Luam Keflezgy has been dancing her whole life. But it was in her 20s that she realized that she could turn her hobby into an actual career that would lead her to working on videos and tours with the likes of Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, and Janelle Monae. “Dance is the one element in the world like no other I have seen. It can reach the smallest corners of the world,” she tells OkayAfrica. “It is a deeply personal and shared exercise that I'm lucky to help create for.” Indeed, this Eritrean-born choreographer and artistic director dreamed she would be a doctor at one point, even finishing all of her medical school prerequisites during her undergraduate days at the University of Pennsylvania.
“After I graduated and decided to take time off before med school, I got a corporate job, “ she says. “While working in IT, I [was] immersed into the world of dance every day after work. I was consumed by the art and I decided to change course to pursue dance and choreography.” Keflezgy says she brings her Eritrean heritage into much of the work that she does. And it can be seen most evidently in her choreography for Beyoncé’s “Who Runs The World (Girls)” music video, which was released to much fanfare in 2011. She admits that that particular project helped her connect her passion for dance with what it means to be an Eritrean woman.
“I was asked to choreograph for the biggest artist on the planet for a female anthem. In that moment I knew, without agenda and only instinct, that I had to bring my Eritrean culture to it,” she explains. “I want my Eritrean culture to be synonymous with my work and ascension.”
She continues: “I choreographed the power of the women in my culture into a dance performed by the biggest force in music at the time. It was my way of reconciling my departure of what my culture expected of me (medicine) with a path they didn't understand (dance). And I did it in a way that would make them proud and take ownership.”