48:16] SW: Yeah. You know what? And maybe listeners, if you want to, too, I think I recall having a really inspiring conversation with Sara Duclos about like appreciation of dance. I think I want to go back and relisten to that episode now that we're done with Zackery's episode. 

[00:48:31] LHL: That's a great idea. 

[00:48:32] SW: Right? 

[00:48:32] LHL: Yeah.

[00:48:33] SW: Obviously, New Hampshire needs more dance and more appreciation of dance, more opportunities for dance. But, also, it's so cool that Zackery and his Husband transplanted a dance company from New York to New Hampshire. Just totally different environment. 

[00:48:49] LHL: I'm so grateful they're here. And I definitely want to be on their radar more and see what they've got going on.

[00:48:55] SW: I also want to go dancing with Zackery.

[00:48:56] LHL: I just think he'd be so fun. He's such a fun person in general. Let's go out to the club or whatever. Is there a club? 

[00:49:05] SW: Maybe.

[00:49:05] LHL: We're getting old, I guess. Thank you so much, Zackery, again. I don't think we can thank you enough for being just your wonderful, authentic self with us and teaching us so much about dance in New Hampshire. 

[00:49:20] SW: We're super thrilled to have met you.

[00:49:22] LHL: Listener, you need to go check out and follow them on the social medias. You can go follow them on Facebook, NSquared Dance. And on Instagram where their handle is nsquared_dance. 

[00:49:39] SW: As always, you can find those links and more in the episode description on our website, You'll also find us, Creative Guts, on Facebook, and Instagram, and Linkedin.

[00:49:49] LHL: This episode was sponsored in part by the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts. Thank you to our friends in Rochester for their support of the show.

[00:49:57] SW: A big thank you to Art Up Front Street in Exeter for providing a space where Creative Guts can record.

[00:50:03] LHL: And if you love listening and want to support Creative Guts, you darn well should. You can make a donation, leave us a review, interact with our content on social media, or purchase some merchandise. Whatever you're able to do, we appreciate you.

[00:50:16] SW: Thank you for tuning in. We'll be back next Wednesday with another episode of Creative Guts.