Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dance is Serious Business

Nigerians love to dance.  Just attend any wedding, naming ceremony, thanksgiving etc and you’re sure to be entertained with numerous dance styles.  Dancing is fun and entertaining, but it could also be a very rewarding professional career.  It is for Chris Thomas (YungChris) and James Colter (Cricket), two U.S. hip hop dancers that visited Nigeria recently to share their experience.

YungChris and Cricket visited Nigeria as part of 2013 activities to celebrate Black History Month.  February every year is set aside to celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to U.S. society.  During their visit the dancers held several master classes with aspiring dancers and students and held a grand performance to select audience.

The most exciting part of their trip was probably their classes with students.  They held classes with Theater Arts and Cultural Studies students at the Nasarawa State University, including a  briefing on the history of hip hop and how it has transformed over the years to what it is today.

They said hip hop has evolved – from street dance created by young black and Latino kids under 21 years – to a multi-billion dollar industry today.  These were under privileged kids who never had dance classes or training of any kind but what they started has become a worldwide phenomenon.

They explained that you don’t need money to create; all you need is time and effort.  They emphasized that if you take something you love to do and start it you can never know where it would get you.  Using their own stories as example they revealed that they started dancing out of love for it not knowing that it would take them places.  They also talked to the students about not only having talent but putting in the hard work that is needed for the talent to flourish.  This was reechoed by the Vice Chancellor of Nasarawa State University, Professor Shamsudeen Amali, himself a U.S. trained professor of Theater Arts.  Drawing from his experience as a student in the U.S. he said “what you see performed effortlessly on stage is usually the product of hours of work.”

Students of the university did not only learn from the American dancers but also showed the guests what they could do by putting together a performance of Nigerian traditional dance.  Cricket and YungChris showed the students how hip hop evolved from the 1960’s to date and at the end some of the students joined them on stage to learn new dance steps, which they performed to the pleasure of their fellow students and teachers.


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