Wyoma nurtures the "living sun" through African dance

by Dance

This semester, the Dance Program welcomes Wyoma to its teaching staff. She will be teaching an African Dance class on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m., exploring dance traditions from several regions of Africa. Dance Associate Marin Orlosky Randow '07-'08 spoke with Wyoma as the Dance Program prepares for the start of classes.

How would you describe your dance background?

I'm a dance performance artist and teacher focusing on dances of the African diaspora and improvisation. I've studied a variety of dance forms including African, Caribbian, Brazilian, modern, jazz, classical Indian, hip hop, contemporary street dances, and contact improvisation. I've had many incredible teachers, including Baba Olatunji, Rosemarie Guiraud, CK Ganyo, and Katherine Dunham.

When did you first get interested in dance?

I learned early on that dance was my muse. Even though it was against our family's Pentecostal faith to dance (it was considered the Devil's work), I danced all the time--in the closet. Dance was my friend. I had a strong sense of rhythm and kinesthetic movement. I grew up in Indiana, doing Street Dance with a Motor City influence. Detroit is where we we got our slickest moves: hully gully, mashed potatoes, shingaling, Broadway, and the jerk.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I'm a dancer and holistic therapist (massage therapy, coaching and yoga). My first teaching experience was with yoga, so I tend to teach dance the same way I teach yoga--gentle but firm. I integrate different learning styles, and I consider the whole person. In Congolese culture, we are considered a "Muntu": Each individual is considered a living sun, and it is the work of the teacher to nurture and help that living sun to shine. I enjoy the combination of sharing cultural history and experiencing a variety of energies, from more subtle styles, as in Haitian dance, to very vigorous Senegalese and Guinean movement.

What do you like most about working with dancers?

I get a thrill from watching individuals connect with their authentic self as they move. I believe the Zimbabwean proverb, "If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing." I particularly enjoy watching the students' confidence build and watching their progression as they become more focused and engaged.

What is your craziest dance-related memory?

One funny memory was when I was facilitating an African healing dance workshop with a group of Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia. I had asked them to share the memory of their first dance experience. One guy danced to the rhythm and visual of his family's first old-time ringer washing machine--shakin' it up! He made these incredible sound effects: chug-a-chug...shish, shish, shish, shish ... chuck, chucka, chuck. And it was in total alignment with the object!

Is there anything else you'd like prospective students to know about you?

Dance is great fun! It creates a powerful endorphin release in the brain, and I believe it is the quickest way to enlightenment!

Registration for Wyoma's African Dance class, and all other Dance Program classes, will take place on Tuesday, September 6 and Wednesday, September 7, 1-5 p.m. at the Harvard Dance Center (60 Garden St).

[Caption: Wyoma]