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Determined Dancer Aims to Dance On

Umi Photo by
Umiko Nakamura Photo by Tarrah Gibbons

Northern California native Umiko Nakamura, better known, as “Umi,” a freshman dance student at Columbia College Chicago, is adjusting to Chicago’s dance scene.

Born in Mountain View, California, Nakamura developed her passion for dance in Los Angeles, where she started out in hip-hop dance classes. In middle school she added tap, jazz and ballet to her repertoire.

Nakamura was admitted to the junior dance company at San Marino Dance Academy in San Marino, California, which allowed her to perform in many events and made her a stronger dancer.

She went on to perform in Disneyland parades and  was on the ABC Christmas Special.

[pullquote]“I was very commercial in LA, ” Nakamura said. “That’s the scene there.”[/pullquote]

Columbia College, which is well known for its modern dance program, has given her more freedom to express herself through dance.

Alternating from the commercial world of dance to the program at Columbia has been challenging, but Nakamura’s hard work and dedication helps her get through it.

Nakamura has performed in many dance performances at Columbia, including Paige Cunningham’s freshman dance piece, the 90s show held at Columbia, Columbia’s Spring Open House and many others.

One of her most memorable performances was when she performed for Carrie Hanson at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Classical ballet has always been a pleasure for Nakamura and while she enjoys the genre she says it will remain a hobby because of the strict height and weight requirements ballet imposes.

“I’ll never do classical ballet because of my body,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura said to be successful as a dance major, you have to be good at all the different types of dance. By having a foundation in each, she added, the stronger the dancer the student will become.

Andrea Torres, a dance major at Columbia, said Nakamura is a very hard worker in class.

“She is the most determined dancer in the class,” Torres said.

Torres sees Nakamura dancing in a professional company and believes her dedication will allow her to achieve whatever she wants.

Another classmate, Jacob Buerger, said he admires Nakamura’s perseverance and love for dance. Buerger said Nakamura’s strength as a dancer will get her far in whatever she hopes to do.

“Whenever she has trouble with a motion, she quickly asks a professor for help,” Buerger said.

For her part, Nakamura said she is inspired by her fellow dance students and describes them as her “dance family.”

In the future, Nakamura hopes to be a professional dancer in the company Ballet X, a professional contemporary ballet company in Philadelphia.

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