Ojuade: Dance enhances peace and nation building

[FILE PHOTO] Dance Scholars. Photo/Toronto

President, Association of Dance Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria (ADSPON), Dr. Jeleel Ojuade, in a chat with OMIKO AWA explained decision reached at the just concluded yearly conference and general meeting of the association held at Abuja.

What is the relevance of choreography to peace and nation building?

This depends on the ‘thematic content’ of a dance performance because choreography assists to situate the place of an intending dance in any environment or the community.

We can liken a choreographer to a leader, who organises, arranges and ensures all things are properly put together for expected growth and development known as ‘performance.’

The illustration here simply shows that choreography, like football tournament, brings people together; it speaks a ‘universal’ language, which the handler (choreographer) in this case deploys his or her arsenal (knowledge of dance) to bring people together.

The choreographer speaks the language of peace through his or her body in an effort to building an indivisible nation.

It is a known fact that dance art thrives on happiness, joy, peace and tranquillity.

A choreographer while figuring out his or her steps in the dance arena puts up a smiling face, even while suffering, which shows it is an enhancer of peace and other attributes of nation building.

How true is it to say that choreography is a foreign concept? And what is ADSPON doing to change this belief?

Choreography is not a foreign dance as assumed by a lot of people. It has always been part of the Nigerian and African dances.

Great dance practitioners have unknowingly used it to express themselves. It is an integral part of African dance, only it was not known as choreography, but just part of dance.

Though we do not have a name for it, but it is simply regarded as ‘dance.’ Choreography is the sequential arrangement of steps and movements in dance.

It is the art of designing choreographic sequences of physical body movements to specify motion, form or both.

A choreographer is one who creates choreographies by practicing the art of choreography, a process known or referred to as choreographing.

It is, however, the art of making or creating dances, the gathering and organisation of movement that is called choreography.

It is the skill of combining movements into dances. It is the art of creating and arranging sequences of movement for performances of any kind.

ADSPON regulates the functionality of dance studies and practice in the country.

It is charged with the responsibilities of informing, educating, disseminating and ensuring best practices of dance and its related art form in the country.

The body is currently working on core areas of dances in terms of curriculum development, observing festivals in the country to harvest more dances for proper storage and for research purposes.

To what extent is your organisation taking dances to schools, knowing that Nigeria has no dance school, but dancers and troupes?

ADSPON has a ‘tall dream’ for research and practice of dance in Nigeria.

We are aware that we do not have dance schools in the country like other countries of the world, but we are grateful to God for what we have and where we are.

As part of our position paper, we intend to further introduce dance practice (theory and practice) to primary schools to enable the association ‘catch them young’ and develop proper dance culture.

Of course, we have array of dancers in the traditional, modern and postmodern settings and we have a committee looking into their activities with a view to harnessing from their assemblage to further position dance in the country.

Dance, particularly at the colleges of education and universities, is part of the courses students offer for the award of degrees in the arts and some social science courses.

It is part of our proposal to the Federal Government as earlier mentioned to have a National Dance Centre.

In addition, we are proposing to the Federal Ministry of Education and the National University Commission to look into the issues relating to curriculum on dance studies and practice for a review.

It will gladden our hearts if we can at least boast of having a National Dance School for the training and re-training of the multitude of dancers who operate as individual dancers or as troupes in this country.

Your conference theme was ‘Choreographic Traditions of Nigeria and Peace Building.’ What did you aim to achieve?

With the theme the association intend to exhume and revive the ‘dying’ dance tradition in Nigeria and also to properly organise and showcase the different dances of the over 500 ethnic groups in the country.

To realise this, we shall be partnering both federal and state governments, different organisations, corporate bodies, philanthropists, individuals, practitioners and would-be dancers at local, national and international levels.

For the general elections holding in 2019, we strongly advocate the use of dance, which is a universal language and a vibrant communication tool that can bring people together irrespective of their differences.

The dance arena is for every participant to display his or her expertise, while the audience benefits immensely through the performance.

It is on that note that ADSPON proposed working with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), using dances to educate the electorates and contestants to embrace peaceful and successful elections.

Beyond the electioneering campaigns and the subsequent elections, ADSPON is proposing a National Dance Centre, which will be a storeroom or warehouse for the storage of digital and materials relating to dance studies and practice in the country.

It will create opportunities for researchers — locally, nationally and internationally — for would-be dancers and practitioners to easily access information on our dances.

The centre is expected to double as a research centre and revenue-yielding platform.

Why hold this conference now that election is at hand?

It was a coincidence of actions and inactions that led to the hosting of ADSPON 2018 conference in Abuja.

It was initially billed for October 3 to 6, 2018 and to be hosted by Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, but God knows best.

The change was a real blessing to ADSPON because it enabled us to partner the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Ministry of Foreign Affairs ((ICPR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) all in Abuja.

The Abuja venue at this time of the year is ‘a call to duty’ to ADSPON in order to contribute our own quota to the development and growth of our nascent democracy.

The roundtable discussion dwelled extensively on how to support the electorates and contestants, including INEC to resolve knotty issues through the use of dance.

Eggheads and practitioners deliberated and came up with a blueprint on how best to support our country functionally by deploying our dance art.

Are Nigerians ready for the change in attitude you are calling for?

Absolutely! Nigerians are ready for the change in attitude. The essence of living is to abide by rules and regulations guiding our existence and to give rooms for positive attitudinal changes.

Nigerians (home and abroad) value their culture and have tremendous respect for their traditions, which dance art is a significant aspect.

At every opportunity, they partake in dances and conduct researches on dances.
Why the visit to some selected personalities and how did the visits contribute to the betterment of Nigerians and the association?

The venue of this year’s annual conference and AGM of ADSPON necessitated our visit to stakeholders and potential sponsors of our numerous projects.

Importantly, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, is among those we proposed to visit and present our proposal, which would give a face to the dwindling dance studies and practice in Nigeria, vis-a-viz resuscitate the progression of dance in our local communities, nationally and their exports to the global community.

The response has been overwhelming, encouraging and looks promising that we are on the right track.

I, therefore, plead with the generality of Nigerians that you should please open your doors to ADSPON whenever we come knocking for support, contributions and value added activities in your domain.

We are calling on the Federal Government, state governors, traditional rulers and institutions, corporate bodies, international bodies, would-be dancers, among others to support us to give dance its rightful place in the country.

Was this part of the reasons the association organised a dinner and fundraising night?

Yes! There is the need to always look back to the olden days and ways of life. The unity we derive from togetherness cannot be bought with money.

It is an opportunity to dine and wine with friends, brothers and sisters that have been separated for months due to the nature of their work.

At the same time, it creates a platform for scholars to exchange ideas and share academic experience with one another. Thus, the dinner is a sine qua non.

The fund raising is equally important considering the nature of projects ADSPON is to embark on; they will involve huge sums of money.

So, we have to use these platforms to prepare members’ minds and begin to talk about them.

We are optimistic that the outcomes of these dual events will definitely affect our dance studies and practice positively.

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