The Batuke Festival 2010
Urdang Academy, Old Finsbury Town Hall, September 2010
The Batuke! festival took place at the Urdang Academy on September 9th-11th, 2010 Produced by Kizomba UK, and branded as ‘The International Afro-Latin Music & Dance Festival In the UK’, the event featured two days of workshops and entertainment, highlighting ‘the culture of the Luso-African diaspora (Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Guinea Bissau) and its many influences (West Indies, Brazil, Europe, Portugal)’. I popped in on the Sunday afternoon and the building was still buzzing with activity. There were stalls selling African clothing, dance shoes and accessories and posters hanging in the halls with information about a range of dance styles.
I caught up with a few of the delegates, most of whom were exhausted but thoroughly satisfied from dancing all weekend. Delegates had come from all over Europe, and as I wondered through the venue chatting with people and observing the event, I had an overwhelming sense that more than anything else Batuke was about experiencing and becoming a part of Luso-African culture. I had the privilege of chatting with co-organiser, Iris De Brito, before the event. She highlighted that so much of the work in the field of dance of the African Diaspora in the UK is focused on the theatrical setting that we forget that many of our traditions are rooted in communities coming together and taking part. The event certainly lived up to this ambition - there was a real family atmosphere in the venue. However I hasten to say that this did not overshadow the fact that for everyone in the room dance, music and culture are serious business.
When I arrived there was a group of about 50 delegates huddled around a panel of artists, discussing approaches to teaching and conserving Afro-Latin dance traditions. I was struck by the sense of community, passion and commitment amongst both the participants and practitioners. One of the artists on the panel was Petchu, the award-winning founder of Ballet Tradicional Kilandukilu. Together with his wife, Vanessa, he has been working in Portugal to conserve and share Angolan culture for over 30 years. As one of the first teachers to develop a structured methodology for Kizomba (a social partner dance, which originated in Angola in the 80s and 90s), he shared passionately about the need for dancers to train, research and have a deep understanding of cultural dance forms before setting up as teachers to pass these forms on. The discussion was a vibrant exchange between teachers and participants about the tension between the popularisation and conservation of culture.The discussion finished and before I knew more people streamed into the great hall of the Urdang building, filling the space …quot; seated on scattered chairs and on the floor or standing around the periphery of the room to participate in a relaxed singing workshop.
Kizomba UK, the organisers of Batuke! plan to develop the event into a regular fixture on the dance calendar. And if the support from businesses, cultural organisations and dance lovers for this inaugural event is any indication of things to come, look out for an even more vibrant and engaging this September!
Association of Dance of the African Diaspora