Dancer Maria Akpan on Living Out Her Dreams for Thriller Live

John Michaels
4 min readSep 26, 2017


Dancer Maria Akpan

Michael Jackson once said, “Always believe in yourself. No matter who’s around you, being negative or thrusting negative energy at you, block it off. Because whatever you believe, you become.” Maria Akpan has only ever believed that she would become a professional dancer, and her unwavering passion to do so brought her just that reality. As a child, Akpan was enthralled by dancers like Michael Jackson, inspired by the way he moved and driven to refine her natural talents in such a way that would place her at the center of every stage she ever steps on. Her unprecedented combination of raw talent and sheer perseverance has earned her highly desirable jobs, dancing for world-renowned production companies and alongside some of the best talent the industry has to offer.

When Akpan chose to pursue a career as a professional dancer, she accepted the reality that she would have to work harder than most to soar to the top of her field. She feverishly pursued her dream and landed herself a wide variety of jobs. Whether she is dancing in music videos, like JayEss’ video for his hit song, Intoxicated or in productions like the Prince Revelation Tribute Show. In fact, for the Prince Revelation Tribute Show, Mark Anthony approached Akpan after stumbling upon her casting webpage. He was intrigued by her experience in the world of dance and her remarkable talents. He contacted her immediately and requested that she not only dance in the show, but also choreograph for it. One of the high points of her career; however, was when Akpan aced her audition to dance in Thriller Live. Her lifelong admiration for the Jackson family motivated her to seize the opportunity and she had the distinct pleasure of dancing like the people who inspired her to do what she loves unapologetically.

For Thriller Live, Akpan was tasked with dancing in eight shows per week: four shows between Tuesday and Friday, two shows on Saturday and two shows on Sunday. As well, being one of the show’s lead dancers required her to dance in each and every single routine that the show had to offer. She was also in several of the show’s solo pieces and in the front of most routines. Where some dancers may lose their momentum in such a high-intensity show, Akpan thrived. She is used to rising under pressure and her athletic ability place her ahead of her competitors. She is a natural-born performer and knows exactly what she needs to do to ensure that she brings her best performance for every performance.

In addition to the physical demands of Thriller Live, Akpan had to ensure that she did justice to one of her greatest idols and inspirations. She considered it an honor to carry on his memory in the way she knows best and was determined to do so with the utmost respect and dignity.

“Michael was well known for his timeless music, his unforgettable performances, and his unmatchable dance moves. Being a dancer in this show meant having to bring his music and his performances back to life. It was surreal and I wasn’t going to stop until I had mastered every single number,” said Akpan.

Fortunately for fans of Michael Jackson, the show was a tremendous success. Whenever Akpan lends her talents to any dance medium, she does so with a certain care and consideration that makes her an irreplaceable asset to every team she dances with. For Thriller Live, she saw first-hand what type of impact her dancing had on her audience and was showered with flowers, gifts and praise backstage after the show. Fans were eager to get autographs and photographs with her. For Akpan, however, praise and recognition are only a bonus to getting to do what she loves for a living and she would continue to do so even if it meant pleasing only a single audience member. Dancing in major shows like Thriller Live is her dream come true and to see it touching the lives of so many people makes it all the more worthwhile in her eyes.

Akpan’s stellar performance in Thriller Live earned her praise and recognition from more than just her audience members. After being in the show, she signed with an agency who were eager to work with her, which lead to several subsequent auditions and jobs. For those who work with Akpan, it is a pleasure to witness her in all of her glory. Jovanny Pichardo Almonte, who played Michael Jackson in the production, was grateful to work alongside such an incredible dancer.

“Maria has to be one of the most pleasant, hard-working talents that I have ever come across. Her commitment, dedication and talent are what set her apart from her peers. She has a hunger and a love for what she does that I truly admire,” told Almonte.

With a tremendous amount of experience under her belt, Akpan’s future as a professional dancer looks bright. She is eager to expand her skill set wherever possible and continue to teach dance workshops and choreograph for tours around the world. She loves the idea of testing out new territory in her field wherever possible and even hints at her desire to dance in a movie. Above all else, she is passionate about creating choreography that hasn’t ever been created before and to continue to shed her greatness all over the art form that is dance.