Iziegbe “Izzy” Odigie’s has choreographed for many super stars of African descent such as Tiwa Savage, Jidenna, Mr. Eazi, Innoss’B, Sho Madjozi, Davido, Moonchild Sanelly, Wizkid and Yemi Alade. She co-choreographed and appeared in an episode of the popular American TV show -Empire.
She shares weekly secrets on breaking into the industry with her 78,000 YouTube channel subscribers. Just 23, she is taking the world by storm as one of the most popular faces in contemporary African dance.
Within 6 years, Odigie has gone from high school to teaching classes and judging dance battles during a 10-day tour of Japan.
With inspiration from South Africa, she created Ukukhasa – a Xhosa and Zulu word for a baby’s crawl—dance – in Ghana. Ukukhasa has been incorporated into dance routines in South Korea, Russia and Canada.
Her dilemma: ““I feel pride and also a part of me feels scared. “I was crazy with my vision. I just knew this was gonna be big but couldn’t explain why. Back in 2014, people were saying Afrobeats is a trend and it would just pass. … Six years later, it’s still a thing, and that’s just like a pat on the back [to me].”
Afrobeat (now popular evolving into Afropop) dance has become very large – spreading globally and compelling other world stars to romance the dance genre. Heavyweights like Beyoncé, Akon, Chris Brown and Janet Jackson have recently incorporated Afrobeats dance routines into their trade-craft.
She dances around the world choreographing for the stars and popularizing her own reinterpretations of contemporary dance moves — riding one the pulsating wave of Afrobeats surging popularity.
NYC Choreography Class With Izzy Odigie
She was born in Brooklyn to a businessman and a nurse and raised partly in her family’s native Benin City from age 3.
As a toddler, she ‘stole’ the spotlight by being the highlight of all eyes when she joined her older brother’s kindergarten graduation procession — and refused to leave.
In boarding school in Nigeria she got into dance through Galala – a dance form popular in Lagos, Nigeria in the 1990s and 2000s – developed by local reggae musicians.
Melody Hassan, Nigeria’s on-air personality says with 105.1FM says: “Female dancers [like Odigie] are the muse of the game. Eighty percent of the time, Afrobeats artists are eulogizing a woman’s physical attribute [or body movement]. There is a natural symbiosis between the music and the dancers, almost like one can’t do without the other.”
When she returned to the U.S. to continue her education, jokes about her accent and poise challenged her identity. “When I first went back to Nigeria, I was seen as a foreigner. And coming back (to the US), it was like I was standing out again. I wanted to go through school without crying every day, so I had to adapt and kind of suppress a little bit of who I was.”
After trying to mix and feel among in the U.S for some time, her career received a fresh and unstoppable boost when her mother returned from a trip to Nigeria with a pirated party mix CD.
One of the songs in the mix reactivated her deep reconnection with her roots. The lid had been taken off the steaming soup pot and the meal is ready and the guests are salivating – she’s reborn and continues to shine to date.
Izzy and mom
In August 2017, a viral video of her acrobatic dance moves outside a Brooklyn subway stations shot to global prominence.
Thereafter, she’s on a five-city U.S. tour that paid well enough for her to donate to a charity working to resolve a water crisis in Sierra Leone.
Two years later, her electric performance of the high-octane zanku dance in a monochrome outfit inspired by the Mortal Kombat video game character Raiden broke the internet. This time, it was at a sold-out Apollo Theater concert for singer Burna Boy.