@Iam_kingdavinci (Udoh David Anietie) is an artists we deeply admire and someone we have watched over the years. From the first time we saw him dance, we knew he had something special. It was the smile, the speed, the precision, his flavor and most of all the happiness he exudes when he dances that struck us.
We first discovered David back in 2018, a pivotal year for Afro dance. It was Pre IG Reels; a time when longer dance visuals were used as a mechanism by Nigerian and other Afro dance creatives to build awareness of their art. It was these visuals and movers like David that captivated our attention and contributed to the explosive growth of Afro dance and Afro music.
Since then David has perfected his craft fusing his Afro technique with other dance styles. We have seen his freestyles become effortless phrases of intense yet precise movements, and his command of various dance vocabularies mold into one seamless form.
2022 was a phenomenal year for the 23 year old. He won the RedBull dance your style Nigeria competition, then went on to the final in South Africa and placed second. His name is now globally recognized and his freestyles from the competition have gone viral. On his year end post David wrote, “In 2022 I visited Abuja, Nigeria for the first time, rode my first airplane, left the country for the first time, represented Nigeria for the first time in an international dance competition, and won the Red Bull DYS (Dance Your Style) Nigeria competition for the first time”. It was a year of many first for David, and he did it with grace, humility and with a smile.
Udoh David Anietie, is 23 years old from Akwaibom state in eastern Nigeria. He lives in the capital city of Lagos and is a full time dancer. David's focus on dance started after the passing of his dad in 2011. Prior to that, dance was a private thing, something he did for family and friends at home and at family gatherings. In 2011, he transitioned to dancing full time; dancing at school, in the streets, and entering street dance competitions as a Naija street dancer. He credits music videos, including Michael Jackson's, and learning from other street dancers, as the source of his inspiration and technique development. Mobile phones and internet access also played a huge role in how he discovered dance and developed his technique. After getting a mobile phone with internet access on his 14th birthday, he began searching the internet for dance tutorials. This was a game changer. He discovered Operamini and tubidy.com which gave him access to numerous videos and tutorials. In 2018, he joined the Dancedeal Training foundation to further develop his dance. There he learned different dance styles including, contemporary, ballet, ballroom, latin, jazz, jive, hip hop, Nigerian traditional dances and many more.
We caught up with David to talk about his phenomenal year of dance.
AFROCONEX: David first, congratulations on all your success in 2022. Winning the Red Bull Nigeria DYS, and then placing 2nd in the finale in South Africa. What a year! How do you feel after so many accomplishments ?
DAVID: thank you! To be frank, I feel good. I feel like it’s the beginning of greater things for me. I feel like it’s an accomplishment of all the hard work, trainings and preparations dating back to 2011 when I started dancing full time. So you know, I feel like wow, I did something, but I also feel like it’s not enough, I want to go for more. You know, they always say the reward for a job well done, is more work. So yeah, let’s do more!
AFROCONEX: your dance is animated and energetic. A mash up of various styles. How would you describe your style of dance ?
DAVID: my style is a fusion of every style that there is, with Afro (African dances) as the core/base of it. I fuse into this core, additional styles to add soul to the dance. So I like to describe my style as Afro Soul. So when you see me dance, I’m just expressing my African soul on stage through my dance.
AFROCONEX: tell us about your process for the Red Bull competition. Did you plan on competing in 2022 and trained for it ? If you did plan/train for it, can you give us any insights into how you trained ?
DAVID: It all started in 2021 when RedBull had their first competition in Nigeria. There was a selection process from a closed event. Many of my students, friends, and dance peers (people I admire, people I trained with) were selected, and I wasn’t. I was hurt, but I went to the event as a spectator and to support people in the competition. I remember complaining to one of my friends, and saying “I’m so happy for you but I should have been there to compete as well.” And my friend, he was like, “ok, you know they are going to come back next year right? You better go prepare.” With that, I started training. What helped me with my training was not focusing on it, just going with the flow. I just trained and worked with my friends, and just took it as it came. About 3 months before the pre-selections, I started ramping up my training. I trained alone. I actually got sick a few times while training, because I really wasn’t giving my body a break. I trained, worked on myself, got injured, and got healed.
In terms of my specific training, because I knew my strong point was Afro dance, I really didn’t work on my Afro too much. I feel like it is embedded within. I trained in other styles like Popping. I also trained in the basics, and tried to switch levels by going deeper into those styles that I am not really strong in. After that, I mixed those styles with my style, which is Afro. I would go into those styles, then go back into afro, then back into the other styles. I wanted to have a full blend of everything and see how it looks.
AFROCONEX: you completed so many firsts during the competitions, and yet didn’t let the emotions of the experiences impact your dance. How did you steady your mind and stayed focus?
DAVID: When I went for the pre-selections in Nigeria I was scared out of my boots! Most of the people that were going to the pre-selections were people that I knew were really good dancers. So I was a bit shook. There is a lot of competition in Lagos. But then there is something called “Wu Wei” which is the art of letting go, of not forcing anything. So, I just let myself go and just basked in the rhythm of the sound, and allowed my body to bring out what it wanted to express. Because I knew that I trained and practiced, so I knew that my body wouldn’t fail me. When I won, it was a good feeling for me.
I also had the same fear when I was preparing for South Africa. When I got to South Africa I met a lot of people I use to watch and admire online; people that I had hope to meet one day in real life. I was like, God, how am I going to do this ? Then I allowed my spirit and my heart to do the talking for me. For a lot of the rounds I really didn’t prepare anything. I only prepared like power moves, and maybe something to start with. So whatever song was on, I had something to start with but the rest of it, just came from the heart. Like I had an intro but the rest of the body of the freestyle was what my heart felt should be there. I feel like the hardest part of the battle was always the first competition (first round)
My first round was with Luwam (from Germany); man I was shaking. She is someone I look up to. She is a hip hop dancer and she is very good. I think when the names for the selections were given I researched her. I watched her videos to check her strengths and weaknesses. I worked on my hip hop, because I knew it would be a hip hop track we would dance to. I worked on doing my Afro on the hip hop songs that I knew. So after the first round, my mind was calm. Once I knew I made it through the first round, then I was like let’s do this. I took the energy from the 1st round and put it full force.
I always feel like I approach things with love, and a battle is not a war. It’s like you know…when you were kids and you wanted to show a new move to your friends. Or a new thing you discovered or a new creation that you made; that’s how I feel about battles. That’s how I approach them. Like ok, let me show you what I can do on this track. I feel like I just play, it’s all love and playfulness. It’s all about bringing out that inner child in me, that clown.
AFROCONEX: RBDYS (Red Bull Dance Your Style) celebrates dancers and their personal style, what styles and execution caught your eye during the competition ?
DAVID: I love dancers that dance from the soul. I feel like dance and music should be like a sandwich you know. You have dance, you have music and it’s all in the same place together and there is no separation. The Crown is one dancer that caught my eye. When he dances, he brings the song to life through his movements, through his musicality and through his feelings. He’s one dope dancer that really caught my attention and that I appreciated. Also Hector, in fact, everyone had a style that was personal to them. They really brought out who they were. Just to name a few Luam, Yoe, Zouba, Ian Tico, Flexx, Megaman, Humuzza, D Soraki, JR Game, Shany J, man everyone was the best of the best in South Africa.
AFROCONEX: we love observing how social/street dances evolve: the directions they go in, and what influences them. What are your thoughts on where urban Afro dance from Nigeria is heading ?
DAVID: Nigerian dances always evolve with the time. From Swo, to Konto, to Skelewu, to Catapult, to Shoki, to Poco dance, to the latest dances right now like Flebe, Shooter, and Mgbelu. I feel like it’s growing and it’s beginning to come from the heart. Actually it always came from the heart, but there was a time I feel like the dances were based on how the song is. Now dancers are beginning to gain freedom and creating from life experiences; which is how it should be. I feel like it is going global, it’s now on a world stage, and people are beginning to see it for what it is. They are seeing the deepness and the intensions of the dances that are coming out.
AFROCONEX: what are some of the challenges/obstacles you face as a dancer in Lagos, Nigeria ? Do any of these challenges get easier after winning Red Bull ?
DAVID: There are many challenges. Many people still think that if you like dance you are playing around with your life; that it is not really a career. They feel like you should be a doctor and have a day job. Getting jobs as a dancer is very hard, because there are many dancers. When you are popular on the internet it can make auditions easier, but also it can make them harder. I don’t know about outside of Nigeria, but here in Nigeria, when you win awards and become popular on the internet, it’s not when you get called for gigs. Some people will say you are big now and that you do not need work. When you are viral and you feel like you should be getting jobs, is when you do not get any jobs. It is very sad. People who use to call on you before will tell you that you are too big time now. So you actually loose out on the small jobs that would provide a stipend payment that helps to sustain you. But on the other hand referrals get better, you get more respect in the dance scene, and the jobs you are referred to pay more. Winning Red Bull has definitely brought in more offers from artists, some who are upcoming, from record labels and from brands. Now I get to see what the offers are and decide which one is better for me. I am not just going with the flow with anything being offered. So it has gotten a bit easier since winning, but also not easier; if that makes sense; yeah!
AFROCONEX: your trip to South Africa was your first time outside of Nigeria. What was your impression of South Africa and what was it like to see South African Dance up close ?
DAVID: Oh my god! The trip was heavenly. Landing in South Africa was like a dream; I felt like I was living a dream. I remember getting to the hotel and telling my friend Blake “bro I need to go sleep cause maybe when I wake up I will realize I am in a dream, and I’ll be back in my room in Lagos. Because this feels unreal to me” The next day I woke up and I'm still there! (Hahaha) It was an experience, I really enjoyed it.
I enjoyed conversing with the people of South Africa, and conversing with people from all over the world. It was just amazing experiencing a new place with different people from around the world, and getting to see the dances upclose. We, on the other side of the world experience the shallowest part of South African dance. It is very deep, it is very expressive. I feel like in South Africa, those who do Amapiano well are the females, but those who do Pantsula well are the males. Pantsula is more energetic, more expressive, but then Amapiano is also expressive, but is more subtle and more relaxed. You can create your own beat and not try to bask in the mood of the song. It has a lot of attitude. Seeing it upclose was great. I had classes from Sibusiso and Thlogi, and It was great learning from them first hand. I felt like I was learning from the roots and it made me understand more how to do the style. I now understand the style on a deeper level. I now know what It means to do certain moves and what they are trying to do/express when they do those moves. I also saw some of the Zulu dances and other cultural dances. And it’s a whole lot. The way they slam the feet to the ground, I’m like Jesus, don’t break your legs brothers! But yeah it’s so dope, how they dance with so much happiness, and joy, so much zeal and determination. It is just so beautiful to watch.
AFROCONEX: who are some of the dancers you admire and that inspire you ?
DAVID: I admire everyone in the world; everyone is trying to live their life in their own way. For me some of the dancers that I admire are: Brother E, Ordinateur, Tebza, Magnificent (Nigeria) and Blayke (Nigeria). I admire different people from different styles. If I mention all of them we will not finish. The biggest ones in the game to the smallest ones, like the kids on the street, they all inspire me.
AFROCONEX: what does your handle @iamkingdavinci mean?
DAVID: I wanted a name that was catchy and had a meaning at the same thing. My cultural name means god. My English name is David, and there was once a king name David. Davinci, is someone I learned about in school, who was creative and very good at many things. So I combined the two names, replacing David with King, and adding Davinci. So it means Creative King.
AFROCONEX: what can we expect for the year ahead from you ? Any fears you want to overcome or growth you want to achieve ?
DAVID: expect me in more competitions, because I love to battle. Expect more dance Medley classes from me, because I love to teach how to blend the various styles together. On that I am hoping to have a state tour in Nigeria
Regarding fears to overcome, I want to overcome the fear of wanting to do it. There is this fear that comes with starting. I want to overcome the fear of starting. I want to just start and not have that nervousness or fear, even though I feel like the nervousness/fear is good because it prepares you, it makes you want to do more. The fear of thinking I’m not enough; I want to overcome that.
Growth: I really want to gain more freedom in how I move my body. I want to know this dance thing more deeper than how I currently know it. I want to be able to create more. I want to win more competitions, offer more classes, and inspire others. The whole purpose of why I dance is so that I can touch people and share that joy, that soul, that thing that I feel when I dance, with whoever is watching me dance.
Be sure to follow David on IG @iam_kingdavinci
Some images and videos from the World Final in South Africa