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.
The Power of Dance
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
After resting for a day in Dar es Salaam, the BDC team of 4 headed up to Bagamoyo. The program was situated there because no suitable theater could be found in Dar and the TaSUBa Institute was keen to host the Dancing to Connect workshops. The three teaching artists split up into two groups with participants from Baba Watoto Center from Children and Youth in one group, and Bagamoyo Institute for the Arts and Cultural Studies (TASUBA) in the other. The first group's teaching artist reported that their participants were “outstanding in their fearless exchange of movement and ideas on our very first day of the program. The large class introduced themselves, showed some of their own moves, then quickly got down to the business of learning to dance and communicate in a new way. This picture was taken at the end of a full day and everyone was on a natural high from the experience. Later, they would present their own work in a performance for us which was overwhelming in energy and musicality.”
The second group's teaching artist's experience was quite different. He was challenged by absenteeism, lethargy and an absence of focus. Despite this, his group completed their choreography and by all accounts, had a fantastic performance on the beautiful stage at TaSUBa. The audience was sparse but the reaction was loud and heartfelt. “We all left Bagamoyo the next day missing our new friends and counterparts in dance and hoping to see them again in the future.”
The key Embassy official in charge of the entire program, wrote, “Judging by the look in the eyes of the young Tanzanian participants throughout the clinics and final performance, the BDC troupe impacted their lives and provided them with long lasting inspiration to persevere in dance and develop the talent of other Tanzanian youth. The Baba wa Watoto Parapanda Theater Lab Trust (BwT) and Bagamoyo Institute of the Arts and Cultural Studies (TASUBA) executive directors echoed those observations with added praise.
The Executive Director of the Parapanda and Baba wa Watoto Center's students participated in the NY Battery Dance Company's program last week. During a discussion following the performance, he requested for the BDC to return to Tanzania next year if possible. BwT would like to have a new stage built this year to host the company at BwT in Dar es Salaam and attract wider audiences. He is currently seeking private sector support for that goal.
The key quote from the letter of appreciation to the U.S. Embassy from the Executive Director of the Parapanda and Baba wa Watoto Center is the following: "The embassy has once again given hope to the voiceless communities through wonderful visit at the embassy home and the twinship work with the Battery Dancers. As we talked to the youth, such five days, means a lot to their lives and their families (and) helped to dignify the work we do in the communities where more than 80% are Swahili cultures people, mostly Muslims. "