Wednesday, March 10, 2010

West African Dance Workshop with Djenba Sako

Monday night's workshop was awesome. This is not to say that I had a revolutionary learning experience, but I certainly had a revolutionary movement experience. To me, this is one of the nutshell-sized ways to explain why traditional African dance, while not 'pushing any boundaries,' has extreme value to offer to both trained dancers and novice dancers alike.

To begin with, the evening's teacher (Djemba Sako), a guest artist from Mali, brought with her a whole sense of authentic styling and teaching, both of which had a certain casual (I might say cool) flair. Despite the fact that she seemed to be operating through a language barrier, the detail and clarity in her body of experience was enough to communicate to us students exactly the way in which the movement should be executed.

Seeing videos and learning from a third party instructor are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in a craft when that is what is available. Even better is striving to supplement such learning with learning directly from the source, which is exactly what this opportunity provided. Dancing to the drumming of Fode Bangoura and the instruction of Djenmba was an incredible, exhilarating brush with authenticity.

The setting of the experience was perfect - a mirror-less studio in a community center that I had never even heard of (Sabanthi Community Center), and folks with whom I had never before danced. The newness of this community was invigorating for me; it was so exciting to discover that there are communities of dancers expressing themselves that I had not been aware of until putting myself into the middle. After my short-lived experience in Chicago, I pledged to myself that I would delve into excavating my information regarding what is happening for dance learning opportunities in the Twin Cities. I was pleasantly surprised to quickly find class opportunities in places that I had never before heard of - Central Do Brasil, Sabanthi, etc.

However, just uncovering information regarding these classes did not get me very far. Yes, it was exciting to gather the knowledge, but it took experiencing one of these opportunities in person for it to really sink in how intricate and exciting our dance community can be, with its multiple, far-reaching arms.

After Monday night, I am definitely going to make a more concerted effort to get myself out to more of the unfamiliar and exciting dance opportunities in our great cities.

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