Conakry, Guinea, November 2011
We often face a serious problem of meshing needs and desires with practicalities; local conditions with safety and 'standards'. In several of the countries we visited in Africa, wooden dance floors with requisite spring (not laid directly on concrete) simply couldn't be found. Had we stuck to our idea of how things should/must be, we would have dug in our heels and our programs would have either been cancelled or severely modified, resulting in less direct impact with local youth. As it was, we got lucky and in Zambia, puzzle pieces of thick rubber matting were located (a gift from heaven) that rendered a cement floor danceable. And in another case, an ex- Minister's death caused the cancellation of a program that would otherwise have been staged on a surface ill-suited for our style of dance. Can one actually believe that things happen for a reason? ... sometimes!
Focus Where the Need is Greatest
In the unforgettable words of one of BDC's teaching artists, Robin Cantrell, 'The program is Guinea was my favorite ever'. The gratification she felt from working with the young people in Conakry, whose life conditions were seriously strained, was unparalleled. We heard similar reactions from the group in Lesotho. Whatever we can bring to these young dancers, it pales compared to what we get back in appreciation.
After their mission in Nigeria was complete Sean Scantlebury, Robin Cantrell, and Barry Steele headed northwest to Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Guinea is an impoverished country and has suffered from a turbulent postcolonial history. Robin and Sean each taught full six-day DtC workshops, with a total of 40 disadvantaged youth participating and found the students energized and eager to work with their American teachers. A local artist, Mamady, served as a translator between the participants and the teaching artists, his assistance was indispensable to the positive outcome of the mission. The Franco-Guinean Cultural Centre, a relatively modern and well furnished facility was the venue for both rehearsals and the actual performance. The DtC performance which capstones every set of DtC workshops was attended by locals and embassy staff, Robin and Sean also performed three duets. Robin and Barry also had the opportunity to conduct national television and radio interviews.