How Africa Umoja engendered togetherness at Port Harcourt Dance Festival
With the vision to inspire and advance excellence in Nigeria’s diverse dance, music and drama, International Festival of Contemporary Dance (IFCOD) made its maiden outing in the ‘Garden City,’ Port Harcourt, as part of Nigeria’s 56th Independence anniversary celebration. With ‘Inspiring a New Era in the Performing Arts’ as theme, the festival featured the famous South African dance Africa Umoja, widely acclaimed for its award-winning choreography, energetic jaw dropping dance styles that has been performed in well over 50 countries and still counting.
It was all excitement, euphoria and shouts of exhilaration as the Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni led Africa Umoja dancers lit the stage last Thursday night with eclectic dance steps in a two-hour riveting performance, peppered with rich soulful South African melodies. The Aztech Arcum stage, with its digitalised background, literarily shook to the stumps of the dancers, as they demonstrated passion, verve, zest and dexterity before an enraptured audience, comprising the who-is-who in show business, politics and industry in Rivers State.
From the opening night on Tuesday, October 5, to its closing, theatre lovers in the city were treated to heartwarming repertoire of enthralling performances. It was a festival that left the audience on the edge of their seats as thespians from the Arts Village, University of Port Harcourt, thrilled the audience with inspiring interpretations from the play, Dance of the Rivers, written by Professor Julie Okoh and directed by Mr. Dan Kpodoh.
The play with its seemingly literary allusion to Lenrie Peters famous poem, ‘We Have Come Home,’ reawakens a nostalgic consciousness in African citizens in the Diaspora, particularly those from the Niger Delta, to think of returning to the fatherland to contribute to nation building. It also underscores, the ‘Spirit of togetherness,’ which the South African dance proposes, as the elixir for sustaining a vibrant economy.
While speaking on the impact of the festival on the theatre industry in Port Harcourt and Nigeria, choreographer and theatre director, Kpodoh said, “IFCOD is a brilliant idea that will help showcase our culture, create employment, engage and take the youths off the streets. Little or nothing is known about the city when it comes to entertainment; it is a fight for recognition in the entertainment world and it stands as an avenue for the gathering of giants, where upcoming directors like myself can stand a chance to make a statement.”
The festival created opportunities for aspiring young minds and creatively endowed individuals in the city to attend workshops, classes in filmmaking, photography, stage construction and other fields of the arts. Nigeria’s leading compere extraordinaire, Mrs. Joyce Daniels of Talkademy spiced up the festival with her presentation.
Side attractions at the festival included an exhibition of fashion wears, accessories, mementoes and a gamut of designs made from African fabrics by different entrepreneurs. Apart from this, Orachoice Cocktails and Smoothies showcased its fruit drinks and lots more.
The International Dance Festival was held in partnership with Rivers State Government, the National Television Authority, Africa Independent Television, GOtv, NBC and major broadcasting stations across the country that supported the festival.
* Joel Cicero, an actor and writer, lives in Port Harcourt