Liberal Mind

From toddler to academic dancer: Prof. Ojuade’s life of dance

By Adetunji Ayo-Brown

Dance is defined as an artistic expression predicated on movements; a dramatic phenomenon induced by a psychological state. It is regarded as an important aspect of culture, a device for the identifying culture of a people. Known to be a powerful impulse, which can only be properly channelled by skilful performers into something that becomes intensely expressive to the delight of the spectators. It is so powerful that it conjures feelings and wishes to dance even without proper understanding the drum or its language but captivating rhythms.

Dance is a universal phenomenon practice by all irrespective of colour, race profession, culture, religion, ethnicity, geographical locations, boundaries political affiliations. Where peoples’ modes of expression, thriving on living experiences, dance may be voluntary or obligational rhythmic movement of the human body in time and space to make statements. It symbolises the profound truths about the complexity of human existence and gives meaning to life.

Dance allegory can be used in the encapsulation of man’s life journey in this universe. The art of dance has two most important connecting ideas and concepts. Dance as a powerful impulse or dance as a skilfully choreographed art practiced largely by professionals. Where connections between the two concepts are stronger than in some other arts, and neither can exist without the other.

Known as human’s effort of expressing individual and collective feelings. It transcends the unborn, the living and the dead.  It surpasses human race, because other animals including plants do dance, what many called magical. Physically challenged or not, everyone could dance, but those who have some deficiencies in this know they suffers monumental tragedy.

Dance and culture should be placed on same emphasis for proper description and understandings. Established that African greatness lies in its culture and traditions, and not in its science or technology. African cultures include the totality of the arts of which music especially dance forms a major part. Among Yoruba race, dance and music are inseparably bound up with their ways of life.

Cultured in the tricyclic and tripodal phenomena of the Yoruba teachings, research to the community development service and to humanity are taken from dance steps and beats of drums. Most Yoruba drums are made from the skins of dead animals, which make rhythmic like divine sounds. It is not about how the drums are beating but the dancers’ inner feelings.

Dance is life, life is truly a dance, is voiceless but with audible messages. It describes the cyclical nature of man on earth which are better explained and showcased through body movements, because dance operates functionally as nonverbal but practical communication arts.

Misnomer and patently abnormal to many then. Dance is seen as craft of and for beggars in the olden days, though not anymore. Dancing is now a profession with no fear or judgement but just the joy of moving with the rhythmic splendour of music in sounds now  taught academically up to the professorial levels in the higher institutions of learning.

Some are accidental while others are providential dancers with many mere observers are involuntary turned participants even without better understanding the language of the drums.

Busting into dancing without no pair of reasons is no crime. While some say it is the love of the music, to others dancers are enthralled by the rhythm. But how a four and half year-old toddler debuted into dancing and now a professor is rather fascinating. Curiosity to see and understand the language of the drum at the dancing arena lured him to the real life and he became a professional dancer. Voiceless and a nonverbal phenomenon operates on human psychology as such high level is truly scientific.

Transformations and applications, the lecture highlighted his scholarship contributions in the field of dance with reference to Yoruba Bata and Dundun drums. Passionate about it, his involvement and entanglement with dance as a toddler made Prof Jeleel Olasunkanmi Ojuade a professor of dance at the University of Ilorin.

Professorially and professionally delivered at the 208th Inaugural Lecture of the institution. His dance movements and steps match his handsomeness and speeches little wonders why he was debuted as a toddler, barely as four and half year-old little boy.

Using dance as a double-edged sword presentation linking both the town and gown, representation of both the dance world of practitioner and the academics.

Study of dance is now a well structured as it has layers in scholarship. Prof Ojuade’s specialisation in dance using Yoruba Bata and Dundun drums to produce, publish and present academic papers at locally and internationally. Through dance, he dwelled many issues ranging from insecurity, peace and conflict management and national development.

Two million US dollars (NLNG) donation and four hundred million naira for medical equipments and free books for the university, among many national and international awards and recognistions won by him.

Dancing to the beats of drums is used to send messages, signals, warning, and even observations. There are difference levels of body movements which people and this what translate to meaningful dance steps. Many were proud with sense of responsibility to be part of their complete culture.

Historically, dance is accepted one of the first human activities which did not directly serve the survival of man but enhance it greatly. Clear and lively are the dance rhythms, most often gladdens and sweeten enough even for the defeatist’s hearing. Delivering voices of intuition and instincts unambiguously explaining itself. The sophisticate hands movements through beating of drums amplifies some voices, well-ushered and substantiated but only those with tuned ears knows and understand the meanings.

Dance is an integral part of African life in the real metaphysical spheres of existence. It performance is conceived as a primary site for knowledge where philosophy is enacted and means by which people reflects on their current conditions, divine or re-invents in the social world.

*Ayo-Brown is a Snr System Analyst, he can be reached via e-Mail:aayobrown@gmail.com

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