A Joyful Journey- CP Africa Trip

Part Two: Speaking to Souls through Movement 

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul,” as the infamous Martha Graham stated during her time. She speaks a truth I preach and continue to live by.  And as dancers, we needed to dance after sitting stagnant on a plane and an airport for a total of 24 hours. Our bodies were beyond refreshed as we began to move during our first Ethiopian dance class, taught by Addisu Demissie and Junaid Jemal Sendi of Destino Dance Company.


Destino Dance Company’s mission is to establish a three-year training program for street children, orphans and young offenders, as well as expand contemporary dance in Ethiopia. Addisu and Junaid opened up their doors to three crazy American dancers by allowing us to learn aspects of their cultural dance. Being a modern dancer, I cannot tell you my personal excitement when I saw Junaid doing leg swings to warm-up for class. I knew immediately that this was going to be a good class. They say that dance is an international language, which we definitely found to be true as we began doing combinations that we had done countless times in the United States. Plies, tendus, and Martha Graham contractions! How could we be speaking through the same movement halfway across the world!?

About thirty minutes into class, we begin diving into some of the more unfamiliar movements of the Ethiopian Cultural Dance. Yet, even though it was new movement, we felt so many roots of Hip Hop through each step. Junaid and Addisu showed us that each region dances with different parts of their bodies. The north, their head and shoulders, the central tribes, their hips and abdominals, and the south, the Wolaita region of Soddo, moved with their legs. And oh man, did we learn that we were DEFINITELY not cut out for the north! The result of our pathetic effort of trying to match their beautiful, meticulous head movements was pain-stricken necks and head nods that looked more like chickens with their heads cut off. But, despite our oh-so-wonderful dance moves, the cultural class was incredible!

The day after the class, we ate at Yod Ethiopian Cultural Restaurant, which included the traditional meal as well as a show of the traditional dancing. Walking into the restaurant was like walking into a whole new world. The dancers moved with such strength, power, and subtlety; traits we had not yet mastered through the previous classes. Bianca, Ellen, and I got so excited because we were able to match the specific dance movements to the region they were from. Overall, it was an incredible experience taking a dance class in Africa and experiencing some of their culture through this beautiful art form. Just as Martha Graham stated, dance is an international language, done through our bodies, yet spoken through our souls.

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