About a week ago I was invited to teach a class with the dancers at Ombetja Yehinga Organisation Dance Troupe (mostly referred to as OYO). I was invited with the idea that they could simply engage with a new person, a new dance vocabulary, receive some input other than what they normally have. I prepared my class dutifully, structuring the class, going over exercises in my little room, limbs hitting furniture. I was nervous, I’m more used to being the student than the teacher. I arrived at the Youth Centre in Katatura feeling distinctly silly and ill-equipped.
I walk into the hall, the dancers had just finished lunch. Jessica, one of the dancers, introduced herself. I introduce myself to the rest of the dancers. They all have that look that dancers everywhere have, mildly exhausted and extremely comfortable in their skin. Teaching may be new to me but dancers and dancing are not. I feel less silly. We start the class and it goes well. We go through the warm-up, plies, some floor work, a few jumps. Afterwards we improvise a little and just groove out to Aretha Franklin. It’s really fun.
The Namibian Trust, Ombetja Yehinga Organisation was founded in 2003, with the Dance Troupe established in 2008. OYO uses dance and physical theatre to send across a message, to educate and inform their audience. As a dance troupe they seem to be going from strength to strength, making a serious impacton the general perception and influence of dance and art in Namibia, bringing up important discussions about HIV/AIDS, children’s rights, gender and discrimination and the many other topics that need focus.
After the hour or so of technique class, I watch them rehearse for future shows. Aside from going over a piece entitled 24, which they recently took to Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, they also rehearse an upcoming piece that has been commissioned by the Spanish Embassy. (Happening on 8 October, 19h30, at the Warehouse). I’m really impressed at their drive and discipline. The dancers basically conduct rehearsals themselves, giving and receiving corrections from each other. It gives new insight to the word ‘company’ for it’s clear to see that they are a tight community, picking up on cues from each other so instinctively, one cannot doubt the togetherness of this group.
Aside from what the organization is achieving, the individual dancers themselves are all kinds of amazing. They have this zen sort of attitude towards their less-than-stellar rehearsal space, mixed with an intense vigour and love for dance, for movement itself and for learning everything there is to know about dance. I couldn’t help but feel that if there are more people out there who feel this way about dance, then this art form has a long and exciting future in Namibia.
Check out OYO’s website here and their Facebook page here!
Written by Nicola van Straaten, a dance artist who thinks dance is pretty much related to everything.