‘Funmi Adewole on Dance in Africa
If one accepts that summarising the dances of just one culture could become a life’s work, then summarising the complexities and interrelations of the entire continent of Africa is likely to be taken on by those with so much passion for the subject area that the hugeness of the task doesn’t boggle them. In order to add to this the shifting, fusing strands of African diasporic dance it’s probably vital that the researcher’s own cultural grounding has provided a thorough head start.
You’d think that such a person would come over as heavily academic, overconfident or unimaginative, but with ‘Funmi Adewole that’s far from the case. She’s bright, very focussed, extremely hard-working and so modest that although we’re fairly well acquainted I only discovered she was giving the opening talk for the South Bank Centre’s Africa Utopia season from a mutual friend.
I particularly enjoyed the demonstrations of Sabar and Ndomobolo and how she explained how traditional ceremonial dances are both ancient and also very modern. For example, a traditional ceremonial dance that has been used in a village to honour the king may have been used for 500 years and havecontinued with the same function to this day. However the steps might change gradually over time, taking on influences and therefore providing a traditional dance with an ancient role.
‘Funmi kept a difficult balance very nicely together, satisfying both the dancers who I know to understand aspects of African dance and those who had attended the talk with little or no background in any dance at all. She worked with the audience in identifying common characteristics of such dances, then moved on to the influence of African dance aesthetics throughout the world.
A mini dance lesson left everyone on a high; simple expressive moves elicited giggles and grins from those who knew what they meant, and were so infectious that by the end even those new to the moves were grinning.
Funmi also played a short section of this video. I’m putting it here but mostly because I think it’s so much fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LInMiYj6ZVE