• Malaria medication (Malarone) is available in African pharmacies at a fraction of the cost in America. Purchase only enough for the starter dose in the U.S. and purchase the remainder on tour.
• Dance is a powerful vehicle of bonding across social and cultural borders in Africa
• American artists are treated with respect, fascination and open-hearted hospitality
• Security issues are important to understand in each country. Walking down the street in garments that might be considered disrespectful can spell trouble. When in doubt, get a security briefing from the Embassy and cover up.
• Internet connectivity is inconsistent; and so is access to reliable ATM’s
• Many theaters in Africa are not equipped with Western-standard lighting instruments and technical crews are often hard-pressed to support a full dance plot. Be ready to adapt and bring a resourceful production director with you.
• Think ahead about ways in which you can follow-up, once your program is complete. The thirst for high quality dance instruction and performances is greater than a short visit can quench.
• Bring plastic hangers, Woolite, Febreze and white tissue paper (to deal with damp costumes when you are on the run)
• Budget for excess baggage. Airlines baggage policies are not dance company-friendly.
• Engage the community in any/every way possible. Use all of your communication and teaching skills and think broadly and creatively about outreach. Our strongest suit was our Dancing to Connect program that brought us up close and fully teamed up with our African counterparts, and the fact that our final performances were shared with locals –our students and professionals.
• Determine which countries require visas to be obtained before leaving the U.S. and which can be left until arrival at the airport. Create a timeline for the visa application process. As we found out, the more countries you visit on a tour, the more complex the procedure becomes
The BDC program in Namibia brought together all of the elements that the Company has in its touring toolkit: Dancing to Connect workshops, advanced dance master class, lighting master class, vocal master class, instrumental jazz master class and, of course, performance! This was the first time that BDC has been able to perform with its musicians outside of New York since 2005! Frank Carlberg, composer and pianist, Christine Correa, vocalist and Michael Sarin, percussionist, are not only great musicians but also experienced teachers who hold positions at prestigious music schools in the U.S. Team II arrived from Tanzania and began working with three separate groups of local students, dancers and members of a community choir while Team I was doing the same in the DRC. Each group had a very distinct character.
Mira worked with a group from the village of Dordabis – teens and young adults whose families work as chicken farmers and who only have the opportunity to attend school up through 8th grade. Singers, not dancers, they were initially shy and anxious about the concept of dancing. By coincidence, Mira is a singer as well as a dancer and marvelously wove vocal performance and dance together in such a way as to take advantage of their musical abilities and defuse their fear of movement. She was able to use the very large and beautiful dance studio at the National Theater of Namibia. The students were bused in every day (this, as well as so many other details, was arranged by the Cultural Affairs Specialist) and given lunch and snacks. Sean worked with a variety of hip-hop dancers including members of the GMP and Earthquake Dance group who met each day at the College of the Arts. There was an on-again, off-again attitude among these dancers – many of whom seemed to feel that they were so good that they didn’t need to rehearse! Fortunately, over the course of the week, enough interest and magnetism was exerted that the group coalesced and their performance was sensational.
Robin had a combination of two different local groups -- Ondunga Cultural Group and Reject Reloaded Group. They were experienced dancers and were capable of working at a very sophisticated level as a result. Windhoek, though small, is a busy place for the small group of dancers and musicians located there. George found that some of the most highly skilled dancers were unable to take part in the final performance due to a clash with their own performance. He reached out to BDC to see if any one of the members of Team I would be willing to stage a master class for these freelancers at the NTN. Despite 36 hours of travel and an unforgiving schedule over the previous 3 weeks, Carmen agreed and thoroughly enjoyed working with these talented dancers. The performance at NTN featured great live music by Frank, Christine and Mike, 3 separate and distinctive pieces of choreography by the three DtC groups, and 3 dance works performed by the BDC Company, two of which were accompanied live by the musical trio. The house was full and newly arrived PAO gave a very welcoming address to open the show, which was also attended by the Charge d’Affairs.