Returning, deeply inspired by the dances & music of La Guinea

 

I recently completed my first trip to a beautiful and diverse land where so many traditions of dance, music and song have been birthed and re-birthed, and continue…

My new year 2012 began in the West African country of Guinea where I spent the month of January studying under incredible master dancer and teacher, Youssouf Koumbassa. Youssouf welcomed 16 international students and an abundance of Guinean & Senegalese artists into his home, Bagatai, a center for percussion & dance located in Nongo, on the outskirts of the capital, Conakry.

"Welcome to Bagatai" reads the sign over the gate

First glimpses... the mural on the patio walls

A voice I will never forget

In each moment of every day at Bagatai rhythm, song and dance seemed to permeate the very air. At any given hour one might take in the sounds of conversation in 5-10 different languages, acoustic instrumental accompaniment, feet stomping ground syncopated with buoyant jumps and spins, voices in song coming from deep and soulful lungs, and of course the ever-pounding heartbeat of the drums invigorating your every cell.

Morning sun filters through with the rhythms, reaching deeply into our bones...

...on the patio at Bagatai where our 3 classes daily were held.

 

Vual de la Marié, Kindia

 

Although the majority of the month was spent in vibrant classes on the patio at Bagatai, we were taken on weekend voyages to see the surrounding countryside as well.

On one of these voyages we stayed in the mountain town of Kindia, where we had classes next to a breathtaking waterfall. Quite a change from 95 degrees in the shade in Nongo.

Super talented drummers travelled with us and accompanied all of our classes

 

 

We also visited Bantouryah, and the piece of land where Yousssouf plans to build the Nimba Center for Art & Sustainable Energy, an “off-grid training center in dance and renewable energy that will also serve as an artist retreat and performance space”. Fantastic!

On the island of Roume we had dance classes in the sand and were tested on all that we had learned…

Roume island, another beautiful place to be alive

 

Some may call it sweat but I know better. My pores cry tears of joy when I dance!

Having dived so deeply into the long awaited journey and been completely engulfed, soaked and steeped in the incredible music, dances & rich culture of La Guinea, it’s been a challenge to return. I’m still attempting to resurface.

The long anticipated journey to Guinea blew by like a strong and steady wind that carried with it myriad lessons, sites, sounds, motions and emotions. How to create space for each of them to remain with me as I return to life in Maine? That is part of my current process. I’m pretty sure they will continue to sink in to my pores for a very long time to come. It is my hope that this was only the first of many journeys to Africa.

Some of my dear friends and interviewees

 

In addition to my own experiences I conducted interviews with local artists to learn their perspectives on the healing power of dance and music. Very inspiring! There are so many more incredible sites and stories to share with you in the months to come. I’m preparing a presentation with slideshow/video and performance that I plan to present to our community here some time in May. Until then you can learn a bit more about our time at Bagatai and Youssouf’s upcoming workshops (do consider attending!) as well as his fantastic project, Nimba Center for Art & Sustainable Energy, by visiting the blog: http://nimba.weebly.com/nimba-project-blog.html

In the mean time, I am excited to share much of what I have learned with you in our weekly classes, in various workshops and by hosting West African guest teachers as often as possible. More on that below. For the month of March in class we’ll be celebrating the rhythm and dance, Gumbé, a dance from the Touba people of the Boké region of Guinea. Wongai! Dance Class!

Yay Foré-Foté!

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Great news! Upcoming…

Abdoulaye Sylla and Ismael Bangoura will be giving two classes in Kittery, Maine at the Dance Hall on Saturday the 14th of April.

Dundun class ~ 2:45-4:15

Dance class ~ 4:30-6:00

More info: Sea Coast West African Dance & Drum

*If I can pull some strings Abdoulaye may also be a guest for our class on Thursday April 12th. I will keep you posted! In the mean time, mark your calendars for the 14th. We’ll coordinate a carpool from Portland.

*Please check out my Related Events/Classes page for info on other great classes and updates that are posted throughout the month, and take a peek around on my site. I have updated some pages and will be expanding and adding on in the coming months.

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I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who helped make my journey to Guinea possible. I could not have made it without your generosity and support. I am forever grateful.

There were many, many of you who helped to make it all happen and if I have forgotten any names in this list please know that your assistance has most definitely not been forgotten. I am looking forward to giving back to you by way of all that I have promised via my Kickstarter pledges, and more.  Wontanara!

(In no particular order) I offer blessings and my deepest gratitude to:

Somer Shook, Corinne Capaletti,  Lisa Hicks,  Phil James, Lara Schneider,  Toji Perlman,  Megu Hyrama,  Jeff Howe,  Ann Brandt,  Chris Gager,  Lanssine Traore,  Darren Stotz-McFarland,  Annegret Baier  (Inanna),  Tori Morrill  (Inanna),  Shirsten Lundblad  (Inanna),  Lizzy Derecktor  (Inanna),  Alpha Coyote Castro,  Tony & Jacinda Castro,  Dexter Castro,  Dante Castro,  Alpha Castro (the 1st),  Laura Castro, Carmela Castro,  Jean & Mike Norell,  Suzanne & Felipe Flores,  Marie-Gaille Ford,  Charrisse Kaplan & David Johnson,  Sky MacMunn,  Liana Hawes,  Jason Turnure,  Jes Gettler,  Christine Murray,  Sam Sytsma,  Stephanie Reed,  Martha Thompson,  Erica Alt,  Gina MastroLuca,  Ashley Edmondson,  Sonya Tomlinson, Elizabeth Fowler-Camara, Julia Camerford,  Sarah Holmes,  Ann Coulbourn,  Adam Fox,  Carl Dimow,  Robin,  Kay Sullivan,  Jonne Trees,  Darlene Terry,  Adam Burk, Clara Porter,  Amanda Carbisiero,  Rebecca Lambert, Nyama McCarthy-Brown,  Janice Erickson,  Dana Manel Jarvis,  Zeb Ellis & Kara Estey,  George Weatherbee,  Deborah Bicknell,  ElizabethUpham,  Marie Plouffe,  Amy Fulgham, Sonia McGrath,  Kiki O’Connell,  Jason Gullo,  Steve Zeck,  Alison Green-Parsons,  Raquel Martin,  Anne Townsend,  Angela Pizzo,  Mardy Fulgham,  Kelley Drolet,  Jenna Schmitz,  Justin Nichols & Becca Lynch Nichols,  Zoe Miller & Craig Weaver,  Rachel Conley,  Jessica Townsend & Erik Sokol, Beth Taylor, my mystery supporter: “Fais tes Valises”.

Merci Beaucoup!

Peace

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Maria Bonita
    May 06, 2012 @ 13:14:22

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful experience and photo’s here! I love to meet you there as well. Hope we can see each other 😉

    Reply

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