In February, 2017 the QDance Center (now known as “The People Center”) kicked off its first edition of Dance Gathering at the prestigious national theatre of Nigeria. Featured guest artists were Onye Ozuzu (U.S.A), Horacio Macuacua (Mozambique) and Seifeddine Manai (Tunisia.) The three artists shared their energies and knowledge with participants from various parts of the country and continent. The gathering was the beginning of a significant movement for the Nigerian Dance Industry. Five years later, Dance Gathering has gone on to become a space where dancers can invent, innovate and recreate while staying true to themselves; a place where various energies synergize with the city of Lagos using dance as a focal point.
Dance Gathering Lagos was co-founded by Hajarat Alli and Qudus Onikeku in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, the center was co-curated by Qudus Onikeku—dancer, choreographer and artistic director of the QDance Center and Onye Ozuzu, the Dean of the School of Arts, University of Florida, USA.
The 2021 Dance Gathering took place from August 9-15 in Lagos, Nigeria. This year's gathering was unique for several reasons. First, there was an edition of the gathering that happened earlier in the year in Barcelona, Spain in collaboration with Barcelona based ‘Africa Moment’. Second, the Lagos gathering was a national edition, limited only to dancers in Nigeria. The Lagos edition occurred over seven days, as opposed to the typical 14 day ritual of past gatherings. Dancers from across the country: Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Nigeria, representing Enugu, Jos, Delta, Benin, Kaduna and Lagos state participated in the festival.
The one week gathering saw the 35 dancers and musicians who were selected for the 2021 gathering, train, experiment and create dance works with each other; all of which were exhibited with a massive takeover of Broad Street Lagos on the last day: Sunday 15th of August. The historic Broad Street is the longest and busiest street in Lagos. If Lagos is the commercial hub of West Africa, Broad Street is the commercial capital of Lagos. Taking over this street with dance is no mere feat. Broad street was redesigned into a play area for performances, where all the collaborations, findings and outcomes of the first six days were shared in open air with the city of Lagos for six hours. Top Nigerian dancers like Ambrose Tjark and Emmax Daniel of Westsydelifestyle were in attendance. Smackaddy who is a Co-Pioneer of the ‘Afro Buck movement’ a branch of Krump that uses raw africanness in its expression and celebrity dancers like Adilaringz, Pclef, Ukalina, Big Flow, Nas Magnificent, Locking Sion, Iyele Chibueze, just to name a few, were also in attendance.
Having attended Dance Gathering since its inception in 2017, I can boldly say the event has grown to become a very important space for the dance industry in Nigeria. It bridges the gap between dancers and creatives from different branches of the Arts while also connecting the younger generation with the older generation of dancers in Nigeria. For example, the 2021 Gathering saw Nigerian dance legend Ambassador Adedayo Liadi popularly known as Ijodee —an accomplished dancer/choreographer, share space in performance with the present generation of dancers. It was a privilege for some to see him perform. The 2021 Gathering was also able to physically connect dancers from all corners of Nigeria while also pushing their thought patterns towards looking for more creative ways to tell their stories in dance and movement.
The theme for the 2021 Gathering was “Beyond Afro Futurism” but the phrase “Don’t Lose the Bounce!” became the ubiquitous catch phrase for the gathering. Why? In 2021, Qudus Onikeku the Artistic Director and Co-Curator of Dance Gathering, toured his latest dance creation titled 'Re:Incarnation’ in Europe. The tour included 10 extremely talented dancers from Nigeria, and was presented in 11 cities across 5 countries with a total of 20 shows. A signature movement vocabulary from this dance piece by Qudus Onikeku, also known as Q required the dancers to bounce constantly while throwing their head backwards and forward. It looks easy when described, until one is asked to execute this movement. Q had to constantly urge the dancers to not lose their bounce when executing the movement in question. From then on, both the catch phrase and the movement started to spread across the country, the continent and the diaspora. Hence the phrase “don’t lose the bounce!”
Dance Gathering 2021 was a unique experience altogether; more power to the the organizers!
Follow dance GATHERING on Instagram @dancegathering.
Writer: Ozegbe Sunday Obiajulu
Picture credit:Alli Akinwande @alliakinwande
Micheal Oga @photonikanko
Video credit: @oluwavalu @jumzy.vicky.5
Video summary of the 2021 gathering. Video credit: @oluwavalu @jumzy.vicky.5
The 2021 Gathering in photos. Credit: Alli Akinwande @alliakinwande
Micheal Oga @photonikanko