Live your life; not your mother’s, father’s, siblings or the society, but your own. This is the only opportunity you have got to live it. Don’t get consumed in social constructs, but truly follow your heart.
BY CHUKS NWANNE
SHE’s not the type you easily get hold on. She is always on the move. When she is not busy with her students —dancer artistes — at D’Jamz Base in FESTAC Town, Lagos, the Izon lady will be engaged in one or two productions, mostly outside Lagos.
When we couldn’t meet one-on-one for this interview, we resorted to an online chat. However, this is one dancer I’ve been keeping in view from a close distant.
Preere Yibowei’s (popularly known as Preeye) introduction gives an insight to her personality.
“I like to first call myself a performer because it’s all about the performance. I’m very artistic right from my appearance to what I do, where I do and even how I do it. I’m also very spiritual; I sincerely believe that whatever happens in the physical is a manifestation of the spiritual.”
Done with her secondary education at the Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Lagos, Preeye headed for the Theatre Arts Department of the University of Ibadan, with special focus in dance. From there, she joined Epic Dance Production, a traditional dance troupe.
“At that time, the only experience I had in dance was at birthday parties, strictly disco; not even Hip-Hop,” she says.
However, schooling in Ibadan greatly influenced Preeye’s knowledge of traditional dance steps, but it was the Artistic Director of Gong Beat Arts, Isioma Williams, who iced the cake. “He introduced me to the troupe. So, when I relocated to Lagos, I joined them”.
Though most of her dance training was with GongBeat, the dancer was privileged to have worked with the National Troupe of Nigeria as well as participate in French Cultural Centre exchange programmes.
“I took advantage of the opportunity and became well grounded in traditional dances. French Cultural Center used to invite renounced choreographers from different parts of the world and we also we were part of the Workshops in Ghana, Mali, Togo etc.”
WHEN Ijodee Dance Company held an all-female contemporary dance workshop, Preeye was among the first to embrace the ideas. She’s always open to challenges.
“Of course, I jumped at it,” she says. “That’s a style most female dancers were finding difficult to embrace. I admire Ijodee for that ambitious spirit and determination to put Nigeria on the contemporary dance platform.”
Talk of dance festivals, Preeye has seen enough of it.
“For three years, I participated in the Dance Meets Dance, a festival organised by the French Cultural Centre. I was also part of Trufesta, Fada, Dance in Bamako and Nite of the Salsareos in Ghana.”
At a point, she was a dance consultant to the famous Gwape, the Niger State Cultural Troupe and for three years running, Preeye has been part of the Prestigious Bayside Band at the Calabar Christmas Carnival, led by the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke.
She was later invited as a judge for the Maltina Dance All. Her role at the Creative Academy, a reality TV show hosted by Onari Duke, earned her the job.
“It was the late Steve Rhodes, who recommended me to Creative Academy organisers as a dance instructor. From there, I got the Maltina job.”
How was it sitting as a judge in the competition?
“It was worth the while; I love working with green horns,” she enthuses. “However, I loved the opportunity the show gave me to show that dance is a profession; that was the first time we (dance artistes) had the opportunity to show Nigerians what dance is really all about.”
However, being a judge at the show at such a young age, did not go down well with some, especially her senior colleagues.
“I rarely had problem with the opinions of the other judges because I believe everybody is entitled to their opinion; after all, we made the right decision of selecting Chukwuma as the winner; he was clearly the best, she says.
“Some of my senior colleagues had issues with me being a judge at a young stage of my career; the public felt I was unnecessarily callous and had not done enough to warrant being a judge; the press didn’t help matters at all. But in all, I kept my cool, doing what I felt was right.”
If there’s one thing Preeye detests in life, that must be competition. However, she had no option than to enter for Let’s Dance, just to prove a point.
“I hate competitions,” she muses. “I entered for Let’s Dance because I felt Nigerians need to know what I had in stock. Due to my role in Doctor’s Quarters, and Wetin Dey, I was more recognised as an actress; meanwhile dance is my first love. So, I seized the opportunity of the wide coverage to make a statement.”
And you emerged third?
“Of course, I was disappointed,”she says. “I felt we (VIBES) had what it took; talent, skills, experience and style. Well, I was disappointed but not devastated because the outcome was solely on the votes; votes that could be influenced by a number of other things than the quality of the dance itself. In truth, I had already reached the conclusion that if we didn’t come first, we would love Ideal, the winning couple to get the prize; in other words, I am happy Ideal won.”
Preeye curently runs a dance class for young people in FESTAC and she also has her eyes on other projects.
“I run series of dance classes; traditional, salsa, fitness programmes etc. It could be better because the FESTAC people are not as exposed to this sort of activity, but we are catching on. I have a lot of projects I’m working on, but for now, I’m focusing on a Dance/Musical Concert to raise funds for the innocent victims of Niger Delta crisis.”
Preeye’s philosophy of life is very simple.
“Live your life; not your mother’s, father’s, siblings or the society’s, but your own. This is the only opportunity you have got to live it. Don’t get consumed in social constructs, but truly follow your heart.”