Navaji David Nava
Navaji David Nava
Artist, dancer, musician, model, makeup artist, choreographer
I am on a path of self-realisation, welding my personal shine and expression. My aim in life is to leave things better then I found them, to be a catalyst for positive change, inner alchemy and good vibes. I work as an artist in many mediums, as a professional ballet dancer and I’ve been a teacher and life coach for the past 10 years.
I came into this world. Navajo David Nava: a bright-eyed boy with the curiosity of a cat and his heart on his sleeve.
The son of a single Latin household from McAllen, Texas, I grew up in an environment where the traditional values of my grandparents—which were centred around hard work, educational achievement, and good manners— harmonised well with the emphasis that my parents placed on creative expression. My grandfather, a family farmer (literally and figuratively) wanted nothing more than to see his children and grandchildren succeed. Every time I visited, he would ask: “Mijo, are you getting good grades? You know nothing is more important than a good education.” And, each time we parted ways, he would repeat: “I want you to be getting A’s and B’s!” and then pause, “Sometimes C’s for Canales.” My parents filled the house with music. They listened to great orchestral works and influential artists from their time, and every year, at Christmas, they took us to the McAllen Ballet Studio production of The Nutcracker. I was the boy who was always dancing around the house and singing, still making things and getting my hands dirty. It was in this family atmosphere—composed of equal parts hard work, exploration, play, and love—that I developed the artistic and intellectual drives that enabled me to take on the challenge of becoming the professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer that I am today. As I embark upon the next phase of my development—it is my family (their core values and unflagging support) that provides me with the encouragement and confidence to merge my worlds of art and education in the pursuit of a stronger future.
I have been a successful dancer, teacher, and choreographer for nine years now; though, my interest in dance did not flower until I was a teenager. When I was ten years old, my father suffered a severe stroke. His illness left my mother to take the lead in our family, and her amplified parental role in the face of tragedy ignited a closer bond and friendship between us. This connection gave me the confidence to finally voice my interest in dance and, a few months before my thirteenth birthday, she enrolled me in McAllen Ballet Studio. With my mother’s blessing, I began my career in dance with an abundance of passion and a lot to learn. As Richard d’Alton, director of Mcallen Ballet Studio, put it: “He spent his first year training with my mother, Jill d’Alton...He walked into his first ballet class in his tennis shoes!” I was uninitiated, but at home. Jill gave me my first pair of ballet shoes and sewed them for me as I watched— the care she took to set me up recalled the actions of my mother and grandmother and planted more seeds of loving-kindness and confidence in my pursuit of dance. I was soon put on scholarship at the studio to relieve the financial burden on my family. Performing studio chores in exchange for instruction naturally built structure into my sense of character. Every two months, or so, the studio would put on a new show, performing classical excerpts, full-length ballets, and original works, with professional guest artists and professors of dance. McAllen Ballet Studio was truly a diamond in the rough, and it provided me with unique opportunities to become a well-rounded dancer.
In my freshman year of high school, I made the decision to switch to Premier High School, where I could balance my academics with my dance schedule. Studying at an accelerated pace gave me the extra time to train sooner in the day. This atypical educational program made for a very unique high school experience, but the pros outweighed the cons, as I was continually being presented with stronger performance roles and opportunities. To my dismay, just before I turned sixteen, the studio relocated to Houston. It was the kindness and generosity of Lena Winkel that kept my dancing going. On weekends, she flew her daughter and me to Houston to continue training with our mentors, and this led to auditions that offered chances at a career in ballet after I turned sixteen. Graduating early from Premier was the only way I could achieve this goal. I worked diligently, and two months before graduation I was met with an invitation, accompanied by a certificate of achievement from the State of Texas, to represent the state of Texas and the United States in an International Ballet Competition in Budapest, Hungary. When I returned, I accepted a contract as a Corps de Ballet member with the Sarasota Ballet.
At sixteen, I graduated and moved to Florida to live on my own. I learned to be my own parent, to have the responsibilities of a professional adult, and to raise myself during a time when I truly started coming of age. Drawing on all that I came from, I created a responsible, creative, and nurturing environment of my own in which I could become myself authentically. Years after my initial move to Florida, a series of injuries to my feet necessitated that I leave the company at the end of my third season. I found jobs as a guest dancer, teacher and choreographer—working with hundreds of students
and a local contemporary company. No longer bound to a rigid performance schedule, I began to explore worlds beyond dance. I met my closest friend Anthony at a meditation class that he lead, and through that friendship doors opened that introduced physical and mental care, self-awareness practices, acts of service, spiritual healing modalities, and philosophical and spiritual concepts that would be the catalyst for my deepest self-work, my teaching approach, artistic expression and a newfound sense of purpose in life.
When the time came, I made a move to Houston, Texas—bringing with me all that I have learned to help as my younger brother, Josef, got through the last year of college. The move put me in closer physical proximity to my family, as well as The University of Texas at Austin. I returned, in many ways, to my roots, and the cosmos opened up and said: “It’s never too late.”
David Nava, the bright-eyed kid from South Texas with his feet on the ground and head in the clouds, went off to be shaped by the lessons of life. He left to lose the mental construct of himself and the world around him and then to rediscover it. Now, I have a plan, and a vision to influence positive change and I work every day to bring my dreams to fruition.
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