Dancer and Choreographer Nayilah Antoine On Making Dancing A Career

Her impressive credits includes being an AfroPunk, Moment Factor, Kerwin Dubois and Dance Africa. She has even had the pleasure of dancing for hip-hop legend Wyclef Jean. To her choreography is life, and she gives birth on a daily basis.

Kreyolicious: What do you remember of your Haitian-American upbringing?
Nayilah Antoine: My childhood consisted of a lot of konpa and hip-hop. Every Sunday, my dad would drive up with my brother and I, from Brooklyn to Mount Vernon to go visit my tonton On our way there, he’d play albums from Djakout, T-Vice, , . My gosh! We would dread it because that’s all my dad listened to. Looking back on it now, I do appreciate it.

Kreyolicious: What is it about dancing that drew you to the art form?
Nayilah Antoine: I just remembered always loving to dance. My cousin and I would always make up choreography. We knew the latest/hottest dances, so when it was time for a family party, it was showtime. We didn’t do well with dolls, but the dance floor was the place I felt most comfortable to tell a story and my ability to do it through movement.

Kreyolicious: Was watching dance movies a past time of yours when you were little?
Nayilah Antoine: Actually watching dance-heavy music videos were a past time of mine. Before YouTube became popular, I would record the music videos on BET and just learn the choreography by replaying it.

Mannnn…when Ciara came out with her video for , I was in front of my TV learning that choreography. It was the funniest thing ever because I was so serious. Honestly, my fave music dance video would have to be between and Janet Jackson’s . I can watch them til this day and still be inspired!

Kreyolicious: You created an audition video for pop star Janet Jackson. Did that take a lot of guts?
Nayilah Antoine: It definitely did. I’m a perfectionist and I like to plan. My submission for Janet went against those two things.

I ended up submitting a freestyle. Which was very freeing. My brother filmed it for me, I went to the park, turned the music on and just had fun. I wasn’t thinking about if I was on the right count…I just danced.

Kreyolicious: Have you visited Haiti before?
Nayilah Antoine: Wellllllll, technically yes. I’ve been to Labadee via cruise ship. However, some Haitians don’t really consider that actually going to Haiti. My family likes to tease me about it. Hopefully this year, I can actually go and visit my families hometown. A goal of mine is to go out there and teach a dance workshop.

Kreyolicious: What is it like being a part of Dance Africa?
Nayilah Antoine: While many go to Dance Africa for the vendors and the fair, Dance Africa the performance is the pivotal part of the weekend. For me it was always exciting and extremely educational.

I was blessed to perform with academy to experience the energy and unity of bringing artists of all ages together. Each year, the collaboration between Restoration and consisted of bringing and highlighting a dance company from different countries in Africa, the Caribbean or South America. We would have to learn their style of dance and something about their culture.

Kreyolicious: Where do you get the inspiration for your dance moves?
Nayilah Antoine: As corny as it sounds anything that moves me…People, personal experiences, nature, music.

Kreyolicious: You earned a BFA in Dance. Was that the original plan when you entered college?
Nayilah Antoine: Yes. That was the plan. Even though some people thought it was crazy. It was the only thing that made sense to me.

You waste a lot of time being or doing something you’re not. I got a lot of “You’re too smart to pursue that as a major/career”, which is a back-handed compliment. Most of the smartest people I know are dancers. Which is why I made it my business to get my BFA in dance.

Kreyolicious: What advice would you give to an aspiring choreographer/dancer?
Nayilah Antoine: Be yourself! Study your craft. Stay grounded. Stay centered. Stay inspired!

Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious

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