The OU School of Dance occasionally brings in guest teachers with backgrounds in ethnic dance from other countries. Several weeks ago, they invited a man named Abubacar to teach a master class in African Dance. He brought with him two musicians, a family of drums, and a wild sense of energy.
Abubacar wasted no time in getting started with the class. After a brief introduction instructing us to “see, listen, and do” he dove into a series of grounded, athletic movements that we quickly began to explore in our own bodies. The musicians created a soundscape of pulsating rhythm as we danced. Over the course of the next two hours, we learned to embody the sounds of the drums, synchronizing our movements with the layered polyrhythms that they offered us. The exchange between the music and the dance made it feel less like a class and more like a gathering of community, each of us sharing our energy with the others to create something special together.
We learned a series of movements from koukou and liberté, two specific styles of dance unique to Abubacar’s home country. We put them together in a long phrase, which we repeated many times. It was an incredible workout, because there were no pauses; each movement lead seamlessly into the next, each requiring immense physicality. And yet, even as sweat beaded along my skin, I did not feel the exertion. I was lost in the pulse of the drums, the heartbeat of our gathering.