Aminat Ibn Yusif ’23 spent her Wednesday night grooving to Sarz’s “Good Morning Riddim” in Room 213 of the Peter Buck Fitness Center. Led by Veeva Banga, a South Sudanese dancer from Portland, Maine, Yusif and other attendees explored African-inspired movement and music in the College’s AfroBeats dance workshop.
During the workshop, Banga introduced participants to basic Afro Beat dance moves, which she incorporated into a short phrase performed at the end of class. The hour-long class functioned as a preview for Banga’s four-week dance series beginning October 18. According to Banga, this Wednesday’s workshop allowed students to move and celebrate the culture and energy of Afro Beat dancing.
“I always say it’s a mix of hip hop, jazz and, broadly, popular African dance moves,” Banga said. “But for me personally, Afro Beat is just my roots.”
Banga has been dancing her whole life, but she started taking formal hip hop classes at the age of 12. Initially, Banga viewed dance as an addition to her acting résumé, but she later fell in love with dancing as its own creative discipline.
“It just felt right,” Banga said. “Then dancing kept popping up into my life without me chasing it, so I’m like, ‘Alright, I’ll dance. I’ll teach.’”
Banga’s professional experience and desire to teach drew students like Yusif to the workshop. Yusif leads Intersection at Bowdoin, the College’s Afro-Latin dance group, where she teaches choreography grounded in her Ghanian roots.
“[In deciding to attend the workshop,] it was kind of a combination of wanting to learn, loving to dance and loving my culture,” Yusif said.
Afro Beat dancing originated in West Africa, specifically in Nigeria and Ghana. The dance style is rich in the region’s history and culture. Banga hopes that the workshop also allowed students to become more globally educated. Additionally, the workshop gave students the opportunity to step out of the predominately white space of the College.
“I think raising awareness comes from the fact that you hear different music, you see different dances and you are participating in both of those things—and nine times out of ten you’ll probably love it,” Yusif said.
Banga expressed her excitement to see new faces at the upcoming dance series. She also hopes to teach more Afro Beat choreography and record it professionally at the end of the series, which will be done by a videographer and will feature dynamic costumes.
“I get goosebumps, not just when I make something, but when I see a dance that just fits together,” Banga said. “It’s like a high. I’m excited for that moment, to see that happen.”
This upcoming series will offer insight into Afro Beat technique, rhythm and beauty for everyone, from those who have never heard of Afro Beat dancing, to those like Yusif who grew up with it.
For those who missed the first workshop, Banga’s dance series is coming to the College on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30-8:30 PM, beginning October 18.
Beyond creating a dance video, Yusif hopes that such a workshop could also create a change in Bowdoin’s culture. While some students may find representation within Afro Beat dancing, others might discover a new appreciation.
“The more people that show up, the more people that are gonna become a little more educated about Africa, the continent and Blackness. That’s just my hope—that more people can enjoy the culture,” Yusif said. “So, for example, if an Afro Beat song plays in Ladd basement, people can actually know it and groove to it.”