By Amaka Agwuegbo
When, in 2006, Nigeria had the opportunity to break the world record Â Â Â on the longest hours danced, little did anyone know that what was once considered a past time for drop outs and neâ€™er do well could earn Nigeria a place in the coveted Guinness Book of World Records. Nigeria, through Kafayat Shafau, earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for breaking the record on the last man dancing, dancing for 55 hours 40 minutes.
One young man who is so passionate about dancing and is determined to groom the next generation of dancers is Edo-State born Ohi Esidome, a graduate of creative arts from the University of Lagos and a professional dancer. Ohi has always been a dancer right from his childhood, dancing from the house to the church, that though his parents tried to get him to become an economist, his love for dancing wouldnâ€™t let him be.
â€œThough I have always loved to dance right from my childhood, but becoming a professional dancer wasnâ€™t a clear cut decision I wanted to take because I was being encouraged to become an economist by my parents. My father would tell me â€˜real men make money, not danceâ€™.
â€œEven after secondary school, I nursed the ambition of becoming an economist, but I still had the passion for dancing but not to make a living from it. Then, I used to dance at home and in the church without knowing that time was coming when Iâ€™ll be paid to dance for people.â€
But Ohi damned the consequences of drifting from his parentsâ€™ dream to becoming his own man and making dancing his mainstay after watching successful dancers on real television, thus, birthing Quba Dance Studios in 2006. Today, though his father has passed on, his mother couldnâ€™t be more proud of him as he has made a success of his passion.
According to Ohi, â€œI know mother is proud of me, though she may not say it, but as a mother, itâ€™s not all the time you get to see your child performing on television. I know how I feel when I watch myself perform, so I can imagine how my mother would feel too whenever she sees me.â€ Pointing out that dance still seems as more of side attraction in Nigeria, but it is a profitable and financially rewarding business that requires hard work and perseverance.
â€œPeople would pay an artist N5 million to perform at a show, but the same people would want to pay dancers N100,000 for the same show. This is not supposed to be the case because we are yet to see dance as an urgent need in the entertainment industry, despite being strongest and oldest genre in the arts.â€
From a humble beginning of receiving N25,000 for his Street Knowledge group, Ohi is now the CEO of Quba Dance Studios, which he started in 2004 while in 2nd year in the university, and gets paid in 6 digits.
â€œI started as backup dancer for 2Face and toured with him for his first album. I think I was paid N25,000 for the entire tour with the whole crew and I was happy. Wande Coal was my lead dancer in the group called Street Knowledge. Now, my fee starts from N400,000.
Now, so good is Ohi at what he knows how to do best that he has served as an in-house dance instructor for the Spirit of David Celebrity Takes 2 and Nigerian Breweries Star Quest.
Pointing out that though patronage may be low, but things are turning out for the better for the dance industry with the increase in the number of dance reality shows springing up.
â€œPresently, dance industry is the place to be because it is really booming as more people are now appreciating and paying attention to dance, making them willing to pay a dancer N2 million to perform.
Top on the list of challenges faced in the line of duty are financial constrains, especially as clients would not want to pay for services rendered because they erroneously believe that dance is not an important need for everybody.
â€œA bigger challenge is lack of adequate space. We need somewhere spacious where people could come to and feel free to express themselves. When I was still in school, I had same challenge because it was difficult for a young entrepreneur to have substantial capital to start off in a standard studio.
â€œAlso, I try as much as to correct the impression that dancers are drop outs and neâ€™er do well despite the increase in dance reality shows. That pushed us to have forums where dancers can meet and be certified as professional dancers.â€
Expatiating further on type and duration of the dance courses, the Quba Dance boss said training to become an instructor could last for 2 years while dancing to lose weight or for the fun of it depends on the individual.
â€œThis is so because we train you to become a certified dancer. It is run like a school whereby you would be presented with a certificate after 2 years of training. This costs N65,000 annually. We also have room for people who want to use dancing as a means of losing weight or just learn how to dance.
â€œWe teach Latin and ballroom dances. Latin dances are salsa, cha-cha and rumba, while the ballroom dances are waltz and foxtrot. We also teach hip-hop, ballet, traditional, contemporary dances. We also teach wedding dances to about-to-wed couples.
â€œWe went into wedding dances two years ago in a bid to add colour to otherwise boring and stereotyped weddings. I thought of how to make weddings more interesting and to involve more of the couple because the people that have all the fun at weddings are the guests who are busy feasting while the couples may be thinking of how much they have spent.
â€œSo, I came up with the first dance concept, which is basically where couples have their first dance as newly weds. This is to make the wedding dance more memorable like the first kiss as we found out that couples merely shake their bodies in the name of dancing. But what we teach them is more structured and involves them more.
â€œThe aims of the wedding dance concept is to bring couples closer since the dances we teach are all about closeness. It adds colour to the weddings as the couples get to entertain their guests. â€œAlso, because we teach Latin and ballroom dances which involve two people, the wedding is the perfect place to exhibit that closeness since these dances are not done in isolation. The wedding dance is embodied by love and is something really beautiful for the couple that your wedding is not complete without our wedding dance.
â€œIt is a two_week programme and the couple will come to our studio, at least, 5 times where we teach them classical dance steps that are unique to them. They can come with their songs which we teach them how to dance to for just N100,000.â€