After one big project 2008 involving 100 children, the teachers selected 18 of us – 12 boys and 6 girls – to train as professional dancers, choreographers, and dance educators. I was selected as one of the 18 but my family did not like it and they kept trying to get me to quit, even saying that they would kick me out of the house. It was very difficult for me during this time, but I continued with the training because I liked it and because I found that I was good at dancing and teaching. I also knew that it would make a positive difference in my life.
I meet Germaine Acogny when she came to Addis Ababa to work with Adugna. We were all very inspired by her life and her work and we wanted to visit her school in Senegal to train more with her. I was lucky because I had my first chance to go to L’Ecole des Sables in 2008 for an African dance workshop. I spent two and a half months working with many different choreographers and teachers. It was an amazing experience for me. I had never seen a place like L’Ecole des Sables where we danced in two beautiful studios surrounded by nature. I could see the trees dancing with the wind, birds flying in the clouds and through the waves on the ocean, and cows moving not far from the studio. It was inspiring and made me want to dance and learn more and more.
At the end of my first workshop in Senegal, we were all given certificates for completing the workshop, and most of the dancers were crying because they did not want to go home. I know this is because we all felt such a strong connection to each other and also to the school. Working at L’Ecole des Sables created that connection for us and none of us wanted it to end.
I applied to return to L’Ecole des Sables the next year for another workshop with dancers from all over the world. I had the chance to meet many international dancers, which was very important because it helped widen my network and connected me to dancers outside of Africa. After this workshop, I was fortunate to be selected to study Germaine Acogny’s dance technique along with other 13 dancers. So, in 2010 and 2011, I went to the school each year to study with Germaine. I have always learned so much when I am at L’Ecole des Sables, from the teachers and from the other dancers – even from the people in the local village. All of these experiences made me a better dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher. But working with Germaine so intensely was an even greater experience. Germaine has made me a better dancer and teacher and my body and the way I move has changed because of the technique workshops with her.
In October 2011, I again went to L’Ecole des Sables to participate in a choreographic training workshop, which was amazing and inspiring. In this special workshop I had the chance to work with Patrick Acogny and Gabriel Smith both amazing teachers I learned a lot about myself and developed my knowledge about space, time Traditional dance, contemporary dance, deconstructing traditional dance, and lot more.
One of the things I really liked about this workshop was we talked a lot about being Honest and personal with our work and we all gave each other positive comments and feedbacks to help develop the work we did. I was able to present some of my work and I also did a couple of group works with the other dancers wich was very inspiring some really good work came out I would like to continue to develop with the dancers I meet in the workshop.
L’Ecole des Sable has helped me to better incorporate my own traditional dances from Ethiopia in my own dance and choreographic work and in my teaching. I have also learned about other traditional African dances, which also influence me. I do not think that I would have looked as deeply at Ethiopia’s traditional dances for inspiration if I had not had the opportunity to study at L’Ecole des Sables. The opportunity to work with dancers from all over the world has also been fantastic and even when we are not in Senegal dancing together we keep in touch via email and by phone.