In a contemporary dance piece that is gripping and emotional as any contact between a man and woman is, Nigerian contemporary dancer, Qudus Onikeku and Spanish dancer, Patricia Ruz explore the possible connections that exist between peoples of different cultures, background, race and sex.
Sponsored by the Embassy of Spain in Abuja, Nigeria, the performance formed part of its cultural diplomacy programmes with Nigeria. It brought together these two contemporary dancers who knew nothing of one another to the day of their first meeting, and had just two days of rehearsals, to perform in Lagos, and Abuja.
The resulting piece, the audience could and did overlook as a choreographed act than a performance derived in the moment that it is. The invisible seamless fluidity of bodies, rhythm and emotions seen on-stage stems more from a sincere
connection between both artistes than professionalism. A connection that drove both to improvise, to respond as the moment dictates.
Qudus describes this connection as tricky, a thing as delicate as matchmaking, which can either go right or wrong. “It can be scary when you enter a space where people are gathered, excited to see two amazing artistes perform, while I am wondering, “What if the connection don’t happen?” But it did; more so from the dancers’ decision to stay sincere to the nature and journey of that connection.
Early on, Qudus discussed with Ruz on their approach, and the need to tap from a place of freedom – a freedom that would loosen up both contemporary dancers but of different creative approaches – to improvise. “On a purely choreographic level, we connect.
For me, improvisation, the in-the-moment is my strong point. This isn’t the same for her. However, I think she is in that state of transitioning from choreographing to being free (to improvising), letting things happen in the moment,” explains the 5ft but compact built dancer.
By building a place of trust, Qudus and Ruz were able to improvise. Ruz says Qudus created a space of trust that enabled her to improvise. Dancing from a place of trust, Qudus says requires little technique.
In their journey of exploration, a connection was found. A connection of likes – for singing, dancing and love of Afro music. Ruz’s repertoire include dance performances with a Senegalese and Congolese artistes. “African music to me is similar to the flamenco, it feels the same as the Spanish music that is in me. I don’t know much about African Dance, I only feel the rhythm and I dance.
The improvisational quality of contemporary dance allows me to mix little of this and that to make this,” a thrilled Ruz added.
“Artistic collaboration is the most effective way of building cultural diplomacy between two countries. By putting artistes together, we discover we speak similar language, ordinary people included. They simply have to shutout the mind and dive into the performance. They will realize how much they are carried along in-the-moment, how the senses connect to that moment,”” Qudus punctuated.
Contemporary Dancers Qudus Onikeku and Patricia Ruz performs at the Exhibition Hall, in Abuja. The performance was hosted by the Embassy