April Nakaima
is the Director of Nakaima for Dance and Health. She began her professional career as a choreographer and has worked in the last 4 years in health research and evaluation of health programs. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of California, Irvine. Her main professor and thesis chair was the distinguished choreographer Donald McKayle. Her written thesis explored the hemispheric specialization of the human brain in relation to the choreographic process. Nakaima’s Bachelor of Arts degree is from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her main influences in dance theory, aesthetics, composition, and injury prevention have come from Ruth Solomon, Betty Walberg, Shirley Wynne, Marcia Sakamoto, Martin Kravitz, Kay Clark Raine, Scott Clark, Gus Solomons Jr., and Betty Jones.

In research, April worked at the Research Unit in Health Behaviour and Change at the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Her skills are in evaluation, writing, and literature review. She recently co-authored “Ten Steps to Making Evaluations Matter” published in the journal Evaluation and Program Planning. Her main research interests are in the pathways by which dance and arts can impact health and social outcomes. In an age of accountability, there’s increased pressure to develop evaluation systems to measure the value of dance and arts to society. Much of Nakaima’s recent work addresses this challenge.

April has choreographed over 40 concert works. Many of her commissions have been through universities and colleges, including the University of California at Davis (4 commissions), Monterey Peninsula College, Salisbury State University in Maryland. In 2004 while teaching at Northern Virginia Community College, Nakaima started a performance group with 12 dancers and received funding support from the City of Fairfax Commission for the Arts and partnership with the Ernst Cultural Center as its resident company.

Later in Scotland, April taught classes for older adults (ages 60-92+) through the Outreach Programme of Dance Base, Scotland’s National Dance Center. She was invited to perform with her class for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2008. She also taught classes for children, with emphases on artistic expression, development, and health promotion.

April was born and raised in Hawaii, is of native-Hawaiian, Okinawan, Scottish, Portuguese, English and Chinese descent, and graduated from the Kamehameha Schools. She has performed for Pamela Sandridge Jazz Dance Company in Honolulu; Crash Burn and Die Dance Company in Santa Cruz, California; Moving & Storage Performance Group in Santa Cruz; TrunkCo in San Francisco; and Moving Arts in Los Angeles. April danced original soloist roles as the Image of Frida Kahlo in Sombra y Sol by Donald McKayle; the Chosen One in Rite of Spring by Bobbie Wynn Bolden; Telestes in Telestes … Fragments of a Dream by James Penrod; and in Saturday Morning Cartoons by Sherri Segovia. April also performed as a singer-dancer in Actor’s Equity, Disney, and regional productions – lead roles included Rizzo in Grease, Morales in A Chorus Line, and Ruby in Dames at Sea.

April in pink

Seniors from Dunedin-Canmore Housing Association dance to choreography by April Nakaima and music by Artie Shaw at Dance Base, Edinburgh, 2008