All the dancers at the starting of the programme
BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA & FLORENCE UTOR
FRAME 24 Studio at the Philips Building, Ojota, last Friday, drew the throng of dance enthusiasts, who had turned up for another recording of Let’s Dance, a show that has grown to become the family’s delight on Sunday evenings. Since coming on air, the programme has unearthed vital revelations about the untapped culture of dance in Nigeria.
The soundproof studio comfortably sits about 300 people and is equipped with the state-of-the-art device, which could turn the day to night and vice versa at the push of a button. On the set are two resident live bands; Asa Band and Black Spear Instrument Ensemble, who dish out scintillating rhythms to the excitement of the audience and the dancers; who must show their understanding of the dance and music basics in their dances.
Besides providing entertainment, Let’s Dance is a re-awakening call for Nigerians to take pride in things that are theirs. The show is also educative. It teaches viewers, especially in this modern time when things traditional seem not to hold attraction any longer.
It is a soulful journey into the heart of Nigerian culture. Let’s Dance provides a unique platform to showcase the richness of our culture; it provides an opportunity for the dancing couples to understudy musical cultures from other lands while they work to master their own.
THE panel of judges, comprising Prof. Ojo Bakare, University of Abuja; Dr. Chuks Okoye, University of Ibadan; and Mrs. Yeside Dosumu-Lawal of Lagos State University, are experts in dance, music and choreography, who parade good credentials to help the viewers make informed decision on which couple should get the boot after every performance.
Moments after the production manager laboured to reel out and enforce the studio’s 10 Commandment, the quadrangle-shaped arena was set ablaze with colourful lights to announce the arrival of the show’s delectable hostess, Tana Adelana; and the surviving five contestants, who were eagerly waiting to shuffle their feet, wiggle their waists and swing their arms to the delight of their numerous fans and viewers, fully aware that their continued stay in the competition and pursuit of the prize winner’s $50,000 is absolutely in the hands of the viewers.
And for the viewers, May 17, 2009, when the last of the show will be aired on DStv, is a long wait to know the last dancing couple standing, who will be crowned Nigeria’s Let’s Dance dynamic dancing duo.
How did you get into presentation?
I am Christiana Adelana but a lot of people call me Tana. I have been presenting since 2002. I have always been a talkative, I grew up that way and I remember my brother calling me a parrot. Everybody knew before long, I would start talking professionally.
How has it been presenting Let’s Dance?
Let’s Dance is not the kind of show I am used to. I have been on several magazine shows but this is a different style of presenting and I have been trying so hard to adjust. Everybody is trying to get better, trying to improve on this style of show; we didn’t do this style before, because this is the first time we are having a dance show
How do you perceive the show?
It is informative, educative, entertaining and shows the world more about Nigerian culture; it teaches Nigerians more about their culture, educate them on dance, and help the youngsters learn dance. Nigeria is rich in culture, we have got different dance style and lots of things to tap from; so it is imperative that our youths of today do not forget their root; they should be proud being Nigerians.
There is a general perception that the judges are too harsh?
The judges are not too harsh; they know what they are talking about, they know about dance. If you want someone who is not harsh, you can bring in a conductor, but the judges have to lecture you because that is their work. It is beyond entertainment, it has to inform and educate.
How has presenting Let’s Dance helped your career?
This is a different kind of show, I have never done this kind before, so, it has made me see that there are different facets to me; I can be hip and be interesting and music oriented; and I can also be elegant, cute and matured. This show just brought that part of me out. It has taught me more about research and about Nigeria. Before now, when I look at a couple dancing, I don’t know anything about dance, so I just say ‘it‘s so interesting, they look so cute’, but now, I can comfortably differentiate different dances. I am happy and proud about that.
Again, on a show like this, you get constructive criticism and sometimes, it might be negative. But most of the time, it has been positive, in the sense that the show is informative, you cannot go wrong by watching it. It teaches you a lot that you might not know. Now, you have got people who know dance coming to teach you. Believe it or not, your parents will not sit down and teach you dance.
Any down moment since you came on the show?
No down moments, it has always been high and interesting, I always look forward to the next show. But if you talk about down moment, maybe during the elimination period, because I have seen some of my favourites leave the show; at a point I didn’t think it was ripe for them to have left.
Who is Tana?
Christiana Adelana is happily married; has done a couple of shows for MTV, Y:hello, 100 Per cent Naija, Boma, West African Idols Eviction Party, Big Brother Nigeria Eviction Parties, mostly for Channel O and I am Nigeria’s representative for Big Brother Africa; fun loving but an introvert. My husband met me a presenter and he is fine with that. If it weren’t fine with him, he wouldn‘t marry me. He loves what I do, he supports me and that is the most important thing. He is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me; apart from my son.
The last five standing
IDEAL GROUP: Kudirat Ojikutu & Justin Ezirim
How has the journey being so far?
Justin: It has being very hectic and taxing. We have to wake up early everyday to discuss and practise our steps together. We are lucky we made it to the first 12 and we have also scaled into the first six; it has being very hectic but we thank God.
You mean you never expected to get this far?
Kudirat: No, it is all about the competition, and just like in football, you don’t know the final score until the end of the match. In a game, anything can happen, but all we know is we will always keep improving on our performance. Our initial goal was to make the first 12, then the first six and then the first three; whatever happens after then is beyond us, it is in the hands of God, we will try our best not to disappoint our fans and see where that lands us.
How do you get together to practice your dance steps?
Justin: We are based in Lagos and it is an advantage to us because we move around to source for our costumes and we also get ideas from other professional colleagues about dance. We come to the studio every week-day to rehearse until the next performance and recording, which is on Friday.
How is the feedback from your fans like?
Kudirat: It has been very encouraging. Some tell us ‘you guys are the best, keep it up’, others say ‘you have a great concept, your dance was unique’. Last week, when we did not do well, some people called us to say ‘you guys cannot afford to lose out now, you are the best, just keep it up’. Such comments make you want to go on and give it your best. There is one guy who said even his grandmother watches Let’s Dance because of Ideal group and I was so touched.
What is next after Let’s Dance?
Justin: We are thinking of establishing our own dance company, where people can come and learn different dances and get professional. Right now, our body is already trained, there is no type of music we cannot dance to; all we need to know about the dance is the stepping and the count and our bodies will just follow.
What do you intend to do with the prize money?
Kudirat: One thing we know is that whoever wins the money should not forget that there is a percentage that you give to the Almighty. And for us, even if we cannot go to the church to drop our 10 per cent, there are different charitable homes that we can donate it to. The rest, we haven’t decided yet.
NOVA GROUP: Vodina Lebo & Dagogo Obogo
How has it been coming this far in the competition?
Vodina: It has been wonderful, but with lots of heart breaks watching your friends leave. We thank God we have come this far. It has also been very stressful but we are heading for the star prize, which is what motivates us to do what we are doing despite the emotions and everything we have come across.
Dagogo: The journey has been great. If you notice today we were at the bottom three but I hope it won’t happen again. We thank God, it is not easy to be among the top five. It is not easy to learn those dance steps, we are not traditional dancers but we have learnt it; we thank Let’s Dance for the opportunity; we have met a lot of wonderful people, even you.
How did you become a couple?
Dagogo: We met at a dance group called Spirit of David; we knew that we could do things together, dance together and we knew we were compatible in a way. We understood ourselves and that is how we became partners. We have been partners in so many competitions like the Spirit of David Takes Two, competition where we emerged the champion, Close Up Salsa Challenge among many others. We have been partners now for six years.
How do you come together to practice?
Vodina: We are putting up in a hotel because we don’t stay in Lagos, so, coming together is not a problem. Our call time is 7am. We come to the studio and rehearse for hours. We do this everyday till Friday when we shoot. There is no breathing space; we eat, drink and sleep dance.
...Let’s Dance is culturally progressive — Bakare
Prof. Razak Ojo Bakare has been described as the toughest on the panel of Let’s Dance. Presently, he teaches theatre, dance and choreography at the University of Abuja. In this interview, he lists the merits of dance as a tool for cultural development.
As a judge in Let’s Dance, how would you describe your experience so far?
It is a very good and interesting concept. As a teacher and a dance practitioner, I am extremely grateful to MNet that they thought of this because it is good for the development of dance in Nigeria, and in Africa as a whole. My complaint has been that the level of research, especially into the traditional dances has been very low; they channel more energy into researching the Western dances and are more serious and more particular about details concerning the Western dances than our own traditional dances. I think our traditional dances have been promoted by this show. All in all, it’s been worthwhile.
Do you have hopes that this show will rev up Nigerians’ interest in our local dances?
Definitely, the difference between Let’s Dance and other dance reality shows is the concentration of those other shows on foreign and street dances. Here, we are combining western dances with traditional Nigerian dances. A young man who belongs to the hip-hop culture but knows that by learning how to dance the traditional dances very well, will win a cash prize of 50,000 dollars will do all that it takes to learn the traditional dances very well.
What lesson do you think Nigerians can take away from Let’s Dance?
The lesson is this: our own television stations in Nigeria are doing nothing to promote our culture through dance. People are coming from other places to tap from the benefits presented by our population. MNet understands this and has chosen to invest in developing local content for the DStv bouquet. They are also leading the way to show our teeming youth the road back to their roots. I think that is the lesson we should learn, call it a challenge if you must. I am waiting for a Nigerian television station to start doing what MNet has done.
Do you see a future for these youths in dance considering that most of the contestants are in their teens and twenties?
Dancing is like soccer, you get to a stage where you just have to say goodbye to it, but my worry is that these are professional dancers; this is what most of them do for a living and like you rightly observed, most of them are in their late teens and early 20s. When they hit late 30s and early 40s, what do they do for a living? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves. As someone who is in the industry, I have been talking to them, go back to school. I danced actively till I was 40, but now I am about 45 approaching 50; I don’t see any choreographer doing a serious dance play and will want to engage me. Like in soccer, you can’t find a manager that wants to sign on a 45-year-old footballer.
So you see, when you have had an active dancing career, you should graduate to something else; to choreography, which is the creative aspect of the business. In fact, that way, the older you get the better and more experienced you will get. You could even become a dance teacher, a dance analyst, a dance researcher, but you can only graduate to these other levels if you are learned. A good number of these people are not studying and that is my source of worry. We have been talking to them and we know that others will continue to talk to them; it is good what they are doing, but they can’t do this forever. At a point, your body will start complaining, you just have to stop this.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
We are the ones losing because we have relegated our culture to the background. It is what belongs to you that you can market. Your art is expected to market your products. Let me use this analogy, I guess you know Youssou N’Dour and Baba Maal, the Senegalese artistes; wherever they go, they wear what is called the Senegalese and by so doing, their fans all over the world started looking for that material to buy. Today, Senegalese women are all over the world selling that material and making foreign exchange for their country. But when our P-Square goes to London or New York to perform, whose culture or product are they marketing there? If Tu Face were to wear the Abeokuta Adire or the Ange of the Tiv people or the other version of Ange of the Idoma people–– the one with the red and black stripes–– to perform in Tokyo, the Japanese people will start wearing that stuff because they are fans of Tu Face and the local people who make that fabric will start earning foreign currency from the acts of Tu Face. That is what art is supposed to do for people. Now, Nigeria is a Jeans and T-Shirt country; who marketed that? The American artistes that the boys and girls watch on television and they want to dress like their screen idols. They buy all kinds of Jeans materials. And for every pair of Jeans that that we buy, we are helping the American textile industry to grow while helping to kill the Nigerian textile industry. So, we have no choice; we have to go back to our culture and tradition and see how we can use them to develop ourselves economically, especially now that the entire world has entered into economic meltdown.