Being born Nigerian in Nigeria is in itself a disadvantage for the arts and a challenge only a daring few ever overcome. Over time, Nigerians have come to believe and accept the fact that only by studying and being exceptional in “professional” fields -which actually only exist in the corporate world- can a person become successful and relevant as well as occasionally wealthy. This is why Emmanuel Osahor’s rare feat of not only excelling in the arts but maintaining a balance of excellence and professionalism with the legal profession is an inspiration.
“As a lawyer and a dancer, choosing one career path can be a struggle. The stakes are high and the consequence can be lethal, if the conclusion is not correct. Armed with no manuals, few tutors, and a bus load of critics , I embark on a journey to be correct and complete”.
Born and raised in Delta state, Nigeria, Emmanuel grew up in a family that revered academic accomplishments above all else despite his natural passion to dance. In Nigeria, dancing is almost always left for the women or for men who are seen as having nothing else to offer. This made it an impossible idea for Emmanuel to harbor at such a time because expectations were already carved out for him on what a successful and refined gentleman should look like.
Emmanuel chose to become a lawyer and gained admission into the prestigious Benson Idahosa University, in the ancient city of Benin, Edo state, Nigeria at a young age of 14.
At 16, then in his third year at the university, he walked into a dance studio while accompanying a friend to get dance costumes and stumbled upon a dance rehearsal that changed his life forever. He walked into the studio a law student and came out an artist.
At 16, Emmanuel began to take dancing classes with 7 and 9 year old’s at the Marie Performing Arts Academy in Benin city. Not only he was taught by these kids on some training days, he never missed a day of rehearsals for his 3 years of training at the academy.
A year after he began training, he went on to win the Award for Most Improved Student at the Academy. At 18, and after years of legal study, he wrote and passed his bar exams, Emmanuel remained undaunted and developed into an excellent Lawyer and is currently working with a law firm.
“One of the most difficult choices that I had to make to fulfilling my destiny was to say no to family patterns, following my intuition, and going into the unknown.”
Over the years, he has creatively managed dance and law, two mutually exclusive fields and attained professionalism with both. After his qualification to practice law, he moved to another City in Nigeria and looked up to Calvin Royal III and Misty Copeland of the American Ballet Theatre, Desmond Richardson of Complexions Ballet, and Paige Fraser of Alvin Ailey for inspiration.
Considered a late bloomer, Emmanuel has performed at a host of competitions, concerts and productions. These include; Gods Children Great Talent 2017, Big Brother Naija Opening Night Ceremony of 2019, the World of Dance, West Africa hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, the MasterCard Dinner 2019 and the Save the Child Foundation Fund Raising hosted by D J Cuppy. The championship league cup city tour 2022, hosted by Heineken. One of the best moments of his career was when his Mentor who is well revered as Africa’s Foremost Dance Entrepreneur and Guinness World Record holder Kaffy, said she would love to dance with him.
“Emmanuel expresses dance in different genres of music. He has made dance more universal, and has made ballet accepted in the Nigerian music space. He brings perfection and artistry. He is very gracious and exudes so much grace in whatever stage he find himself in”
Omawumi, Nigerian singer-songwriter, Actress
He is the first and only African and Nigerian Ambassador for the Ballet wear brand, Ballet Rosa.
Emmanuel has been devoted to bringing dance to underserved Kids and youths across Africa, not just as a tool of expression but also a medium of emancipation from age-long constructs that limits the African child from exploring their artistic talents and dreams. To this end he is an international trainer with MindLeaps, an organization committed to bringing education to under-served kids through the creative arts. He has trained kids and teenagers in Rwanda, Guinea and also in Nigeria.
“As the Executive Director of Mindleaps, I’ve been thrilled to work with Emmanuel on three different occasions each of which has revealed both the level of artistry and the character of Emmanuel…he proved himself to be a competent dancer and a motivated learner”.
Rebecca Davis, Executive Director Mindleaps
Overcoming the stereotype of male dancers in Nigeria and starting out with discouraging nods from elders, Emmanuel has gone on to fly where his aspirations foresaw and beyond. Facing the changes in his life, by allowing himself to change through them, he is set to challenge the status quo placed by family and societal opinions, and educate the average Nigerian Child that anyone can look different, start late, with numerous odds against them, and still reach for the stars.
“My family deserves to see the light, that I am showing the world”