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For many years I have been taking dance classes with Mama Kadiatou and her company Balafon West African Dance Ensemble. Recently they brought the spirit of Guinea to DC during DanceAfrica 2008 on Saturday, June 7. What amazing energy and strength!
Ever since I was young, I enjoyed dance. When I was growing up in India, I learned both garba and raas, folk dances from Gujarat and Bharatnatyam, classical dance from Tamil Nadu. Every Navratri we all danced garba and raas in large circles outdoors late into the night.
After moving to the U.S. I continued to take Bharatnatyam classes and started to take ballet as well. I was never very flexible, so even though I really enjoyed ballet I was never very good. Still I daydreamed about becoming a dancer.
Over the years I took modern dance, flamenco and other types of dance. It wasn’t till I moved to DC that I discovered West African dance. I saw Kankouran perform and I loved the energy, so I started taking classes. I could barely keep up with the class.
Later when I was at a local gym I started taking Kadiatou’s class. Wow, what energy! None of the other dance styles I had learned compared to the spirit and energy of Kadiatou’s class. She often lectured us about eating healthy, exercising and being strong. She was fierce and intimidating at times. I always admired her strength, grace, energy and spirit.
After all these years, she still has the same spirit. When I dance to the music from Guinea that she taught us, I feel an amazing energy. I still can’t do some of the steps, but I can keep up better than before. My face turns bright red after class, not from embarrassment, but from the movement and energy. I feel so much younger, stronger and alive after class.
I sing the songs that are now familiar to me, but still don’t know what they mean. Somehow I feel connected to the women who are singing the songs without knowing them or what they are saying. Many of the songs are about farming, courtship and community. I give thanks to Kadiatou for sharing her amazing energy, strength, wisdom and spirit. Check out the videos below to experience Kadiatou’s energy!