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Awakan: We need dance policy to protect practitioners, promote profession

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Olayiwola Awakan is a dancer, dramatist, author and motivational speaker,

Olayiwola Awakan is a dancer, dramatist, author and motivational speaker, who believes in using dance and the stage to address social ills. The thespian cum broadcaster added another feather to his cap at the just concluded World Dance Day celebration held at Ajegunle, Lagos. He tells OMIKO AWA what dance is to him among other issues.

You are more of a writer than a dancer, where have you drawn the line with recent dance performances?
I STARTED as a stage actor and a dancer many years ago in Ajegunle.

Basically, I will say I’m a total theatre person. I dance, act, write poems and plays; all these are embedded in the creative industry.

The connection between creative writing and dancing is borne out of the knack to use literature to disseminate information about social misdemeanour. I write dance-drama scripts and I coordinate the interpretation on stage.

My flair for creativity is also reflected in my journalistic writing as a Broadcast Journalist. In a nutshell, I call myself a ‘Journa-Thespian.’

What is dance to you?
Dance is simply an organised or systematic movement of the body to either music or silent rhythm.

Dance can be done to music, instrumentals or just performed without music; that is by creating a rhythm, which can only be in the consciousness of the dancer and not the spectator. I can create rhythm in my mind and the only thing you will see will be my movement.

Dance is a tool that can be used to speak about issues, ills in the society and proffer solutions to problems. Dancing is life; it helps to preserve culture and tradition.

Many people see dance/dancing as mere feeler in plays, how apt is this?
Dance can be used as an accompaniment to add flavour to a performance. Also, it can stand on its own. We have seen pure dance performances where drama and music are embedded as feeler.

Dance, drama and music are siblings; they are tripod stand in the creative industry. You cannot compare the response you get from spectators who watch dance production, drama production, opera, grand opera from a musical. They all have their peculiar impacts.

Dancing is not a mere feeler; it is always intentionally created to exhume variety, glamour and desired interpretation of a piece of art on stage or screen.

Is the Dance Guild of any importance when anybody can dance?
We have professional dancers and there are also people who dance for just dancing sake. Everybody dances at social functions, but what differentiates a professional dancer from a layman dancer is the intention or reason for dancing.

Dance is a profession and like other professions with umbrella bodies to protect the interest of members, Guild of Nigerian Dancers (GOND) is for the dancers who make a living from it.

So, it is important that professional dancers align themselves with the guild, which helps to connect dancers of different categories as well as ensure members welfare at all times.

You were recently honoured for dancing, what is the award to you?
The award I received from the Ajegunle Theatre Artistes Forum and the Lagos Chapter of the Guild of Nigerian Dancers, Eko GOND, is a meritorious award that means a lot to me.

Just like I said, I started from Ajegunle as vice president, Cultural and Dramatic Society in my secondary school, Ajeromi Ifelodun High School after which I joined a professional theatre group, Pacesetters Production.

The skills I acquired then, I now use to tell stories. As a broadcast journalist with the TVC News, I produce poetry fillers with dances. I use my medium to portray the profession in a good light.

The award shows that I have been recognised for my contributions to the development of dance as well as being a good ambassador from Ajegunle.

At what level can we begin to encourage people to embrace this art form?
When you see that a child is developing interest in dance, you just need to guide and encourage him or her, but not to the detriment of his/her educational pursuit.

Education is key. Dance plus education will produce a genius. I was never a dancer in my primary school days, but from secondary school, I started even from Senior Secondary School 1 (SSS I) and my grandparents of blessed-memory encouraged me to the fullest.

My parents gave me the support I needed; they would always come to see me perform. It is important not to discourage anyone from doing what he/she believes in: people are making millions from dancing and representing their contries.

My wife also supports me. It is a profession that you do what you enjoy doing and get paid for it.

How can the Dance Guild improve this art form and take away impostors from the system?
Dance Guild should partner stakeholders in the creative sector as well as corporate bodies and government to improve the profession. We need dance policy to protects practitioners and promote the profession.

The fact is, not everyone is allowed to do medicine or law, but you see everyone dancing; dance has techniques, but professionals should be allowed to at least be certified to do it.

Theatre arts graduates who major in dance and dance scholars should find a way to create programmes where dancers will be certified before joining the Guild. Stakeholders, government and corporate establishments should always patronise certified dance groups or dancers.

The guild has a lot to do to improve this art and programmes like a national dance summit can never be out of place. I know that the guild has its programmes and plans, but it also needs support from government and the private sector.

The government should create enabling environment for dancers, spaces to rehearse and perform. I have always advocated for mini theatres created in either all the local government areas or at each of the senatorial districts. I am happy for the Oregun Theatre that was inaugurated by the president recently. That is more like it.

At what level did you think of dancing?
I was in SSS 1 in my secondary school when I started like a joke. I did not stop there; I joined a professional dance group and also proceeded to create my own dance company while in Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State.

I studied Mass Communication, but my second department was the Performing Arts. I was already a professional dancer before I secured admission to the university. On different occasions I had to travel with the performing Arts department to represent my school. I was doing all these because of the knack I have for the creative industry.

Are there other uses of dance outside performances and religion?
Yes, dance is also a form of preserving culture and tradition of a particular society. Dance can be used to link two or more cultures; a dance piece can have steps covering major tribes.

Beyond aesthetics, it is also to remove toxins from the body as a form of exercise. If you dance, you must sweat out toxins and also keep fit. It is also to communicate and inform. It can be used to teach. Its functions are numerous.

With this award how do you hope to combine dancing with your other genres of performances?
I have always been combining everything without stress. More than 80 per cent of my scripts have embellishment of dance. My form of poetry most times carry dance. I believe dance resonates better with the audience like music.

This award will help me to do more for the dance industry by creating projects. I also have script, which will be produced soon. It chronicles dancers; the travails of modern, contemporary and traditional dancers. Once I am able to get the required support, it will be produced on stage and as a movie.


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