DANCE, A WAY OF LIFE!
By Jennifer Ehidiamen
Segun Adefila, synonymous to Crown Troupe of Africa, is a house hold name to dance lovers. From the heart of the University of Lagos 13 years ago, the Crown Troupe of Africa dance group was formed and has since grown from strength to strength. With a keen passion for projecting the African Culture through their various performances at home and abroad, one cannot help but wonder if Adefila, the leader of the group is a cultural activist. “I don’t think so” he said. “I am just myself, a child who needs his place in the world. I know that I’m not just a fluke; God had a purpose in His mind for designing me. My parents taught me the importance of having a value for one’s self and not necessarily the importance of knowing my culture. They taught me not to steal, lie etc. and left me to find my way in the world. The Yoruba people say, ‘ti omode ba to ni oko, o ye ko l’oko’ meaning when a child is old enough to handle a hoe he will handle the hoe and start farming. So if you are talking about cultural activists then you mention Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Wole Soyinka, Sofi Oluwole etc.”
With someone so experienced in the areas of art, how does he define dance? Adefila who grew up studying science in secondary school but always felt more at home in Literature class says “Dance is the rhythmic movement of the body within space. There is no dance without movement but there are so many movements without dance. I don’t see myself as a dancer, I’m just an artist.” If you follow the Crown Troupe of Africa’s dance so often, you will notice that most of their dance is rooted in satire while projecting the African culture. “When I want to tell a story about what is going on around me, I first look for a movement to define it. Dance is controversially the mother of all other arts because it starts with a gesture which is ritualized.”
On his philosophy as an artist Adefila adds “Every story we tell is relevant to preserving our culture. Although there are those who say art is for art sake, I say art is for life sake.” Why does he suddenly want to add music to his collection of arts? Is his anticipated album to validate their existence as artists? “An artist is an artist. There is always a rhythm going inside of you. It is left to you to express this rhythm by singing, dancing, writing, painting etc. Crown Troupe of Africa is a performance art group and not a performing art group.” He affirms. And what is the difference? “A performing artist is a musician, a singer, a dancer and an actor. A performance artist is first an artist who sculpts, who paints, who does installations and then puts a performance to amplify the story. ”
How has the 13 years old journey of performance art been for Crown Troupe, has it been all rosy and sunny or filled with bumps here and there? “It has been full of the grace of God. Yes, we have been able to do so much because God has been with us. The journey has been turbulent and challenging but we still have reasons to be thankful to God. We are carrying on because of passion and sometimes I wish I’m able to give these young people (dance members) monetary reward for their efforts.”
Despite the challenges, Segun Adefila looks forward to building a dance resource centre all over Lagos as a way of keeping the youths off the streets. Who are his inspirations and what keeps him going? “I am one of those people who say whatever I have achieved in life is because some giants have allowed me to stand on their shoulders.” According to him, these giants, this includes his University professors, mentors, friends etc. who nurtured him and gave him opportunities to achieve his dream. “For example, the National Theatre where we hold our monthly dance show was given to us in-kind by someone who wanted to encourage our passion.”
What has prepared and adequately equipped Segun Adefila to enable him tread this path so confidently? “I have always loved acting. As a child I had a masquerade because I come from a royal family and that was a big deal then. In secondary school I always found myself serving in the capacity of the President of the Debating society, Drama group and other art group despite the fact that I was a science student. My first professional experience was with Black Image in 1995 and then I went to obtain a certificate in drama from the Center fro Cultural Service, University of Lagos in 1997. After which I proceeded to the University of Lagos to study Theatre Arts. My professors played their role in nurturing me well.”
What word of advice does he have for aspiring dancers? “Keep reading, keep studying and keep looking for opportunities to attend workshops and other trainings. Don’t try to be like Segun Adefila, try and attain the best but make sure you know your God. You see, I’m not a very serious person you can call me wayward but I don’t play with the position of God in my life.”
IN THEIR MUSIC AND DANCE…
“To sing and to dance well is to be well educated.” says Plato. And on the 7th of June 2009, Crown Troupe of Africa, a renowned dance-theatre company based in Bariga celebrated their 13th anniversary, which also marks a beginning on a new era as they gave fans a sneak preview of their forthcoming musical album during a staged a concert at the National Theatre, Iganmu.
The Cinema hall 1 was crowded with fans that were eager to have a fore taste of what the evening had in store. The duo- Mathew and Laff-up who anchored the program stirred the audience up with their rib cracking joke. It wasn’t long after that they introduced Beautiful Nubia, who unexpectedly performed poetry themed “Can’t you see”, instead of singing one of his songs.
Afterwards, the Crown Troupe group set the stage ablaze with their first performance themed “Ere ti ya”. Although it was the first track in their album, the song was accompanied by an eccentric dance by Footprints and the Crown Troupe dance group. After that, Adunni and her Nefertiti clad in white attire sent jitters in the spine of the audience as all listened, mouth agape, as their sonorous voice rang through the hall.
While the audience was recovering from the amazing performances, an upcoming dancer called Chris Solo, his burned his energy to an Indian rhythm. This was closely followed by another preview track “Mi o ni choice” from the Crown Troupe of Africa’s album. The collaboration between Koffi and the group although a satire also held the audience spellbound.
Lifting the audience from its afro centric mode, Sound Sultan and W4 spiced the event up with a bit of their hip hop rave. And in the interlude, Sultan suddenly sounded serious as he emphasizes on the importance of good music “we need to sing song that will impact generation and leave a lasting message.”
Modella, one of the top Nigerian Fashion designers had his models on the runway, not dressed in adire or any of the normal fabric but in sponge. Indeed he awed his fans with the concept of designing skirt, gown, trousers and shirts from raw materials people limit to using as sponge. I was indeed an African thrill. As Laff-up later puts it “if not for the fact that civilization brought in Demin jeans and all, this is how we would have been dressing…” For Modella, the designs were inspired from Africa.
The female comedian did warm up the audience with her jokes which are usually capitalized in dissing and insulting one of two people in the audience, and this time, the non-Nigerians in the audience were her main target. Tosyn Bucknor, a.k.a Contradiction thrilled the crowd with her song “hidden motives” after Crown Troupe made yet another appearance, but this time to sing a more relaxed song of praise to God tagged “Baba mi mo”.
The star studded event brought together the likes of Yemi Sodimu, Beautiful Nubia, Yinka Davies, Alhaji Yusuf, Yo of Wazobia FM, Princess the comedian, Modella, Tunde Kelani, Marian Travis, amongst others.