See Her Roar | Meet Extraordinary Dancer, Saidah Nairobi

Author: Sarah de Brun

As The Formation World Tour wraps up after over five months on the road, backup dancer Saidah Nairobi preps for the next chapter of her life–music and writing. As her early days as an aspiring dancer from Atlanta have been realized to the extreme, now comes finishing touches on a soon-to-be-released book and upcoming R&B album -two creative outlets she is excited to take on after this brisk, momentous journey. Nairobi is simply on a quest to see her dreams take shape, encouraging every woman along the way to do the same, because that’s what women do. We empower one another. From Beyoncé to Ciara and Usher, Nairobi has backed up some of the greats, but she is very much leading her own destiny.

Whether you are performing in intimate venues with Ciara or on a bigger scale with Beyoncé, where do you begin with learning the choreography for an entire show?
The process usually starts with the choreographer and the hiring of the dancers. They usually have an idea of what they want before we go in. Rehearsals are anywhere from 8-10 hours. Sometimes we’re given a short window. It may be a week, three weeks or three days to learn a whole show, depending on the nature of the performance. For a tour like The Formation Tour, from February to April we had extensive rehearsal periods that went from California to Pennsylvania to Florida. With Ciara we rehearse in L.A. or Atlanta and the show stays pretty consistent.

Do you learn the entire set out of sequence?
We learn it out of sequence because the band and music director usually create the set list. Sometimes we know the songs we’re going to do, but we don’t know in what order.

What are some of the surprising challenges you face with always being on the road?
The long hours. Our hours are physical, we are very much like athletes who go into an extensive training period before a big event. So, a lot of time we have to physically push through those long hours because we’re using the same muscles over and over again because of the choreography. It’s repetitious, so those muscles that need recovery don’t get a chance because the turn around is so short between one rehearsal and the next. Recovery for us is greens, ice, heat, stretching and we also try to find healthy shakes and products that help our muscles recover quickly like magnesium, calcium–things for our bones. When it’s an intensive rehearsal process, all of that is your best friend. Water, of course. Things that build electrolytes back into your body from sweating so much.

How do you stay creative in your down time?
I write! I’ve actually been working on a book for a few years now, it’s a dance memoir. I talk about my journey and how I started. From it being a dream and actually coming into fruition. Everything I’ve learned over the years, my experiences throughout the short amount of time I’ve been a professional dancer–it’s only been eight years!

Did you originally want to sing and do music?
You know, both. I went to an art school so I was exposed to music, dance, and drama–all the components of performing arts. I’ve naturally always gravitated to music and dance. When I went back to Atlanta I started pursuing dance but music was always there on the sidelines. Dance took off first and I never looked back. I would always go back to music, but then another tour would come up. The momentum kept going. This time, I feel like this is a great final chapter in my dance journey with this tour. This is my second go around with Beyoncé and it doesn’t get any better than that. To work with an icon like Usher and an artist like Ciara, who was the artist who inspired me to want to be a professional dancer. All my dreams I had as a dancer have been fulfilled and beyond. It’s time to evolve and allow another portion of who I am to express itself.

“Once you see your dream realize, have another vision. Evolve it, because there’s so much that we are capable of doing. If there are other things in our heart that we want to be, we can be that as well.”

Do you feel more spiritually connected to music?
It is a spiritual connection. I’m very big on faith and I feel like God brought me to this point in my life, this journey with dance, to bring me to learn myself and grow and be a student in a way I couldn’t have been if I hadn’t been exposed to what I have been exposed to as a professional dancer. I think if I had gone into the music industry younger I wouldn’t have had the understanding that I have now. Being around Beyoncé, she’s so aware of so many details. It’s not just the music, it’s the lighting, the creative content, the band, the dancers, the wardrobe. There are so many components to think about. Just being your own brand and your own boss. I’ve taken so much from each artist that I’ve worked with.

What goes on in your mind when you are on stage?
Right before I go on stage, I pray. Once they cue the music, I’m just thanking God for another opportunity to go on stage, do what I love. I pray over all the departments, over Bey, the dancers, over the audience–that they walk away with some sort of empowerment, enlightenment, inspiration, joy, love, peace. Something that feeds them and fuels them. In my mind, that’s what I’m thinking about. Just giving my best performance to Beyoncé because we are supporting her as she’s giving her all. I’m so thankful to be able to be on a platform like that. I don’t take it for granted.

Who are some of the women that influence you?
My mother is one of my biggest influences. She’s the woman I’ve seen go through so much and come out so resilient and so strong. She’s taught me a lot about faith and trust, and to go with the flow of life–have a vision but trust that you don’t always have to be in control. Sometimes situations are out of our control but we can control how we are affected by that. Beyoncé is such a huge inspiration. She’s grown as a woman and an artist. You see it in her message of female empowerment. I’m inspired by her entrepreneurship with IVY PARK and her own management company. Her longevity! She’s been in the game 20+ years, it’s not easy to be in the game that long. I’ve learned a lot from her. Ciara is another one because I’ve worked with her so long. I’m so inspired by her evolution. She’s comfortable in her own skin as a woman. Her success is equally effective to me as someone coming from Atlanta and the south.

How do you hope to inspire women?
I hope to inspire women in faith. Situations can be discouraging and women are strong naturally. Sometimes, because we are emotional, we absorb a lot of our surroundings. It depletes us of what makes us who we are individually. We take on the energy of everybody else and we have to have faith to rise above those situations where we are like, “We want to give to you, and we want to give to you,” and we don’t give anything back to ourselves. That’s why for me, even with my dream of wanting to be an artist next, this journey with my dance is an inspiration within itself, to evolve into another dream, to let that dream see light. I hope to inspire women to keep growing. Once you see your dream realize, have another vision. Evolve it, because there’s so much that we are capable of doing. If there are other things in our heart that we want to be, we can be that as well. That’s what I hope to inspire into my community. Give each gift, each talent, or goal its chance to flourish. Once it does, don’t be afraid to try something else and take risks.

What moments have left a big impression on you?
Most recently, when we performed in Scotland. The choreographers came into the dressing room and said, “Beyoncé wants to have a moment of silence during “Freedom” with all the dancers.” She did a moment of silence and started singing “Freedom” a capella and the tears just started welling up because here we are in Europe and behind us are the names of all these victims of police brutality. The fact that I’m able to be a part of a production where we can actually give this moment. This is a real issue and I’m with the artist who is able to address this issue in her performance. That was a very powerful moment that I was able to be a part of.

Superbowl was another one of those moments coming out in the field with the afros. We’re just charging, it’s 30 females like, “We are women, hear us roar!” It was so powerful. That was one of those moments where I realized this is history. All African American women on the field behind her. It wasn’t anything against police, it was nothing like that. It was just to empower a community and to shed light. Women, we hold a lot of power. I mean, Hilary Clinton running for president. She’s a woman. That’s powerful. The fact that there is a woman running for office. Women are incredible. Being on this project this year and the extraordinary women I’m around, this is so amazing. Everyone is so different but there is a cohesive synergy that makes it all work.

What connected you to MISSBISH?
I love anything that deals with empowering women. I love any type of platform that is female driven and inspiring because I’m a woman, I relate to those kinds of platforms. It’s really awesome that I get to do an interview for a specific focus, and I love the name MISSBISH!

Source: Ja Tecson

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