Najla Gilliam

I was born in Plainfield, New Jersey and raised in Scotch Plains New Jersey. I began dancing at the young age of 5 at Irby’s Dance Center in South Orange New Jersey. From there I traveled to a numerous amount of schools including Miss Kim’s School of Dance, Moderne Academie of Fine Arts and Broadway Dance Theater. Every studio that I attended supplied me the basic movements and knowledge in dance styles such as Ballet, Tap, Jazz, modern and Hip Hop. Though dance was always a constant in my life, it was not until my senior year of high school that I decided I wanted to pursue dance as my career. With the help and training by my mentor Ellen Smith, I was able to successfully attend The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA after high school. The University of the Arts expanded my understanding of Dance and introduced me to many new dance styles such as African, House, and improvisation. When I am not dancing I enjoy exploring other styles of art (photography, film, drawing etc.) and spending quality time with my friends and family. My mentor Ellen Smith has had a huge influence on the way I dance today. Ms. Smith has always believed in me though my training was not up to par when I first began as her student. The time that she took out her days to teach me not only technique but also the true meaning of dance is something that I will be forever grateful for. A saying that gets me through every day life is a section of a quote by Marianne Williamson which states, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.”