By ANEESAH AKBAR
February’s artist of the month, Nashalah McNamara (Sr.), has been dancing all her life and is currently a member of UHS’s Dance Company.
McNamara moved to Irvine from Oregon right before her sophomore year and has been very involved in Dance Company ever since. She said, “Dance is kind of an escape from all my problems and a release of energy for me. When I dance, I feel the most passionate and the most myself.”
Mr. Edward Johnson (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) is UHS’s Dance Director and nominated McNamara for Artist of the Month. He explained that, during the time he has spent working with her, he has been inspired by the fact that the unique liveliness she brings to dance has not changed as she has matured. He said, “The joy that she brings to every day of dancing, the gleam in her eye when she talks about becoming a professional artist, her compassion for others and her laughter: these are things that maturity all too frequently takes away.”
Dancing is definitely a talent that runs in McNamara’s family. She has been exposed to it since childhood through her mother’s and grandmother’s backgrounds in dance. “When I was two or three, my mom used to teach me dance routines in the living room,” she said, adding jokingly, “I was dancing even before I was walking!” Enrolled in her first ballet class at the age of three, she was immediately captivated by the art form.
McNamara took a slightly different approach to dancing from most other young dancers. After doing some ballet as a child, she transitioned to hip hop dancing at a young age, focusing on that for eight years. As a result, she says that hip hop dance will always be close to her heart. She continued, “I love contemporary dance as well because it has a huge storytelling factor and it’s a lot more emotional.”
Over winter break, McNamara performed at the Sugar Bowl halftime show in New Orleans after her studio, Focus Dance Center, was invited to the event. She said, “We got to do rehearsals with Chris Judd, who choreographed for Jennifer Lopez, and Brian Anthony. It was such an amazing experience.” McNamara was one of about six hundred high schoolers from various dance studios across the nation to perform at the New Year’s Day event.
As for her plans for the future, McNamara hopes to major in dance at either UCI or Chapman University after graduating in the spring. She eventually wants to become a choreographer and open up a nonprofit studio for underprivileged youth. She said, “I really hope to give back the gift of dance that I’ve been given. I want everyone, regardless of financial capabilities or living situation, to be able to experience the positive impact it has on your life.”
Mr. Johnson added, “Nashalah has the delicate balance of confidence, humility, vision, innocence, intelligence and talent that it takes to be a successful artist. When I think of her, I am most impressed by the idea that she has not outgrown her dreams.”
Her biggest piece of advice to other young dancers is to “stay true to yourself and your own style. The dance world definitely gets hard and competitive, so keep reminding yourself why you do dance, why you love it and why you keep getting pulled back to it.”