Dance Teachers Trending
Kusika dance ensemble of Williams College performs with the Zambezi Marimba Band. Courtesy of Williams College

People are flocking to West African classes across the country. Students are enticed by the sounds of the drums, exhilarated by the movement and want to come back for more. Each dance has a meaning and function, so they are also learning about the many different cultures within West Africa. In Burkina Faso alone there are more than 60 ethnic groups, each with its own language, instruments and dances. Listening to the music, one may hear sounds that are reminiscent of reggae, salsa, highlife or Afro-beat. This is part of the allure for American students.

To truly embody the style, students should also have an awareness of what life is like in West Africa. As dance professor Zelma Badu-Younge describes being in Ghana: "If you're in a village, a lot of people are not wearing shoes, walking in the dirt. In the city, you might be carrying a younger sibling on your back or you're carrying things on your head, and that changes the way you walk."

Dance Teacher spoke to Badu-Younge and four dancers from West Africa, who teach in American colleges and universities. Each one is also a choreographer, drawing on both traditional and contemporary forms. Common to all five were themes of community, the unity of music and dance and connection to the ground. They also share a holistic approach to their work. As Wilfried Souly says, "I bring my life experience into my teaching. It's part of me. When I'm teaching my classes I don't even think of it as teaching. I think of it as sharing."

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Moving Southwark. Photo courtesy of Dance Camera West

The 16th Annual Dance Media Film Festival takes place April 20–23 at UCLA. Presented by Dance Camera West, the festival kicks off with a showing of international short films and concludes with Family Film Day, animated films and an art installation. Film submissions cover a variety of dance styles, including modern, tap, ballet, hip hop, theater and world dance. The event is free and open to the public

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Iris Erez will visit Reed College in Portland. Photo by Nino Herman, courtesy of The Israel Institute

Two Israeli dance artists will visit U.S. universities this spring to conduct residencies. Former Batsheva Dance Company member Shahar Biniamini will teach Ohad Naharin's Gaga technique at UCLA, and choreographer Iris Erez will conduct contemporary technique classes at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Both will set work on students as part of their residencies. The annual Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program, initiated by The Israel Institute, is designed to expose American students to contemporary Israeli arts and culture.

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Photo by Celeste Sloman, courtesy of UCLA

MacArthur Fellow and award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham has been appointed to the faculty of UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. Abraham will continue to choreograph and run his company, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, splitting time between coasts. For the winter quarter, he will teach two courses: advanced technique and an upper-division composition elective. During future terms, he will set new choreographic work on students.

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