"Dancing has helped me open a side of myself I didn’t know I had." - Maya McClain

I am a junior journalism major at Emerson College. Maya McClain is a freshman theatre and performance major at Emerson College. While our majors may not typically be closely associated, we both have a passion for dance and met through a dance company on campus. Like Maya, I too auditioned my freshman year on one of my first few days on campus.

Maya is a beam of light on and off stage and agreed to allow me to photograph her for one of my classes.

These images were described by my professor as ‘environmental photography’, which means photographing someone in their usual environment, illuminating something crucial in their life. Maya also answered some of my questions to accompany these images.


Why do you dance?  

I dance because I love being able to bring other people joy through my dancing.  There's something about performing live, and that little nervous energy I get before I hit the stage that makes me love what I do. Dancing has helped me open a side of myself I didn’t know I had.


How has dance and performance shaped who you are?

I started dancing at a very young age.  Dancing has helped me become more confident and self-assured with myself and my body.  I was very self-conscious about myself, and I was bullied at a young age for my appearance and dancing ability. It took years of dancing for me to open up and find my inner self-confidence.  Once I found that spark everything changed for me. Dancing has also helped me a lot with handling rejection.  The entire business is a game of yes and no, and there are times when you won’t get the job or the audition, and colleges will say no.  Dancing has taught me not to become discouraged from the No’s but to learn and push myself harder to become better.


What is your favourite style to perform?

I think tap is my favourite style because it was the first one I learned.  There's just something about making music with your feet that fascinates me.

What is your favourite style to watch?  

My favorite style to watch would also have to be tap, but like those old musical movies with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, or even the Nicholas Brothers! There's just something about old Broadway tap that is so effortless, the way they glide across the floor is amazing.


Favourite performance?

My favorite performance would definitely have to be when my dance studio did CATS the musical.  I was one of the principal dancers and it was one of the most technically challenging shows I’ve ever done.  Not to mention learning how to do cat makeup and wearing a bodysuit every show was fun.  I definitely hit the gym more often during that time to prepare for that Catsuit!

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?  

I would tell her if you can't love yourself then how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? And don’t worry about other people. Continue to focus on your own growth. It is going to be hard at times and there will be tears. You are going to hate taking 3 ballet classes, but it will pay off eventually, and it is ok to miss things because of dance, but also remember to make time to have fun.


Dream performance?

My dream performance would have to be being able to perform in a contemporary piece choreographed by Travis Wall.  He is one of the greatest performers I have ever witnessed. His style of choreography is so unique, I think it would really challenge me. Or a heels dance choreographed by Galen Hooks! She is my QUEEN!! Her choreography to “Love on the Brain” and “River” are so minimalistic and Phenomenal.


What would perform at an event honouring Y O U ?  

I would perform the first hip hop solo I ever performed at competition.  It was a huge challenge for me because I learned it at a time where I was unsure about myself and my dancing ability.  I struggled to understand “facials” and “sassiness”.  Looking back now I realized the only thing in my way was me and my self doubt.


What would you wear to an event honouring Y O U ?  

If I could wear anything I would wear the pink dress that Zendaya wore to the American Music Awards. I’m a sucker for bright colors and anything sparkly. I love playing with colors and patterns.


Money, education, reality don’t matter, what is your goal and why?

My goal as of right now is to either be on a national Broadway tour, or a commercial dancer, or a film/tv actress.  I love performing and no matter if I'm making thousands of dollars or hundreds, I want to be doing what I love and that's performing.  If I can’t do that then I hope to teach at a dance studio and continue to teach other kids how to dance.

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