SPAN’s Collaborate to Innovate enlivens MUSON Festival 2016
Society for Performing Arts (SPAN) is collaborating with Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) in this year’s MUSON Festival to energise the dance segment of the festival. It’s performance is billed for Friday, October 21. Founder and Chairperson of SPAN, Mrs. Sarah Boulos, explained the vision of the collaboration
According to her, “We did our first collaboration during Children’s Day and our second is with MUSON Festival and this is going to showcase a storyline that is created about our community centre in Lagos Island.”
Asked why the collaboration is just coming, Boulos said, “MUSON is the only organisation that has noticed us and is giving us a chance. They are the first in performing arts to do this. I am hoping that when I eventually started my centre, there will be classical music. So, this is a long-term relationship because I believe people grow together in the industry when they collaborate. ‘Stars On Earth,’ another group of SPAN graduates, has also been given opportunity to perform at the festival and I am very excited about it.”
SPAN Centre, which is yet to be launched officially, according Boulos, has been operating in the past two years but it has many good stories to tell. The centre is called ‘Block 13’ because it is located on 13 Davies Street, Apongbon.
Boulos, who believes that community creation makes a journey unfold, said, “The centre is vibrant; everybody knows what we are doing in that neighbourhood. It is giving them more hope and giving us more confidence in our development.”
Originally called Agidigba Centre, Boulous said, “It was created to give hope and courage during difficult times no engender trust and can-do spirit. Our presentation will also be coming in form of dance drama and live music.”
Recounting the academy’s success stories, Boulos said, “Most of SPAN’s graduates have built companies and studios that are successful. We did a whole documentary during our 10th anniversary. We have about seven dance studios operating; we have about 35 teachers teaching in schools or studios. Someone else has a salsa group and there are salsa clubs all over, managed by Span graduates.”
The criteria for being admitted into the academy, Boulous said, is according to interest, adding, “We give everyone a chance to audition and we ask them questions to see if they can handle the pressure of studying theatre, music, dance because it is a lot of strain on your body. You have to be able to understand musicality and be willing to learn.
“We began with 75 students and we have just 30 of them left because the rest couldn’t cope. So, they dropped out. It is your decision to stay or not. Some of the dropouts feel they have acquired enough and they go away half-baked and begin to do their business, which is wrong. They, however, fall by the wayside, but those who complete their two-year course are able to stand firm and fulfil their purpose.”
She said the academy trains students to become self-employed and noted, “Besides music, dance and drama, they are also trained in administration and management. We prepare you properly and those that are able to stand the rigour get to the top and are recognised by a lot of people”.
On whether there’s any input from government, she said, “I don’t know whom to contact. Sometimes, you may drop a letter and it gets missing in the midst of everything. My dream is to put my curriculum of dance, drama and music in every public school in Nigeria. Maybe when I start and the commissioner realises that there is something out of it for education that I can give, maybe they will show interest. I have a whole lesson plan; it is a long term project.”
Boulous’ love and passion for the arts is infectious and she is an evangelist for the dance. According to her, “Everyone is born with a purpose, but I discovered mine when I met Christ. He gave me a thought in my dream that I will be building a performing centre; that is what I am following through and that is what gives me fulfilment because I am listening to someone higher than me”.
SPAN has plans to hold its festival. According to her, “Our SPAN festival comes up next year. What is happening now is ‘Block 13,’ a new site to our SPAN dance camp and the launching of the season of SPAN’s Collaboration to Innovate, which is also our theme for this year.
“So basically, what will happen is that after this, we are going to have one of the hero’s of hip-hop, someone from You Think You Can Dance? He will be coming to take our instructors and students on a journey of hip-hop and teach them how to make a living out of it. Thereafter, there will be the dance battle competition, which we do every year. This is like a mini festival; next will be the music aspect. However, SPAN festival is November next year because we do it every two years. But from now till March 2017, we shall have up to 10 events. This industry is very young and we need to develope it. Next year, 12 of our teachers will be taking exams to certify them in modern dance.”
Asked how the society copes financially as a non-governmental, non-profit body, Boulos said, “It has not been easy because we are in our 11th year, yet we are still at the planning stage. We are still making plans to start building our land at Eko Atlantic and we are hoping that somebody can wake up and want to leave a legacy for Nigeria by building it. We are working on everything but while waiting for the building, we are building and changing lives so that they can bring a new industry in the arts and have a sustainable income and alleviate poverty. We are talking about people using their gifts in a productive way.
“Apart from SPAN, I also run La Pointe grocery store with a mix of foreign and local items. Some of the proceeds from it also go back to SPAN.”
The mother of four advises young artists, “I believe that all of you out there have a dream. Don’t give up. Find the right school that you can survive and explore new horizons. The industry is very young; everybody can make it.
“Be honest as you go about your business in this industry. An injustice was done to SPAN recently where someone, who is supposed to know the repercussion of taking another persons work and using it as his without paying for it or acknowledging the owner of the work, used a photo of ours as his. I have been telling him to take it down but he refused. This is an artist who is widely travelled; he is not small. He is educated, so it not a matter of ignorance. We are still at it.
“Do not infringe on copyright laws; it will come back to you, especially as an artiste. We know ourselves in the industry and we know our works. This particular photo I am talking about was used in raising funds.”
Boulous has been in Nigeria in the past 21 years and said, “I’m blessed to be a Nigerian. By doing my purpose, I have discovered how beautiful this country is. I have learnt how to love the people even more than my own people and I believe that I am in a welcoming community. I believe that the country is strong and by the grace of God upon, it will overcome whatever challenges it is going through.”
Born in Bourkina Faso, Boulos is half French and half Lebanon. She is equally an American citizen but has adopted Nigeria as her home.