Hi My name is Ukalina Celine Opuwari, Born October 4th in the 80’s, the last of 8 children and the last girl, a native of Ahoada East in Rivers state. A graduate of Mass Communication, UNN. Winner of Maltina Dance All Season two, Head of Dance Academy, SPAN, Principal Dancer I-XTREME…….
How long have you been a dancing? What style do you major in?
I have been dancing for more than 15years. My major is Latin and Ballroom…. but i like to try everything..grins
Share your journey as dancer with us
Where do I start from now hmmmmm…. Okay i will start from where i remember…..
I loved dancing as a child and i remember joining the dance group when we had events in my Nursery School and my primary school (Faith Baptist Nursery School and Sea Bed Model Primary School). My first major performance was the Jeans Carnival in UNIPORT. My eldest sister brought me in to be part of it and i had a solo performance which blew everyone away. Then in my Secondary School days (Holy Rosary Secondary School, Port Harcourt) i joined the Dramatic Club after auditioning as a rapper and dancer; i love music and i loved rap music alot as a tomboy. My brothers would play the latest jams and we would write out the lyrics and sing/rap along. Anyways, we won the competition during my time and everyone was shocked when they heard because most people never that side of me and the news spread in the neighborhood. They nicknamed me “small pepper” and “Busta little” i loved being on stage but sadly had to stop for a while. One day i went to a concert, cos back then it was the gospel that had major dance groups in port harcourt and i didnt know you could use your gift to serve God as i came from a strict Christian Background. I was blown away by the ministration and i decided to join, luckily for me my sister was already part of it and i auditioned and was picked…. It was a ministry called MAKE THEM MINE INT’L, we had the music arm- HYSSOP and the dance arm- PUREGOLD. Here i was introduced to the art of DANCE! i learnt a whole lot and we ministered in and outside NIgeria, it was the best thing that happened to me. Sadly i had to go to
further my education in another state, so i got into UNN and got introduced to Stains family…. they were the it back then and we performed alot then i performed as AALIYAH alot and JANET JACKSON, then i partnered with a friend i call OMarion and we did lots of duet; i loved dancing with him. I didnt stop there, i went back to church by joining a fellowship- GCF and headed the dance group- JUST DANCE FOR CHRIST! I was awarded the best female dancer then…. After i graduated i heard about Maltina Dance all, i couldnt go for the first year because i was writing my final exams. The winner happened to be my friends brother, so i got back and they encouraged me to for the next season, after a long struggle i agreed. Getting to the audition in Owerri i got scared but at the end of the day i took first price and then got into the academy with my family. LOng story cut short, we won, during the competition i was told to come to SPAN, even though i had been invited before then. So immediately i won, i joined SPAN, trained for two years under amazing instructors and then became the Head of Dance. Here i am today, with silver certification in Latin (the first female) Diploma in dance in view and lots more on the way…..
What have been your major challenges?
The major challenges were basically the lack of exposure, Dance schools and the fact that people didn’t see dance as a profession. This brought about doubt and worries from major people in my life but now they know there is a future for us.
What would say was your breakthrough moment as a dancer?
My break through moment was when i won MALTINA DANCE ALL 2008.
What inspires you?
first and foremost GOD is my inspiration, Music and what happens around me especially the young people around me; because they remind me of my young days…..
Presently what do you do and what projects are you working on?
Presently I Teach in SPAN- Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria, Just got back from Lebanon for an intensive Summer Camp with DR NAdra Assaf of Alsarab Alternative Dance School and Lebanese American University and is presently training under Dominique Lesdema from Paris….. i present a show called DANCE AND LEARN on Cool TV etc…… I perform of cause every now and then….. i have upcoming projects in September; its an awareness for the provision of facilities for Premature Babies, IN October;Love Is the musical, where i play one of the lead characters and in November we are planning SPANFEST…. i cant wait…
What have been your favourite moments as a dancer so far?
My favorite moments so far was when i won Maltina Dance All, when i became a regional Judge on the show, when i got my certificate as a certified Latin Teacher, finally when i’m on stage and when i am teaching! ….
What is your opinion of the dance industry in Nigeria?
The Dance Industry has evolved…. We have broken many barriers but still have more to go…
What is your opinion of dancers in Nigeria?
The Dancers in Nigeria are extremely talented and passionate…. Our only problem is lack of proper dance education and discipline as dancers….. Majorly we lack support,so there is also the survival instincts…
Would you say Nigerian dancers are capable of competing effectively on an international level?
YES OF COURSE!!! We are good to go…. If we don’t experience it then we cant grow in that aspect.
What do you think can be done to promote dance as an art and career in Nigeria?
Well, first of all it begins with us dancers…. Lack of proper orientation always drives us to take the wrong direction….. We have not gotten it right yet but we will get there. Secondly the government needs to ensure it is part of our educational system from childhood, that way we can understand how important and how positive and helpful it is to a developing brain and also as adults. We also need more seminars and workshops to really help the upcoming dancers….
What dancers inspire you?
I have a wide range of dancers that inspire me but the most are the older generation like my teachers, because they have passed through the stage some of us are in and they are still dancing and can do anything on top of their head….. Let me name a few…My boss Sarah Boulos, Diane Jarmolow, Dr Nadra Assaf, Ice Nweke, Dominique Lesdema, Inna Nalbandian, Buddy Agedah, Misty Copeland, Israel Akpan, Joanna Leunis, Lovette Otegbola, Bunmi Olunloyo, Lilian Yeri, Comfort Fedoke, Julianne Hough, Peter James, Allison Holker,Wale Sodade, Bimbo Obafunwa, Qudus Onikeku, Jojo Gomez, Ezinne Asinugo, Clara Belenus, Janell Burgess, Mima Angulu, Kaffy Ameh and many others
And what dancers/choreographers would you love to work with?
I would love to work with JOANNA LEUNIS number one i adore her….gosh…. Karina Smirnoff, Kazia Kozak, Kaffy Ameh, Jojo Gomez, Comfort Fedoke, Clara Belenus, Ezinne Asinugo……….. Note that every dancers dream is to work with as many dancers as possible…. so while i just mentioned these few doesnt mean i dont want to work with a whole lot of them
Do you think a franchise like So you think you can dance can produce a quality show in comparison to the American and south African versions?
Well, I believe so….
In what ways is dance most lucrative in Nigeria?
Teaching is the most lucrative right now and will ever be…. WHY? people may ask, because its constant thats why dancers need to train always and upgrade because you wont perform or choreograph everyday….
What advise do you have for dancers?
To Dancers out there, know this for a fact someday your body won’t do the things you want it to do effectively so right now dance hard and train harder! Get all the knowledge you can, don’t limit yourself, learn everything; if you don’t know your root you will be lost! Be humble and train under someone, respect your art and always be prepared for opportunities, discipline yourself by eating healthy and take care of your body, this you can do by researching. Dance is not just ART it is also SCIENCE! Don’t give up, keep pushing and believe in yourself!
Check out some of Ukalina’s videos right here