For as long as history dates back, dancing has been a way for humans to express themselves. It is a universal language that transcends borders and unites us. Dance is an artform like no other, where the canvas is the stage and the brush is your body. Liverpool’s Maria Akpan, an internationally sought-after professional dancer, loves that she can create such an experience through her work, both entertaining and connecting with her audience. There is no other path she could have taken that would have fulfilled her life so completely, and whenever she steps out to perform a routine or teach a class, she knows she is just where she should be.
Akpan’s resume is both impressive and extensive, never limited to one genre or medium. She has performed in music videos and commercials, on television shows and fashion shows. Such highlights include the Westend Musical Thriller Live celebrating Michael Jackson’s iconic music, the renowned BET Experience, and performing live with Canadian pop sensation Maggie Szabo at the Santa Monica Pride on the Promenade event on June 15th, 2019. Performing at Pride truly struck a chord with Akpan, who aims to make a difference through her work.
“I believe everyone should feel seen, and this festival really does celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to stand with those who push for an equal and just future. It creates a supportive environment where LGBTQ+ young people can thrive. I was very proud to be a part of something that brings people together and allows people to understand that we are all human, and that’s all that really matters. If there is anything this industry has taught me, it’s to love yourself and be yourself as no one else can do it better than you. Pride really does highlight that by not hiding who you are, you are changing the world,” said Akpan.
Akpan was a lead dancer for Maggie Szabo, a chart-topping pop star who approached Akpan after seeing her videos on Instagram. Szabo’s performed her four latest hits, going for an upbeat and fun vibe for Pride. Akpan therefore had to lead three different choreographed routines for this performance alongside fellow dancer Laura Chen. It was intense and hard work, learning three different routines for three different songs. Akpan did not let the pressure get to her and strived for perfection from the first rehearsal. Her job was to bring the crowd into Szabo’s world and keep it full of life.
“Maria is extremely passionate and hard working. I really admired how committed and dedicated she was to my performance, always offering ideas and willing without being asked to help. Maria’s ability to match the vision I was looking for was undeniable. She exudes creativity, talent and a completely unique skill set. She was perfect for the vision I was going for,” said Szabo.
Pride on the Promenade was Santa Monica’s inaugural Pride event, and saw a massive turnout. Akpan was already excited before getting on stage, but seeing the enormous crowd in front of her gave her just the energy she needed to captivate her audience. After they left the stage, the positive feedback they received seemed endless.
“It feels absolutely incredible to be first a part of Maggie’s performance, but also to be a part of Pride. This could be a life changing moment for many in the audience knowing that they no longer feel alone but rather included. My heart was so full. I didn’t realize so many of the audience would be asking for my Instagram and also asking for a picture with me. I was very overwhelmed,” Akpan concluded.