We are thrilled to bring Senegal into the West African mix at the Retreat. We are lucky to have a highly respected teacher of this style with us, Marie Basse Wiles. Watch this interview for the New York Public Library Digital Collections to really get an understanding of where Marie is coming from, and how lucky we are to get a chance to study with her.
This description of the interview from the website is a good way to skim if you dont' have time for the whole interview:
"Marie Basse Wiles discusses her interest in fabric and fashion from Senegal; her childhood in her birthplace Dakar, Senegal; dance being an integral part of her household; learning traditional dances and songs of the Bambara people from her Malian born grandmother, Maimouna Keita; dancing as a youth with the family for Bara community celebrations; differences she observed in Senegal and Mali; her favorite dance, the Malakadon; how the Genefole dance of Mali, and the Nip dance from Senegal both have a spiritual healing purpose; dancing with several regional companies before joining the Ballet National of Senegal; her family's resistance to her touring; auditioning for the Ballet National of Senegal with the Bougarabou dance; crediting Oumi Sene as her Sabar and Serer teacher; dancing with the Ballet National of Senegal for twelve years; the company being well supported by the first President of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor; what makes a great African dancer; the importance of continued research and learning cultural dances in the context of each ethnic group; coming to the United States when she was performing with Ibrahima Camara at Disney's African Pavilion, in California, in 1981; meeting her drummer husband Olukose Wiles; getting married in 1982 and founding their company, The Maimouna Keita African Dance Company in 1983; recalling her first dance classes in New York City at the Armory in Brooklyn; Maimouna Keita African Dance Company celebrating its 22nd Annual Dance Conference and concert in April 2014; needing patience to keep a company alive and thriving for 30 years; her commitment to sharing her knowledge with everyone that embraces African dance and culture; how African dance classes in the 1980's and 1990's were more popular then now and how it is up to the dance community elders to draw the new generation back in; Wiles explains the meaning of the Malakadon dance and demonstrates steps that express welcome and bringing people together from that dance; sings a Lamban song; talks about how the words of a song can inspire choreography; learning how to adjust her teaching style for the diverse students in her classes, what she wants them to learn, and some of her teaching methods; the importance of understanding the language of the drum, the rhythm, and the conversation between musician and dancer; the traditional outfit worn for the Lamban dance; how Lamban is performed for the king and queen; the obstacles African women face trying to survive in the New York City dance world; how her teaching career began at the National Ballet of Senegal while teaching other company members various ethnic dances; giving homage to the legendary drummer Papa Ladji Camara and long-time Senegal to America dance friend Malang Bayo; similarities in traditional dances from Senegal and dances of current American popular culture; her advice for young artists to learn the traditional dances first and then to create their own work on top of that foundation; Wiles demonstrating a movement from the Bougarabou dance; and the interview concludes with the statement, "African dance is beautiful".