When most parents ask their children what they’d like to be when they grow up, they expect to hear answers like professional “actor” or “dancer” and simply hope that the novelty will wear off with age. This, however, was not the case for Maria Akpan’s mother and father. From a very young age, Akpan knew that she had a gift and over the years, she has been determined to share that gift with the world. The talented dancer and choreographer is passionate about not only keeping the art of dance alive, but ensuring that it remains fresh, engaging and entertaining. She has creativity soaring through her veins and is eager to continue shedding her greatness before aspiring dancers everywhere.
Only a small fraction of human beings can confidently say that they get to do what they love for a living, and Akpan is one of those few people. In living out her dreams, Akpan has built a strong career full of invaluable experience. Her exceptional reputation has earned her a vast amount of achievements. For instance, Akpan performed as a lead dancer for the production Thriller Live, where she was tasked with taking the audience on a journey through Michael Jackson’s childhood and career. She has also appeared in a number of hit music videos, like Funky Twinz featuring N. Kay’s video, Entertain You, where she choreographed each dance number and subsequently acted as the lead dancer in the video. Her exposure to high quality productions and performances has allowed her to showcase her skill set before the eyes of several major production companies and fellow dancers. As a result, she has been recognized for her talents and even won an award in 2014 when Shirlene Quigley, a former dancer for Beyoncé and Rihanna, was looking for a dancer that wowed her enough to donate $500 toward a scholarship for the Broadway Dance Centre in New York. Unsurprisingly, Akpan blew her away and won the competition by a landslide.
One of Akpan’s most notable career highlights was when she choreographed and danced in a lead role for Mark Anthony’s, Prince Revelation Tribute Show. When Anthony was looking for talent to not only choreograph dances for the show, but also star in the show alongside him, he demanded that Akpan come on board. He was astounded by her natural affinity for choreography and dance when he stumbled upon her website online. Akpan was thrilled to be able to lend her talents to the show, as Prince was one of her favorite artists. The job allowed her to dance in well-known venues all over England and she thoroughly enjoyed all of the various aspects that the job entailed.
“Working on this project was so awesome. Contributing my skills and work to this show made it feel like my own. It was even more fulfilling when crowd members would approach us after the show to let us know that they thought Prince would’ve been proud watching it. It was surreal doing the festivals because you knew people had travelled miles to be there just to see the show. The energy coming from the audience was addicting and Twitter views were at an all-time high after each show,” recalls Akpan.
Akpan is no stranger to the world of choreography and her unique delivery and storytelling are what set her above her competition. She has had to fight for every opportunity she has accomplished thus far in her career and has developed a certain strength through her perseverance, a strength that every dancer sticks around long enough to develop. It is a grueling profession, but it is one that Akpan excels in. Her unprecedented skills as a dancer are the reason that she is a perfectionist, holding herself to the highest standard possible, as she knows what she is capable of. In stressful situations, she thrives and her drive is at an all-time high.
Lucie Camelo, who was fortunate enough to dance alongside Akpan in the Prince Revelation Tribute Show, witnessed first-hand Akpan’s profound ability to take a production or performance to the next level. She knows of the quality of work that Akpan is capable of delivering and considers herself lucky to have worked with such unparalleled talent.
“Working with Maria was definitely uplifting and enlightening for me. To be able to work closely with someone of her caliber was intense and just to get a glimpse into what it takes to be successful in this industry was a blessing in itself. She is a true inspiration to many. Her drive, commitment, and discipline for her work is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Working with her left me inspired,” says Camelo.
So, what is in store for this extremely talented dancer? Akpan created her own dance class called “#LinesNsaucewithmimi” which is taught in heels and has earned her great success so far. She also teaches children’s dance classes and continues to audition and perform for productions that interest her. On top of that, she is often called upon to teach private lessons for individuals of all different levels, from beginners and non-dancers to professional artists. In future, she hopes to dance with iconic artists like Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Madonna, Usher, and Christ Brown. So long as she is teaching, choreographing, and dancing, she will be content and motivated to continue along her successful path.