Healing Through Movement: Meet Nigerian Dancer Nneka Irobunda
By Rachel George
Nigerian choreographer and dancer Nneka Irobunda manifested that she wanted to travel more in 2019. In January, she was doing the Gwara Gwara dance in Mr. Vegas’ Te Amo video in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Talk about speaking things into existence. “God is listening, the universe is listening, everything is listening.”
Dancing has been an essential part of Nneka’s life since childhood. Whether she was taking ballet and modern classes or dancing at parties or family celebrations in Nigeria. Over the last two years, her career as a dancer and choreographer has skyrocketed to new heights beyond her family functions after being handpicked by creative genius Tanisha Scott to perform at the Grammys with Cardi B.
“It’s been taking off because I had the freedom to understand myself as a dancer and understand my vision and what I want to leave as a legacy. It’s becoming clearer and clearer,” she says.
Nneka was exposed to various African dance styles growing up in a culturally diverse family, referring to her Jamaican and Haitian relatives. It wasn’t until she went to college in California that she began to take dancing seriously as a career. She double-majored in Psychology and Dance with a performance/choreography track at Scripps College, studying body movements, anatomy and how to make dance into a career. She explored all different types of movements from jazz, modern to voguing to my her own style of Afro-fusion dancing, her favorite.
“I was on track to be a doctor but I realized I’d rather heal people through movement and from the psyche, rather than going to school for another 10 years,” she says. She spent nights of studying movement and perfecting her own distinctive style of Afro-fusion dancing at a studio at The Door, an organization offering community services and programs. Not long after, she was tapped by video director Jay Will for her unmatched dancing style to star in Mr. Vegas’ “Kill Har Wid Di No” video 2017. She was tapped by video director Jay Will for her unmatched afro-fusion style of dancing. “Yessssss, I was so excited. I wasn’t the main part of it but I was proud to be a part of something and be in a professional setting.”
While in college, Nneka began to understand the struggles of managing a professional career, traveling, and working at the same time. She also began training in heels with movement director Danielle Polano, seen in Step Up 2: The Streets. Fusing together her own style of dance, Nneka partnered with Soca Sweat for a special heels dance class, Afrobeats Stilettoes. Since then, it has turned into a full tour hitting Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, and other major cities. “There’s something about African music and African movements that feels like home. As far as the heels, it just brings out that inner sensuality, that we sometimes feel like we have to hide,” she describe. “It’s literally who I am through movement personified. It really takes you to a different place.”
For now, Nneka’s screaming out “Who’s next? Who wants me?” manifesting being on even bigger stages across the world, showcasing her skills. “For me my goal is to heal, help people to get to the best them through movement, through art.”
Check out her performance in Mr.Vegas’ “Te Amo” video here.