“Sarah Boulous” Ballet Coach-Seeks To Promote Ballet In Lagos
Nigeria is proving a home for ballet despite cultural preconceptions. That’s thanks to a passionate dancer Sarah Boulous who has created an organization in the capital Lagos to champion dance and other performing arts. According CCTV’s correspondent, on the caption “Introducing us to the Society of Performing Arts Nigeria – or SPAN”, leading the session was founder Sarah Boulous; half-French, half-Lebanese. She devoted herself to ballet dancing in her teens, went on to become a professional performer, and is now teaching in a country where ballet has not generally been popular.
Sarah began teaching free of charge at her garage in Lagos with a gospel dance group as her first set of students.
“I sponsored them to go to France to do festivals. I saw that all the dancers who had strong ballet techniques were the best dancers on stage. When they saw that, they came back to Nigeria, and they assisted me in my classes. When they left SPAN, they couldn’t make money only by performing – what was their regular income was to teach ballet,”
“I had two students: when they left SPAN, they said they would never teach ballet again. They said they just wanted to perform and choreograph. They left. But I find them in three schools today, teaching the same technique that we taught them,” said Sarah Boulos.
Since SPAN started in a 35-square-meter garage, it has grown into an institution covering several genres of dance.
“Altogether in the last eleven years, SPAN has touched over 500 people in dance, has graduated 120 students in dance, and then after that, has impacted, before the graduation, over 50 dancers that have spread and have opened their own dance studio,” said Sarah Boulos.
Among those who have benefited is Adline, who now assists in teaching ballet while still honing her own dance technique.
“The future is really bright for Ballet. Look at me, making a living in doing something that makes me happy and at the end of the day still puts money in my pocket. I’m happy dancing. I’m happy doing ballet,” said ballet student Adline Uhegbu.
But SPAN is not just about ballet and dance, there is also an academy of music.
“We break contemporary music into different genres – normal contemporary – with funk, pop. Then we look at ethnic music, so we have the African, study the Yoruba music, the Cuban music, which derives from the Yoruba and African culture, we study the music of the Isoko people and every other music that is grouped as world music,” said music teacher Bright Gain.
Among the budding stars of the music academy is Lanre, who is looking to hit the big stage soon.
“But when I joined SPAN, I realized that jazz allows you to do many things and express everything you have inside of you. So when you hear a sound, just let it out. And from that time till now, I think artistically I have really grown,” said student Lanre Omowa.
“For me, showing love is by serving Nigeria in the performing arts, because that is what I was called to do. And for me, the challenge is worth it because I see lives change. I see babies born, I see people who were depressed coming out of their shell, I see some of the students that we have that were on the streets or sleeping in the church, they are here working now, and they are my heads,” said Sarah Boulos.
Sarah is definitely living out her passion. She says her dream is to build a state-of-the-art theatre and a modern academy that will attract people from all over the world.