Miah Nwosu (09) is dauntless. Pain couldn’t derail her love for ballet. A packed schedule doesn’t deter her passion. Even a pandemic didn’t keep her down. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising. After all, ballet requires both grace and strength. Nwosu has both.
Nwosu is the artistic director and co-owner of Scripps Performing Arts Academy (SPAA) and founder and artistic director of Scripps Ballet Theatre (SBT). Scripps Performing Arts serves more than 400 families in two locations – Scripps Ranch and Carmel Valley – both in San Diego County. The youth company of 24 advanced and committed dancers provides an opportunity for Nwosu to “steward those who are more serious.”
Nwosu grew up at the studio herself, dancing there from age 8 to 15 before performing with San Diego City Ballet. She worked at Scripps as a ballet teacher while she was a student at PLNU and became artistic director when she graduated in 2009. By 2015, she was co-owner.
Despite her success, Nwosu’s path has not always been easy. She initially moved to New York’s Lincoln Center after high school to pursue her dance education at Fordham University. Unfortunately, she was sidelined by back pain that proved difficult to diagnose and treat.
“I was miserable being out there and not dancing,” Nwosu said. She moved back to San Diego and attended Mesa Community College before initially transferring to San Diego State University. Once her back pain was under control, she joined a new contemporary ballet company but broke her foot during a dress rehearsal. Getting around the large SDSU campus on crutches proved overwhelming, and Nwosu ended up heading back to Mesa to take classes while focusing on dancing and working. During that time, she learned more about Point Loma Nazarene University and felt it might be a better fit for her. She worked with the transfer admissions staff on what classes to take and was able to transfer to PLNU in spring of 2006.
“By the time I was at Point Loma, I knew I wanted to spend my life teaching,” Nwosu said. “I thought about what would be of interest and useful to me. I had been taking pictures with an old SLR camera, and I’m obviously an artist, so I chose visual art with a photography concentration.”
In addition to pursuing her degree, Nwosu continued to work full time for SPAA. She initially came on as a ballet teacher and worked on developing a clear curriculum while growing the program and developing her choreographic voice. She rechoreographed the studio’s Nutcracker performance and also helped create new ballets. Her choreography credits include, Ballet Does the Rat Pack, Glazunov’s The Seasons, La Boutique Fantasque, a full-length ballet original of Thumbelina, several Contemporary Ballets and a re-staging of Coppelia, Prokofiev’s Cinderella and Grand Pas de Quatre, among others.
“I really loved my time at Point Loma,” she said. “I look back on it now, and I’m not sure how I did it. I graduated magna cum laude, and I don’t know how I did that while I was working.”
Nwosu thinks the welcoming atmosphere of the art department helped.
“Even though I was a transfer student and a little older than my classmates, everyone was really nice and welcoming,” she said. “The art department felt like family.”
“Even though I was a transfer student and a little older than my classmates, everyone was really nice and welcoming. The art department felt like family.”
She uses a lot of what she learned in her current position.
“I don’t think I would have gotten into the graphic design side without Point Loma, but I redesigned our website and created our logo. Now probably 25-30% of my day is creating flyers, working on our website, and doing other tasks that require those design skills,” Nwosu said.
Overall, Nwosu’s job entails a lot of variety.
“My day-to-day is pretty nuts if I do say so myself,” she laughed. “I work from home the first half of the day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then I go teach from 4 to 6 or even 9 or 9:30 p.m, if we have rehearsals. I respond to parent emails, update our social media, book theater dates, and do a lot of administrative things as well.”
Nwosu also prepares for and oversees the youth company’s artistic season, sometimes choreographing a new ballet, other times bringing something out of the vault. She schedules guest teachers and choreographers when needed. Though she doesn’t personally perform anymore, she does try to get into a movement class of her own when she can.
When Covid-19 caused disruption, Nwosu brought her creativity and tenacity to bear on behalf of her students. She and her partners moved 120 classes online from March to June of 2020. When they were able to return to in-person instruction with precautions, Nwosu did her research to help keep students safe. They spent a year with students working in 10×12-foot taped off squares in their 10,000 square-foot facility in Scripps Ranch. They also set up a $35,000 outdoor space complete with professional dance flooring under a tent. That space served dancers from August 2020 until June 2022. Scripps Ballet put on their performance of the Nutcracker outdoors with over 1,000 costume-coordinated masks, and they livestreamed it around the world.
“It was definitely an experience, but we came out stronger,” Nwosu said.
She and her partners even created an online curriculum called “ABC, Dance with Me!” that now serves as an enrichment program for 3- to 8-year-old dancers. They are working to expand it for the 10- to 16-year-old range as well.
Nwosu’s personal passion for dance began in her childhood. She started out in gymnastics, but a growth spurt made ballet a better fit. She connected with SPAA after participating in an outreach program the company offered at her elementary school. After the performance through that program, Nwosu started taking classes at Scripps.
“There’s something about being able to communicate with your body, the connection with the music, and having to be completely present in the moment,” she said. “I have a huge love of classical music that developed out of ballet. I don’t know if I would have developed that outside of the studio. There is also the community you find within your dance space … As a young person that sense of family outside your family house is really nice. Being able to provide that for generations of young people now has been really rewarding.”
“There is a community you find within your dance space … As a young person that sense of family outside your family house is really nice. Being able to provide that for generations of young people now has been really rewarding.”
Nwosu enjoys helping her students work on their college applications and ballet company audition videos. Scripps Ballet alumni are in diverse locations from the Estonia National Ballet in Europe to the University of California, Irvine, to New York University among others.
Nwosu also enjoys the opportunity to fundraise through Scripps Performing Arts for nonprofit organizations like Isabella’s Giraffe Club, a nonprofit supporting families with an infant in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Nwosu is a member of Newbreak Church Tierrasanta. At Point Loma, being in a faith-filled environment was important to her.
“I think my favorite class was Life of Holiness,” she said. “I enjoyed all of the readings and discussions. It wasn’t just ‘that GE class that I have to squeeze in somewhere.’ I really enjoyed chapel. I enjoyed all of the speakers. I liked the community aspect of it and having the spiritual side during the school day. I think the nice thing about attending a school that has a spiritual compass to it is that you can continue developing your relationship with God and really seeing how it fits within your life completely. I think that is something that Point Loma was really great about fostering overall.”
Passion, determination, education, hard work, and faith have been the fuel behind Nwosu’s success. Best of all, her success is a blessing and benefit to the countless dancers with whom she works.