Aliya, also affectionately known as “Li” has been dancing from the moment her feet touched the ground. Raised in a home where music and culture were very much celebrated, she was exposed to many different music styles such as Brazilian Jazz and Salsa throughout her upbringing. It is because of these early experiences, as well as being of Nigerian (Yoruba) heritage, that Aliya has always understood the importance of culture being communicated and celebrated through music and dance. Due to this, the majority of Aliya’s dance training background is in West African dance. While studying this form of dance, Aliya was able to train under some of the greatest choreographers in African dance, such as Dr. Kariamu Welsh (Mama Kariamu) and Dr. Patricia Reid-Merritt. Seeking to enrich her training in other cultural dance styles, Aliya made the decision to begin training in Salsa. Because drums are the heartbeat of West African music and dance, and the call-and-response song structure to both traditional West African music and Salsa are so similar, becoming a salsa dancer felt like a very seamless and natural progression to her dance training.
Since beginning her training in Latin dance in 2006, Aliya has had the opportunity to work with many great choreographers and dancers, such as Andrew Marcus and CJ Garcia while a member of Esencia Latina; and Barbara Capaldi at The Atrium. After establishing her foundation under the instruction of Barbara Capaldi, Aliya ultimately found her dance home at Art in Motion Dance Academy, where she also fell in love with bachata. The training that Aliya received at AIM under Darlin Garcia has proven to be invaluable in that it has helped Aliya to develop her own personal dance style, which includes lots of body movement, as well as African and Afro-Cuban inspired musicality.
Needless to say, Aliya’s love for Latin music and dance has grown into a deep commitment to furthering her training and career as a Latin dancer and now, a new dance instructor at AIM. Throughout her journey as a student dancer and performer, Aliya has always clung to a speech given by ballet choreographer and studio director Alonzo King where he stated “serve the art” and “tell the truth”. These mantras have fueled Aliya through her experiences as dancer, helping her to remember who she is, where she has been and why she dances. Aliya now hopes to center her approach as a teacher on that same foundation, helping new salsa dancers to understand the importance of being their genuine selves, and translating that through dance and physical expression. Outside of dance, Aliya holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. So when she is not dancing, she is working to help promote healing and overall well-being to those in need. As someone who has dedicated her life to motivating others to find their happiness, Aliya hopes to do the same through dance by encouraging new dancers to find the joy in discovering that they do not have to be or look like anyone else to be great dancers. Because who we are is our best asset. And because dance belongs to everybody!
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