Winter 2023 In Dance

Uzo: Well, it’s not gonna be quick, hahaha! But, like, if you wanna – in Nigeria it’s about classism, the more approximate you are to the colonizer the more social class you have –

I’m Soooo glad we did! The trip itself is about 2 months long, right, so what’s the day to day gonna look like?

Nkeiruka: We’re starting off in Lagos where we’re gonna meet the group that we’re collaborating with, doing the exchange with, Ifeanyi Akabueze and his Okachamma Dance Troupe. But pretty quickly we’re traveling south east to four rural states where Igbo people and culture are – it would be like, landing in California and traveling to Mississippi, Atlanta. The daily activities are still find- ing themselves, but they’ll include dance and music work- shops with Igbo artists, visiting cultural and historical sites, cooking lessons, eating traditional foods, witnessing ceremonies and traditional rites –

Michael: Jesus….

Uzo: So, the way you speak, the way you supposedly dress, even if that’s not the way you are, it’s the respectability pol- itics that gets you in the room, right…? It’s unfortunate, but if we had one white person on this trip it would change the whole game in a certain way. It would get you into doors that – and you’re like, Why! It’s because there’s a white per- son or a Chinese person in the group. So, we do have a priv- ilege with our Americaness and so it’s like a double edged sword, AND, what side of the coin are we playing with?! So, as a woman, you add sexism to the classism… It doesn’t matter that I have Dr. Uzo Nwankpa in front of my name. If you don’t have MRS in front, you ain’t shit!

Michael: Wow!

Nkeiruka: – and meeting with indigenous Igbo cul- ture bearers, like crafts people, farmers, birthworkers, y’know….. We’ll start in Lagos and end there, and at the end we want to put on our own event, show our work and talk about this project… Michael: Amazing! Amazing! You’re making me wanna go so I can document the whole thing, hahahaha! Okay, give me three dreams you have for yourself or the trip…… Kanukai: I want to be able to complete the classes, not give up. Um, I want to capture pictures – I wanna be able to tell the story through photography, and I want to build connections with people that are beyond this short period of time that we’re there.

Nkeiruka: Marriage-ism!

Uzo: Yeah, marriage-ism! Hahahaha! I’m hella fuckin free when I’m outside Nigeria, but when I’m in Nigeria, that shit takes a hold of me. Michael: Before we met today, I asked you to think about what attitudes or ways of thinking from America that you wanted to take with you, and which ones you wanted to leave behind…?

musicians are seen as second class out there…. I hope this codifies me to stay the course, to not give up –

up in this way and for that I’m so full of gratitude. I hope it’s a colorful, dynamic, full of life experience. I wanna soak it in, drink it in…. Be with it all and feel alive! I have visions of working with small groups of young people moving together, vibing together – music, dance, and play, which is what we do here anyway, but to be doing it in our ancestral land is like, WOOOOOH! I’m excited to make connections with healers that use music and dance. Jameelah: One of the things I want to focus on is not to hold back. Sometimes I have exciting things come to me, but I find it hard to express that excitement. I dunno, I don’t want to hold back. Also, I really want to do a music project in 2023 and so I would love to connect with some creative folks that can help me do some stuff, and the third one is something around food. Nkeiruka: That there’s a bond with this group where noth- ing disrupts the process of our connection. Attached to that, we open up a pathway for other people to have this connection. I want people to see the value of what we’re doing, that they can stand in the power and the pride of this culture, this practice, these works, to say – dancers and

Ebonie: One thing I don’t want to take with me is that defense mechanism that Black Americans can have because we’ve been treated like shit. I feel like we automat-

There are other realities, other wisdoms, and it's so American to think that our way is the only way to function. I wanna leave that behind. – NKEIRUKA ORUCHE

Roshonda: I’ve got the third one! I wanna learn how we teach these traditions to our children… yeah, that’s what I’m hoping…. Is the past ever truly behind us? Rarely. Alongside us? Usually. Ahead of us? Unconsciously. Above us? Quite possibly. Nigeria, like much of Africa, is barely 60 years into its “independence.” It’s way too early to tell what it will become, but one thing’s for sure, there’s much to look for- ward to as long as we remember to remember, which, sadly, inevitably, is not as easy as it sounds. Says it all, doesn’t it….. MICHAEL FRENCH is originally from London, England and has been a theatre director, writer, and theatre arts educator for over 20 years. He has written the Ovation award winning play ‘The Rainy Season,’ collaborated with Tiger Lion Arts on the much acclaimed ‘The Buddha Prince,’ a walking play about the life of the Dalai Lama, and directed plays in London, New York City, and the Bay Area of San Francisco. Michael is a resident director for Play- ground, a resident artist for Oakland Theatre Project, and the artist develop- ment coach and director of creative writing classes for Afro Urban Society. He is currently writing his first collection of short stories entitled ‘Babble.’

Ebonie: : Imma go find my hus- band and git RICH!! Hahahahaha! Naaaah!!!! To go to Africa is a dream, to go as an artist was always a dream, so it feels like I’m already doing that. Um, like Kanukai said, being with Black women, not only Black women, but Black women doing

ically enter a space with this guard up, or like, in the beginning we’re trying to figure out who’s trying to play us, right! I mean, I’m gonna be on my toes, but I don’t wanna go in with that mindset. Jameelah: Yeah, I wanna go with a mentality of service.

the work – I wanna be like, free! It’s pretty simple. I don’t feel like that here. I just want to focus on Ebonie for damn near two months without all the madness, and see what I’m capable of doing, whatever it is….. Roshonda: Eat a lot and know how to cook food. Learn some Igbo and the third thing….? I have to think about that one…..

Nkeiruka: There are other realities, other wisdoms, and it’s so American to think that our way is the only way to function. I wanna leave that behind.

Roshonda: I wanna go and humble myself while I’m out there…

Michael: Man, I wasn’t expecting us to spend so much time outside the dance practice and Igbo traditions of the trip, but

Uzo: This is already the dream… This, um, traveling home could have gone any which way, but it’s showing


in dance WINTER 2023 24

WINTER 2023 in dance 25

In Dance | May 2014 |

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