Looking to freshen up your dance moves before the sun sets on what has been a year with far less dancing than usual?
Thanks to the Tidewater African Cultural Alliance, you can soon learn from the blue man who taught Beyoncé. And Rihanna. Oh, and Janet Jackson, too.
All the from the comfort of home. Stephen “Papi” Ojo — the 22-year-old Nigerian-born artist, actor, model and choreographer who stole the show in Beyoncé's “Already” music video — will lead a virtual Afrobeats dance workshop on Saturday, Oct. 10.
Last year, TACA hosted its first-ever festival. Stretching out over the weekend, it included an Afrobeats fitness class, dance competitions, movie screenings and more, all showcasing the best the continent has to offer.
It was such a success, organizer Rita Cohen said, that they immediately knew the festival would become an annual staple for the organization. Then coronavirus hit and shut down entertainment venues, and Cohen didn’t think a festival was possible this year.
She changed her mind when she happened to see Ojo — who served as a judge at last year’s dance competition and taught attendees how to break it down — dancing alongside Beyoncé on her television this summer when the pop singer released her visual album “Black is King.”
“I texted Stephen right away and asked him if we could do this workshop virtually, and he immediately agreed,” she said.
So, as things tend to go in 2020, this year’s festivities will be a little different and entirely virtual.
And Ojo’s workshop will kick it off at 2 p.m. Oct. 10.
Registration for the dance class will be available until 1 p.m. the day of, and costs $15 a person.
If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to put your name on the list. Cohen said people from all over the country have already signed up to learn from Ojo.
What should you expect from the class? Cohen said it will last 90 minutes and is open to all dancers, no matter their level of experience.
“If you do this all the time or if you think you have two left feet and have never done Afrobeats before, this is for you,” she said.
Ojo will teach all of the latest Afrobeats dances, including the iconic Gbese and possibly some of the moves he shared with the aforementioned pop icons.
It’s the perfect opportunity to get ready for TACA’s Dance Off competition, which takes place Nov. 14. Registration for the competition is available until Oct. 31 and costs $10 per dancer.
This year, the Afrobeats dance competition will feature single dancers instead of teams in order to keep everyone safe and ensure social distancing by competitors. Dancers will be split into two groups: teen and adult.
To participate, Cohen said, dancers have to submit two videos of themselves. The first should be about 90 seconds and will be used for the preliminary round. The second video should be about one minute and will be used if a dancer advances to the final round.
Don’t want to dance in the competition? That’s all right.
You can watch instead and help decide whose moves are worthy enough to be deemed the winner. The competition and performances are free for those who just want to tune in.
Cohen said they’ll include special performances throughout the dance-off, and those performances will highlight more of the African diaspora this year.
“We’re adding in performances featuring the Afro Latino culture and performances from the Caribbean, not only continental Africa,” she said.
There aren’t any geographical limits on who can participate either. Dancers from around the globe are welcome to battle it out on the virtual dance floor.
“We are choosing to look at the silver lining with all that is going on and open this up to anyone,” Cohen said. “We want to give people something to get their minds and bodies moving and celebrate the culture of Africa.”
More information about both the workshop and dance off can be found online at TACA757.org/events.
Amy Poulter, 757-446-2705, firstname.lastname@example.org
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