BEIRUT: Move by move, Charles Makriss, who is now 37 years old, danced his way to a successful life by doing what he loves despite the criticism.
Growing up in a Lebanese family with Greek origins, then-5-year-old Makriss started dancing Zeibekiko and Kalamaci, by feeling the music and watching his relatives’ dance moves. He was also inspired by his grandmother’s Cuban dancing style.
But that wasn’t enough for him. Makriss was later on mesmerized by the Hip Hop style of Vanilla Ice, Michael Jackson, and MC Hammer. He started dancing that way in the streets, and teaching children in his neighborhood how to groove.
“At first I was just a little child unconsciously moving his body. With time, I became aware of the talent I have and my strong passion for it. In the streets, we were like a Hip Hop crew who lived in their own world detached from reality,” said Makriss.
In 1997, the artist Michel Elefteriades discovered Makriss’ talent after seeing him dance in the streets, which prompted him to invite the dancer to dance in one of his shows.
However, the following years were a phase for Makris away from his passion.
In 2000, he joined the army and then left to work as a delivery boy in 2001. Nevertheless, since the music is “in his blood,” he started singing rap songs along with his friend; they called themselves “Militia Beirut.”
“That was a transformation phase for me; I became more disciplined and I shifted my path toward a mature mindset. Yet, one day, I told my friend: I’m going to leave everything I’m doing now to dance; that’s all I want to do,” he told Annahar.
Because of his determination to do what he loves, Makriss started teaching Hip Hop in several clubs whose owners were amazed by his eccentric moves.
Then, the talented dancer entered the show business by participating in music videos and advertisements.
He auditioned for a Rahbani play where Debbie Allen, a famous American dancer, was the judge. The judge was dazzled by Makriss’ performance and gave him the role.
In 2010, he performed in the LA Hip Hop Dance Intensive festival organized by Dave Scott, who is famous for being the choreographer of the dance movies “You got served” and “Step up 2.” There, he met Debbie Allen again and she asked him to teach and choreograph the festival in the following year.
“I felt a great pleasure to be teaching the Americans their own dancing style; it was as if an American is teaching us Dabke,” he said.
After that, Allen advised him to start his own dance school. So, after 6 months, he started one and called it “Makriss Dance Ministry,” where he and his old students taught all types of dancing.
Makriss is behind the choreographies of many celebrities’ dances, like Najwa Karam, Saad El Mjarred, Assi Al Hallani, Elissa, Haifa Wehbe, and Cheb Khaled.
He recounted how he choreographs.
“I sometimes get inspired by paintings or by incidents. One of my favorite places to contemplate is my room, where I used to practice dancing as a teenager,” he said.
In 2014, due to his many years of experience, Makriss was chosen to be the judge on the Arabic version of “So You Think You Can Dance.” He noted that he based his judgment on factors like musicality, originality, talent, team harmony.
Despite his multiple successful moments, Makriss’s favorite memory remains one.
“In one of the LA Salsa festivals, the host announced my solo show: ladies and gentlemen, welcome Charles Makriss from Lebanon. No one clapped and I almost cried. Still, I hit the stage and showcased my talent. When I finished my show, the crowd gave me a standing ovation and applauded. At that moment, I had goosebumps,” he said.
Makris advises rising dancers to be committed and to practice, as he believes these are the keys to success.
“If you can walk, you can dance. Do what you feel is right and disregard the criticism. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, you will succeed. Walk against the flow if you have to,” he told Annahar.
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