From a Performer to a Brilliant Dance Choreographer | Mara Jay

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Transitioning from a performer to a dance choreographer is not always the easiest of choices to make, but that has not been the case for Nigerian born dancer Justin Testimony Mara, popularly known as Mara Jay.

She has been performing professionally for 4years before trying out an alternative career path in dance choreography in the year 2020. She has choreographed several brilliant works, one of which is titled BROWN SKIN GIRL – a favourite of mine.

When asked about the inspiration behind the dance piece, she gives credit to Precious Jay, a dancer and her elder sister for the conceptual idea and direction of the dance piece.

Although the Grammy award-winning song Brown Skin Girl by Beyonce, Wizkid, and Blue Ivy laid a foundation for the dance piece, Mara acknowledges it was important to include girls of different body sizes and skin tones in the dance piece to achieve what they were going for.

Brown Skin girl dance pieceArese Africa Mara Jay

The decision to pursue a career in choreography, she states, has been an easy step for her to take because performing in Nigeria is kind of difficult, mostly for thick girls. In her words:

I was having issues with people actually choreographing things that suit me, so being able to transition from a performer into a choreographer was something that was pretty easy

However, Mara is still open to taking on dance jobs from other dance choreographers and music video directors. Still, she would appreciate choreographers taking time to put together dance routines that suits thick girls because when individualism is not taken into consideration, it most likely amounts to directors having problems with thick dancers on their sets.

Choreographing for thick girls and every other body size is something that is important to Mara considering that with her routines, aside from the music, she adds that the style and strength of the dancer she is choreographing play key parts in her dance works.

Sometimes as a choreographer you get to work with different people when putting together a dance piece, and each person she explains – “has different body language, everyone has different arm movements, different shades so you have to work with everyone personally. Know what everybody can do and infuse it into the choreography and make sure everybody is comfortable with it”.

As for her favourite piece right now amongst her other works, BANK ON IT, it is for her. Another creative dance piece from her catalogue, it features the 3 Jay sisters, the brilliant choreographer Mara Jay, her twin sister Myra Jay, and their elder sister Precious Jay, with the background song of same title – Bank on it by Grammy award-winning artiste, Burna Boy.

Arese Africa Mara Jay

On why the Bank on it dance piece is her favourite work so far, Mara expresses that:

recently people have just been doubting my family and thing have been happening, a lot of life issues has been hitting us so actually channelling that part of my life into my routine and into dance, and having my sisters kill the routine the way it was suppose to be is just very beautiful

She labels her personal dance style as ‘contemporary fusion’ and looks up to the Los Angeles based Choreographer, Dancer, and Artist Talia Favia as her idol in the dance Industry, for the reason that Talia Favia’s choreographies are quite – “unique and top-notch”.

Lastly, when asked if she has any advice for upcoming dance choreographers in the Nigerian Dance Industry, Mara once again emphasizes on choreographing based on individual strength, replying with:

most choreographers don’t know how to choreograph for everybody. They just choreograph for themselves and teach everybody and that is totally wrong

If there is one thing to take away from this interview with Mara Jay is how dedicated she is to not just choreographing beautiful dance works but choreographing mindful routines that suits every dancer involved in her works, and that makes her a brilliant rising dance choreographer in the Nigerian Dance Industry.

Check out the full Interview with Mara Jay on YouTube

Vanessa Omena

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