By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 8, 2024.
Members of the community had the opportunity to learn some Afro-fusion dance moves during the Creative Community:Black History Month event at the Galt Museum and Archives Wednesday.
Abdulaziz Sani of the BIPOC foundation spoke to attendees about the history of African dances that have influenced other rhythms in South America prior to teaching a short choreographed dance to five attendees in the presence of another during the event on Wednesday.
“I will be taking you through an Afro-beats live session, which is one of my favourite things to do in the world, it’s easy, it’s enjoyable, is also pretty powerful because you leave here feeling like you want to go to an Afro-beat club,” said Sani during his presentation.
But before that he talked about African dance history and said that something unique about Black culture African dance that most people do not know about is that almost all dances actually originated from Africa.
“I’ll give you an example of the Brazilian samba, the capoeira, which is mixed martial arts with dancing, all originated when Nigerians migrated to South America,” said Sani.
He said some of the moves from familiar dances like hip-hop, contemporary or jazz are actually part of an Afro-beat move.
“When you add some elements to it though, it essentially becomes the Afro-beat move. I especially like to teach Afro-fusion,” said Sani.
He asked the audience if anyone knew the difference between Afro-beat and Afro-fusion, with one member of the audience providing the answer, which surprised him and put a smile on his face.
“Fusion has components of other genres, so you see components from Spanish dances like Bachata and Salsa, you also see contemporary dances, jazz movements, hip-hop movements and a lot of this genres in between Afro-beat movement is what Afro-fusion is,” said Sani.
He said he enjoys teaching Afro-fusion because it incorporates other cultures and he enjoys celebrating other cultures along with his own African culture.
“Something I want to debunk about Afro-fusion dances and Afro-beat dances is that they are not all about leg movement. There is a lot it, it could be it’s own genre of Afro-beats leg work, but that is not what Afro-beat or Afro-fusion is only about. There is a lot of other movements that are just hands, arms and shoulders” said Sani.
He said unfortunately people get discouraged from trying out Afro-beat or Afro-fusion dances because they get overwhelmed by the amount of leg work, and that was the reason why he wanted to make sure that myth got debunked.
“Initially people look at it and say this is too much, I can’t do this, I don’t have the stamina. Even I do sometimes speaking honestly, I do a little bit of leg work and I said, that’s it, that’s my exercise for the week thank you,” said Sani.
He then asked the audience how many people thought they were supposed to look good when they dance. Only one person raised their hand. Sani assured those in the audience that they were correct, nobody is supposed to look when they dance. especially when put on the spot, he said even professional dancers can look goofy, especially performing a dance they are not familiar with.
“What makes them look good is the confidence, the swag and the music. So, if you are feeling like ‘I’m in my head, I don’t feel great about this move that I’m doing,’ just do it,” said Sani.
Â He shared with the audience that when he wants to learn a new move, he stands in front of the mirror and practices for hours until he gets the basic components as they are the ones that make the dance.
Â “Another myth I want to debunk is that Afro-beat is like a fusion of dances from all over Africa. That’s not true. There is a lot of Afro-beat moves from different parts of Africa,” said Sani.
At this point Sani asked the audience to join him for a choreographic dance, he said he needed at least five participants. And after a little bit of convincing he convinced five attendees to join him.
He taught them a few steps at a time that involved leg, arms, hands, head, and shoulders moves and at the end they put all the moves together and performed a short dance.