When I first heard Qudus Onikeku had put together a dance event called Dancing Cities, I was curious. Not just curious enough to attend. See, I had watched the man perform on two occasions, first time I thought I was just tired from a long day of activities. The second time I confirmed what somewhere deep inside I already knew: I was a bush girl, contemporary dance – I think that’s what it’s called – held no fascination for me; I didn’t understand the oohs and aahs. I applauded as loud as every though. I did not want to come and expose my life outside.
So, to travel all the way from Lagos mainland, past third mainland bridge to the island – you guys know that is like going from one state to another – for something I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, I hoped that I was wrong and a year in Lagos had somehow turned me into a sophisticat.
From the fact that the first song the dj played after my arrival was Jason Dumelo’s Wiggle, to the groups I spied at the back of the stage: kids and teenagers in matching outfits and haircuts my mum would sigh at and say ‘Children of nowadays’, I knew I was going to have fun.
The show proper had musical performances to which I paid scant attention. I am not a fan of Nigerian ‘upcoming artists’ at the moment. I did notice that most of them were from the area in Eti-Osa, and so the people in the audience from the area showed them a lot of support, singing along, hailing and applauding when they came on and off the stage.
There was Olu Shanko doing a mime of Tupac’s End of Time, Lumide doing a rap in Yoruba I think was titled Street Boy or SOS. 360 Degrees did what I am not sure was singing. There was a lot of jumping around on and off the stage and dangling bling bling. Okay, I was paying some attention.
I didn’t mind the swamp smell at the primary school venue for Dancing Cities. In fact it reminded me what the project was about: bringing dance to the streets; providing a platform of young talented dancers to show their stuff to an audience from within and outside their locale. There were quite a number of foreigners in the audience, including myself. Yes. I am a foreigner, a visiting dignitary from the mainland (if it pains you, bite me, I can call myself whatever I like).
With names like Storm Rockers, the Ambassadors, Faint Dance Group, Success Performance Art Company, the dancers were really good. It was easy to see that a lot of work had gone into the preparation. There was a lot of fusion of hip hop and Nigerian dance styles; traditional dance and break dance. And contortion.
A word about contortionists. I have only seen them on tv before. I always thought there was film trick involved. The teenagers I saw don’t have bones. Their performance came with a ‘thou shalt not try this at home’ warning. I kept waiting for a shoulder to pop. Thankfully that didn’t happen but I have added something else to my do not watch list. I’m not sure my heart can take it. The group’s name was David’s Generation.
No matter how times passes, I am fascinated by traditional dance in its pure form: the costumes, the energetic movements, the storytelling, the harmony of the drums and other local instruments. Maybe in some way I am guilty of not wanting things to change.
I am biased in the favour of kid dancers. Put me in a panel judging a dance competition and I’d give it to the kids every time. And the kids of Star Kids ranging from ages 7 to maybe 11 were good. I have been trying to do the 1, 2 step for 11 years and haven’t gotten it right. These kids remembered a five-minute long routine. My awe comes from my inability to dance. Don’t judge me.
Stage management was good; most of the dancers knew what they were doing. A dance concert in Naija is never complete without an MJ performance so we had Dami Jackson do Thriller; the MC was just a yeye boy (that is a compliment). Jojo Body Beat blew my mind. Making music with your body using a serving spoon and turny garri should be outlawed.
The show started over an hour behind schedule; there is always that one group that decides the stage is the best place to have their rehearsals; the timing was off in some of the performances, so what? There was a lot of energy and excitement, the kids were happy. That’s what dance does, it leaves you with something. And for the young people at that event, it gave them a voice.
#DancingCities was organised by QDanceCentre with support from several organisations and media platforms.
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