95% Western, 5% Local

Until the dance routine tapered towards its end, I struggled with the expression of that emoji in the animated movie of the same name – meh.

What they should have done more of

Meanwhile, all around me, at untimely intervals, there were spontaneous eruptions of excited screams and woohoo that got me thinking: Were we all watching the same opening montage of the children’s Christmas Carol programme? Or was I the only inconsiderate parent amongst super – supportive ones?

Forgive me but I refuse to act delighted by a pedestrian performance with less than mechanical accuracy and the corresponding enthusiasm. The vibe I received from the participating children was: Let’s do this and get it over with, and try not to miss too many of the choreography while at it. Their faces were wiped clean of the emotions you’d expect from people who were the cynosure of all eyes – happy, excited, smiling or laughing even. It was as though they were carrying out a chore. And very few people are happy while doing chores. These didn’t have the expression of intense concentration or focus on the task at hand (Some of them had their eyes trained on their fellow dancers to ensure that they were executing the right moves at the right) Bland. Bland. Bland until the routine was almost completed; until some of our local flavour of dance movement were infused into it. The kind the children could relate to, were comfortable with, and executed effortlessly, even if it was just for a few seconds only.

The fleeting change was instant in the fluidity of their movements, the hint of relaxed facial muscles, the trace of reveling in this part until it was back to foreign choreography which seems to have replaced any form of traditional dance display which once enjoyed centre – stage in children’s school programmes such as this.

What I saw more of

Not unlike the advent of Nollywood when the language of preference was Igbo (with subtitles for a wider reach) and the acting prowess of the actors shone through – original, closer to reality, true to us because the actors expressed themselves in their native tongue. A medium which uninhibited them, allowing their body language effect a natural response. Now, English – or its variants as the actors display their individual levels of grasp of this second language- dominates the industry. And every actor performs according to his/her comfort level with the language.

Whatever happened to cultural dances and displays? Too traditional? Too local? Too Nigerian for our heavily – influenced western sensibilities? It doesn’t quite go hand -in-hand without our smart phones- wielding, ipads-clutching or ear-phones- wearing personas, right? This new age, digitalized, global whatsnot is too modern, too techny for it.

But let’s remember, it’s part of our culture, what sets us apart from others – our atilogu dances, the back – breaking movements of the Urhobo peoples’ routine, the pride in the slow but dignified orchestration of the Edos, etc. A rich repertoire of traditional and modern routines abounds in our country’s native dances. More than enough to inculcate the next generation in and infuse into their different school presentations. If it’s exercise and entertainment we seek to combine (western choreography prides itself on not just being dance steps), our local content provides both suitably with sweat and smiles to boot. Try them out for a weight- loss/fitness journey and check out the results after an elapsed time.

Let’s not lose ourselves entirely in foreign influence because of a need for acceptance; being different can be refreshing and liberating.

More foreign choreography means less and less of an opportunity to keep our own Nigerian routines alive in the minds (and moves) of the next generation.

 

photocredit: ask.naija.org, preview.ph

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