Always aim high
Major Nesby’s dream was to be a professional dancer.
At 21, he got on a bus, went to New York City and made it happen. His belief is that it’s better to try and fail than live with regret.
“If you have a dream, I think you should go after that dream, period,” said Mr Nesby, who is hosting a series of masterclass workshops and choreography lessons at DanceSations School of Dance through Wednesday. “Even if it doesn’t work out, it will always land you where you need to be.”
He got his start in Atlanta, Georgia, where a dance teacher at an after-school programme saw his potential and encouraged his parents to enrol him in classes.
“I started training as an adolescent at Decatur School of Ballet. I then went to DeKalb School of the Arts, a performing arts high school, and then went to college, to Point Park University, where I got my bachelor’s degree in dance performance with a concentration in classical ballet.
“But I always knew I wanted to move to New York City. I got on a Greyhound Bus with two suitcases and started working.
“I would go on auditions and within six to eight months I was lucky enough to join Ailey II.”
Sylvia Waters was then the director of the repertory ensemble attached to Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, the renowned New York-based modern dance company; Troy Powell, who is now the director, was then her associate.
“It was an amazing experience,” Mr Nesby said. “I was fortunate enough to perform some of the same repertoire the first company performed.
“It is a favourite and memorable experience that I will cherish for ever.”
He will also be “for ever grateful” to his parents, neither of whom were artists but who were “super supportive of my dance career”; whenever they couldn’t do, other family members would step in.
“I think that from a young age they saw I had a talent and wanted to nurture that to the best of their abilities. Dance is expensive. They sacrificed for me to put me in these situations to get the best dance partners and elevate what I was doing to the next level. It was a true village.”
Mr Nesby’s advice to anyone who is uncertain about their career path is “to go with your purpose” remembering that ups and downs are inevitable.
“From dance, I have been able to do so many other things I didn’t anticipate.
“When you are walking within your path you feel like life is better, it doesn’t have to be as a dancer, it can be anything.
“What I try to encourage with my own students is that within this space you are here to learn discipline, how to push yourself beyond limits.
“I did move to New York on a Greyhound Bus, I did have to navigate the city on my own but ... I had a lot of financial help.
“With anything, you have to listen to what is within your internal compass and go that way. If you have to change location to facilitate your dreams you should do it, but do it smartly — maybe save some money first.”
As for his classes here, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest.
“I have an idea of what I am going to do, but it’s a surprise for them,” he said. “Choreography is a collaborative effort. I may come with music I want to use and phrasing, but once we get in the studio the dancers are every much as part of the creation as I am.
“I might think something should be a certain way, but then when I see a dancer execute it another way I might say, ‘You know, I like that better’.”
He considers himself fortunate to have travelled the world doing what he loves.
Africa, Australia and Antarctica are the only continents he hasn’t visited. Bermuda stands out as a destination.
“I’m looking forward to coming back. It’s absolutely breathtaking,” Mr Nesby said. “I love how the cliffs overlook the beaches, it’s something out of a movie; such a beautiful place.”
His first visit was with the Francesca Harper Project, an acclaimed dance company in New York. He returned with Ailey II, with whom he danced from 2010 to 2012.
“From there, I danced for a couple other companies until life decided for me to move in other avenues,” said Mr Nesby, who is often billed as a “multidisciplinary creative” because of his work in musical theatre, television shows, commercials and movies.
“I work as a freelance artist now. I’m not affiliated with any specific dance company and so I decided to explore other talents I have, acting, working as a content creator both in front and behind the camera, choreographing and teaching.
“My expertise is classical, ballet, modern contemporary and jazz. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and now I teach workshops all over the world.
“The opportunity to share what I’ve learnt through my own experiences as a dancer and to see aspiring dancers grow and advance themselves makes it all worth it.”
He connected with DanceSations after students attended one of his workshops in New York.
“I was really impressed with how well-mannered the dancers were. They were very polite and very talented as well. I’m so excited to connect with them again for a longer period and on a more personal level.”
• Major Nesby is offering masterclasses in ballet, jazz, Horton and contemporary through Wednesday at DanceSations School of Dance. To register, 292-4100 or www.dancesations.bm. Classes run 10am to 12pm and are open to dancers 12 and older. Drop-ins accepted