April 25 2012

Issie’s Ethiopian Visit Blog

Dancer group Ethiopia

by Issie Lloyd, Dance Development Worker

‘So where do I begin? … My visit to Addis Ababa was AMAZING! For the very short period I had there it felt like I’d had an eternity of experiences! Addis was filled with the most beautiful, warm, kind-hearted, passionate people. Everyone I met was incredibly welcoming and eager to learn every inch of what I had to offer.

I taught a variety of groups. The main group were at the Gemini Trust, made up of a combination of dancers, most from the Adugna Community Dance Group. We spent one week purely on funk, living it large with the social dances and locking techniques and the following week I taught Capoeira. The beauty of teaching these guys was sharing the masses amount of energy they had to give! An example was when there was a power cut (a common thing which happens in Addis), we realised we didn’t need the music when we can make sound effects ourselves! So for the following hour and half we jammed away, creating percussion noises with our bodies, screaming and shouting out our own versions of what we called ‘funk music’! Highly amusing for anyone who was standing near the dance studio I’m sure. The energy that was created in this class was electric! We never failed to have fun! We would stream a Soul Train (as always) at the end of each session, which this group in particular couldn’t get enough of! They were possibly the funkiest movers I’ve come across yet, pretty impressive seeing as they had never done funk before. We started putting a dance piece together ready for the group to perform on my last day there to share to friends and family what they had learnt during my time in Addis Ababa.

The following week I taught the same group some Capoeira, which was great! This was my first time teaching Capoeira and so the experience was new to me also. At the end of the session we would get the drums out, and I would teach the clapping rhythm that would need to take place during the ‘Roda’ and taught the group some Capoeira songs. This was one of my favourite moments during my visit. As we sung Brazilian Portuguese songs together, me leading, the group following, it was beautiful – a moment where we all united together through the power of singing in another language. With no surprise the group were naturals at Capoeira, able to pick up the simple movements, dodges and attacks. They never fretted over anything I threw at them and were always eager to give everything a go!

Amongst the other classes I taught, one of them was at the Addis Ababa Government Building Theatre and Culture Centre! I taught around twenty dancers there for two sessions. Some of these were from the Ethiopian Idol winning group ‘HAHU’ Dance Company. They were an absolute pleasure to teach and grasped everything I taught. I just wish I’d had more time to give out there!

I also watched some dance rehearsals and performances to share support and gain extra knowledge on the surrounding dance scene. I went along to a space after practice one day, where three different groups were jamming in the dark and without music due to the power cuts! Now that’s what I call passion! In one corner was an open cypher, where people were jamming all different styles such as bboying/bgirling, krump and hip hop. In another corner there was an all-girl group of traditional Ethiopian dancing and in the third corner was a group of dancers who were making phenomenal noises with their bodies, hands and feet! It was like a scene from a movie! Obviously I decided to jump into the cypher corner and have a jam in the circle. Everyone was stomping their feet, shouting and clapping their hands. We even got the lights on our phones flashing for extra effect. At this moment I realised that you all you need around you is good energy and people with thoughts alike in order to have a good time! Material things are not that important.

I also went to watch some contemporary dancers rehearsing at The Goethe Institute in preparation for a performance that would take place for the institute’s 50th birthday. The dancers involved were from a variety of dancing backgrounds, some from Adugna, HAHU Dance Company and others were independent artists. It was great watching these guys improvise through the instruction of their guest choreographer from South Africa. The group were very playful and included a variety of styles – traditional, tai chi, hip hop, contemporary and elements of capoeira music were involved also. I loved seeing how the group interacted and involved props and comical aspects to the development of the piece. It is a shame that I won’t get to see the final piece performed in a few weeks but I am wishing them the best of luck!

During my stay I met up with two lovely dancers – Kim Leng who is from New Zealand and currently living in Addis Ababa and Saba Brosuner who is currently living in Addis Ababa also but had previously spent time in London. We decided to combine our different styles and set up an evening of workshops for anyone and everyone to take part for free! We found a venue in an area called Ladeta, where the owners were very happy to help. The workshops included Locking, Feminine Hip Hop (‘Ghettos in Stilettos’ was the aim, but nobody brought heels!) and bboying/ bgirling. The evening was a huge success – we had near to 60 people involved! The atmosphere was great and everyone got stuck in. I made a great friendship with these girlies and will definitely be keeping in touch and checking on how the Addis dance scene is growing.

Due the success of the project at this venue, we decided to hold the Gemini groups’ performance there also. We opened the performance with a cypher for everyone to join in … this worked a treat. Everything and anything was happening in the middle of the circle! Everyone was clapping and cheering each other on. When the performance started, the group got stuck in and before you knew it were getting their clothes covered in dirt and dust throughout the floor section (woopsy, my bad, the group were not amused!) They relaxed into it and really made me proud. As usual, we ended with a soul train to finalise this amazing showcase of talent!

What can I say … my visit to Addis Ababa was truly magical. I met some amazing people and had the best experiences! Everyone there was so eager to learn and passionate to succeed in what they love. There was no competition or fuss over who was better than who, they were all happy to be true to themselves and support one another. I am convinced I was Ethiopian in a past life! I will most definitely be heading out there again!!! A HUGE thanks to Valley and Vale and the funders who allowed this opportunity to take place, and special thank you to Tracy Pallant for inviting to be part of this trip! Or as the locals would say: Ameuseugenallo!’