The British Council on Wednesday gave the press a taste of the iceberg during a sneak preview of Dis Fix; a ground-breaking and unique dance performance scheduled to take place at the Muri Okunola Park on the 16th and 17th of October. This festival is characterised by new innovations and a great commitment of the British council to promote partnership and friendship between UK / Nigeria creative practitioners because “friendship is beautiful” says Collin Price, the Country, Director British Council in her remarks.
The sneak preview showcased three different dance performance: Iwalewa by the Q Dance centre, led by Qudus Onikeku, Nisonilojo by Ijodee Dance troup led by Dayo Liadi and “Study for C” by Candoco Dance Company from the UK led by Pedro. All of these presentations have something unusual to the Nigerian audience in common; they all celebrated and brought to limelight the ingenuity of the Disabled and Non-Disabled dancers.
Qudus piece titled Iwalewa focused on human nature, placing character as a major value that defines real beauty according to the Yoruba race. This performance set the mood for the entire presentations with energetic dancers and life band. Lekan is a dancer to watch out for in Iwalewa.
The second performance by a duo featured Daniel Daw and Mariam from the Uk-Candoco Dance Company is a story of a couple who had a clash, tried separating but just could not because of the deep affection and love they both have for each other.
Dayo’s piece, featuring Dayo himself and two disabled dancers; Toyin and Alapanla addressed a topical issue, looking at the essence of cooperation, togetherness and collaboration. This is in-line with the central theme of the festival. The dance focused on togetherness and cooperation as key to growth and development. The level of professionalism in the three performances cannot be overemphasised with the mastery of the use of space, body language, facial expressions, and appropriate use of music to set the tone, mood and pace.
I was really impressed with the kind of energy and dexterity exhibited by the Nigerian Disabled Dancers who were performing for the first time as compared to Daniel, also a disabled but has several years of dance experience with the Candoco; a renowned dance company in the UK with several national and international productions, created by world class choreographers together with their cast of disabled and non-disabled dancers.
In an interview with Pedro, the Artistic Director of Candoco, he also expressed his deep satisfaction with the outcome of the collaboration and commended the Nigerian dancers. Nigerians have great energy he said. He went further to talk about the different workshops he had with Qudus and Dayo when he came to Nigeria in May 2015 and how impressed he was with the zeal with which these two professional dancers took up the challenge of working on a project, fussing Disabled and Non-Disabled Dancers in a contemporary dance performance which cumulated into the Dis Fix project.
In a chat with Daniel before the performance. I asked how he has been able to manage as a dancer and the challenges confronted? He responded by saying, it’s not a challenge at all, the most important thing is to have a good knowledge of your body and know the movement that best works with your disability to bring the best out of you as a dancer. That exactly was what Dayo and Qudus did with the Nigerian dancers.
Qudus who has been out of the country for over 10 years as a professional dancer also shared his experience working on this project being his first major work in Nigeria. Qudus said, it was very easy working with the dancers and smiled. The smile communicated something easy and at the same time not easy. In terms of approach, Qudus said, he explored more of improvisational approach in bringing the best out of his dancers, meaning they had a level of freedom in expressing themselves through dance in their own way. Qudus however did a lot of work arranging and bringing the dance to that level of professionalism.
Contrary to Qudus, Dayo did not find it easy at all, he said he actually sustained an injury in the process of creating the piece. He said, it was his first time of exploring dance and choreography in this context and it was a great learning experience; it was a cross-fertilisation of knowledge. He said, his concentration as a dancer over the years was on the lower part of the body with emphasis on the legs and the waist movement but working with Toyin and Alapanla exposed him to the movement of the upper part of the body. He went further to say that, the experience exposed him to how the physically challenged listen to music, process it and move to rhythms. That is something you need to learn to effectively work on a project like this, he concluded.
The British Council should be commended for initiating such a collaboration between UK and Nigerian artists. This is a brilliant idea which further advances the concept of globalisation through cross-cultural exchange. The sustenance of a laudable project like this calls for private and public participation in terms of funding. Hopefully, you will be motivated enough to invest in a project like this after seeing the performance this evening and tomorrow.
For more details on the Dis Fix and other events in the UK/Nigeria 2015-2016 festival, visit the British Council website.