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Gown and town chat way forward for dance practice, education

By BOmiko Awa
16 December 2018   |   3:11 am
Despite ongoing Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU) strike some university eggheads, dance practitioners and stakeholders in dance business still gathered outside their campuses and offices...


Despite ongoing Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU) strike some university eggheads, dance practitioners and stakeholders in dance business still gathered outside their campuses and offices to hold the Association Of Dance Scholars And Practitioners Of Nigeria (ADSPON) general meeting and conference.

Organised in conjunction with the Institute Of Peace And Conflict Resolution (IPCR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in Abuja, this year’s gathering, the sixth edition, was chaired by the Acting Director, IPCR, Dr. Batuk T. Baku and has, Choreographic Traditions Of Nigeria And Peace Building, as theme.

Professor Chris Ugolo, who delivered the keynote address, took participants and guests on a voyage of history of choreographic traditions of Nigeria from pre-independence era to the contemporary times, with particular reference to the transitions that occurred in the political history of the country and how the nation has sustained peace and unity. He noted that the relevance given to the various ethnic group’s dance forms would not have been achieved without the significant input and contributions of the late Chief Hubert Ogunde who through the privilege given to him by the Federal Ministry of Culture showcased different dance within the country.

The Professor of Dance also brought into perspective the significance of peace building and how it reflected in the choreographic traditions of Nigeria where ethnic unity was at the centre of all productions. According to the don, peace building strategies was also practiced in performance where Ogunde choreographs multi-ethnic dancers on different ethnic dances tagged, Unity Dances.

The lead paper delivered by Dr Chukwuma Okoye dealt on the critical analysis of movements and their importance to the study of the essence of dance. The paper generated a lot of discourses and counter-discourses, which allowed for cross-fertilizations of theoretical and practical ideas regarding dance.

The round table discussion that ensued was an elaborate exposé on issues pertaining to dance and peace building with a particular tilt to the upcoming 2019 general elections and the need to maintain peace before the elections, during and after. References were made of how dance could be used to maintain peace in a country.

However, dominant opinions reached from the round table noted that there is need for the restructuring of curriculum from the nursery, primary and secondary schools to include dance, adding that there is a great need for collaborations among ADSPON, stakeholders and national organisations that are strategic to the course of ADSPON and nation building.

Stakeholders called on ADSPON to create dance content that portends peace and send them to the media houses across the nation, saying this would help boost ADSPON’s visibility, apart from promoting the association’s interest. They also called on members to go into key areas of government, where they can project and promote dance, adding that such move would make the association come up with strategic that will spur discussions for peace and development using dance.

They stressed the need for the association to fight for the review of the national cultural policy to expressly include the study and practice of dance across all ages levels and schools, saying that the documentation of Nigerian dances need to be intensified through the support of organisations such as the Goethe Institut that are known for documenting legacies like dance among others. They also called for the affiliation of the body to the health sector, to enable it includes dance therapy and mental wellness in its therapeutic facilities for the total wellbeing of all.

Participants called for more dance lecturers and trainers in the Nigerian tertiary institutions, as a way of intensifying efforts to make dance take it rightful place in the society and amid academia. Major points heighted on the different papers presented on the second day emphasised the value and importance of dance in peace building, adding that dance should constantly be used to build bridges across the different ethnic groups.

Citing the late Hubert Ogunde, the father of Nigerian Theatre, FESTAC 77, the setting up of state councils for Art and Culture and the establishment of National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) as worthy examples, participants say dance has actually been used to bring cultures and peoples together. Stressing that it has played pivotal roles at influencing people and promoting virtues that bring peace among different people.

Speaking on the topic, ‘The Choreographic Art And Peace Building In Select Junta And Democratic Regimes In Nigeria,’ Dr Arnold B. Udoka, of the Department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies, University of Calabar, said as Nigeria is faced with ethnic and religious conflicts, internecine strife, civil war, agitations for self-determination and resource control, insurgency, militancy, pastoralists versus farmers, among others, that there is the need for strategies aimed at peace building. He noted that this is not only important, but also paramount to unify all aggrieved tribes.

Dr. Udoka examines the utilization of choreographic art in the making of two regimes — military (1967-75, 1985-1994) and civilian rule (1999 – 2007, 2009 – 2015) in the country. He noted that these regimes show the imperative of choreographic art in national peace building efforts, which is a clear example of Theatrocratic philosophy in governance. The paper emphasized that through cultural and cross-cultural approaches, diverse dance cultures have adjusted to the social environment by the recognition and accommodation of the choreographic arts phenomena of other constituent cultures and substantially contributed to peace building in the country. He asserted that the successes attained by this deployment make choreographic art a strategic partner in the business of peace building.

Udoka posited that as a potent emotive strategic partner in peace building that choreographic art has earned the recognition and support of the political class and advocated for commensurate attention to the study of choreology, so that, the gains of the choreographic art in national peace building are not frittered away, but capitalized upon and transformed through research into a national attitude.

Building on the knowledge deduced by Dr Udoka, participants disclosed that performances in the area of dance theatre and dance drama has the ability to comment on critically issues such as corruption and other topical issues within the political sphere, though at a varying degrees, and also ensure a possible change.

In his contribution, ADSPON President, Dr. Jeleel O. Ojuade, disclosed that the practice of dance in the National Festival of State Arts and Culture was halted for four years, thereby sparkling a huge controversy on the desires of the head rather than on the modus operandi of the organisation in charge. This according to him, is a pointer to the fact that dance still suffers some ignominy in the perception of some individuals, despite its already created space in the National Council for Arts and Culture.

Kehinde Adedamola Olalusi, Department Of The Performing Arts,
University Of Ilorin, noted that despite the popularity dance enjoys in Nigeria today, there is a growing trend of parental not allowing their children to study it in the tertiary institutions and that this is, perhaps, due to the assumption that it does not measure up to other courses like mass communication, law, English language, among others. He observed that this rejection therefore affects the decision of the children, conditioning their minds to believing that the future is bleak for anyone who studies dance as a course. He noted that the problem of acceptance to study dance in the Nigerian society is still very much evident, and this creates a lacuna in the area of peace building in the home apart from contributing to the student’s academic stability.

He said: “Parents today refuse some of their wards the opportunity to study dance because they believe it does not bring in much financial rewards. But, I must point out that this kinds of decisions occasioned by societal non-acceptance can halt the peace of a home if such child decides to be radical about his choice.”

Discussing the topic, ‘Choreographic Tradition Of Yoruba Hunters As A Model For Peace Building In Nigeria,’ Felix A. Akinsipe of University of Ilorin, revealed that the hunters’ dance of the Yorùbá people is exclusively the dance of members of the hunters’ guild. According to him, the dance is highly competitive and based on the exhibition of individual’s skill within a group. He disclosed that the dance is a unifying factor among the hunters’ guild even though it is shrouded in the worship of Ogun –– the Yoruba god of iron, thus making it rooted in the traditional religion of the people.

Akinsipe examined the choreographic nature of dance, highlighting how dancers have co-existed and maintained peace with adherents of other religions.

The presentation revealed that irrespective of their other religions, the art of hunting, which is linked to the worship of Ogun is sacrosanct. In fact, after their respective hunting adventure, the hunters meet to sing, dance and chant the praise of Ogun. Recommending such virtues to Nigerians, he said the dance is obviously a reflection of healthy competition that is bereft of rivalry or hatred.

The duo of Jane Sharon Akinyemi and Toluwalase Adedoyin Ogunlade both from the Department of Human Kinetics and Health Education, University of Lagos, Akoka, spoke on the ‘Effects Of Nigerian Indigenous Music Aerobic Dance On Cardiorespiratory And Metabolic Wellbeing Of Female Workers In Lagos Metropolis.’

They observed that Nigerian has diversified cultures and music for different social and religious ocassion, adding that none of the traditional music and dance is structured into any physical fitness programme. They called for the alignment and incorporation of these music and dances into aerobic dance programme, saying that such inclusion would improve cardiorespiratory and metabolic health of the people, especially women.

They disclosed that out of the 47 women tested — 23 assigned to the experimental group and 24 to the control group, — in variables including, heart rate, body fat percentage, blood glucose level and Body Mass Index, all of them showed significant reductions in all variables after infusing traditional music and dance into their fitness programmes.

They posited that if Nigeria indigenous dance if included in group exercise format that incorporates aerobic dance components would help improve cardiorespiratory and body composition of women.

Stakeholders, however, went home with the views that Nigerian traditional music and dance are filled with moral lessons and rich in acrobatics just like in any other foreign music and dance, and could be used in any function too. And that dance is a catalyst to peace unity and oneness.

Before the various discussions, ADSPON President, Ojuade, spoke on the association’s election and meeting held, last year, at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and commended members for their sacrifices at promoting the association.He noted that in this era of acrimonious politics and politicking, there could not have been a better time to discuss peace building in the context of the role of Nigerian choreographic traditions than now.

According to him, “our fore-fathers were peace loving and peace seeking people, hence the infusion of peace building even in their choreographic traditions This three-day event is not just the conventional talk-shop and academic analysis, but a carefully packaged programme that will take a panoramic appraisal of dance studies and practice in Nigeria.”

The event was grace by Kabiyesi and Olori Francis Olushola Alao, the Olugbon of Orile Igbon in Oyo State represented by Mr Lanre Amoa and Mrs Folashayo Lawal; Dr Mike Omotosho and officials of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) and UNESCO, Abuja office.

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