Nanci Anderson, Queen of Pop and Commercial Dance

August 17, 2022

“The thing that people don’t talk about is that it wasn’t easy,” commercial dancer Nanci Anderson says of her decades-long career, which spans television, film and world tours with just about every major pop star of the early 2000s, from Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake. But Anderson experienced the same struggles as countless other aspiring dancers: catching up on technique at age 15 after a convention inspired her to pursue dance professionally, then moving by herself from Fort Worth to Los Angeles right after high school. Her tenacity pushed her through, made her stand out and eventually led to success. Now in her 40s, Anderson continues to work as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. (Last year, she was the assistant choreographer to Brooke Lipton on an Emmy-nominated episode of “Lucifer.”) Anderson is also a mom of two, which she describes as “the best gig yet.”

Dancing in Britney Spears’ VMA Performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U”:

“Brian Friedman and Wade Robson come up to me and they go, ‘We have this really great part for you. You’re going to hold the snake, and we’re going to put you 15 feet in the air, and when you come down, you’re going to hand it to Britney before doing the choreography.’ ”

Landing the Gig:

“L.A. is full of incredible dancers, and at auditions everyone is good. It really comes down to how you perform and just luck—if you fit the look that they’re going for.”

Creating More Opportunities:

“There are things that we only think of dancers in their mid-20s to early 30s doing. It would be nice to see a wider variety. I still dance really well, and I’m still beautiful, and I still like to feel that way.”

The Moment That Started It All:

“When I was 15, I went to my first dance convention, and I loved it. I had been so engrossed in listening to the teachers, learning the choreography, dancing with everyone to loud music in a room—it was just so much fun. I made the decision right then. I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do with my life.'”

Photo by Michael Higgins.

Staying Determined:

“Young girls should know that I never won anything at a convention, not one time. There were 11-year-olds who were way better at ballet and way better at jazz than I was, so I had a lot of work to do. My mom reminds me that I used to go home crying all the time.”

Back on Tour:

“I singled out dancing for Justin Timberlake before there was ever an audition for the FutureSex/LoveShow tour. I had never taken [tour choreographer] Marty Kudelka’s class before, and I would go home every night and rehearse because I was the runt of the group. I was playing catch-up again, but it was worth it. Marty’s choreography is so intricate and so musical—there’s nothing like it.”

Creating for the Camera:

“I like to tackle the bulk of the choreography first. If it’s for TV or film, you have to know if there will be three cameras or five cameras, and where the camera is going to be moving so that you know where to put your dancers. From there it becomes collaborative with the camera team and the director, and a lot of it changes when you get on set.”

Expand Your Mind:

“I went back to college as an adult to get my degree. When you’re a dancer, you live in a subculture. You eat, breathe, and drink dance, and all of your friends are dancers. And that’s great, and I love it, but at the same time, it was really awesome to have my eyes opened up to a different world.”