Drums, dance and diversity | SteamboatToday.com

Drums, dance and diversity

African Drum and Dance Ensemble to host workshops this week

Margaret Hair

— By bringing in outside help to learn outside cultures, members of the African Drum and Dance Ensemble are able to experience a kind of diversity that might not otherwise be readily available in Steamboat Springs.

“I think that’s where a lot of us crave it,” said Nicole Idzahl, who has been an African dance instructor, choreographer and enthusiast for nine years. “That’s how we get to immerse ourselves in their culture – by bringing them here.”

On Tuesday and Thursday, visiting West African instructor Abdoulaye Camara will lead workshops in drums and dance.

Camara, who is from Guinea, came through Steamboat at the beginning of his annual American tour in June and has danced with the Ballet Foret Sacree in Senegal, Ballet Senegambia and African Ballet in Gambia. He now lives in Sweden and leads his own company.

“He can teach the most beginning dancer to an advanced dancer, and be able to round out the whole class,” said Jennifer Lowe, who taught drum and dance classes over the summer.

The workshops are a chance to share the cultural enlightenment members of the ensemble get from wildly popular weekly dance classes taught at the Depot Art Center on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Idzahl said.

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“There’s a crowd that’s been coming for years and years, and it actually keeps getting bigger,” she said.

Every year, especially since the classes started being offered through Colorado Mountain College as African Dance I, II and III, there are new people. Idzahl started teaching a class in Oak Creek this fall, and already has 20 students.

“You get the best workout you could ever imagine, and it’s so fun,” Idzahl said. “You’re clapping, and you’re singing, and you’re celebrating life every Tuesday and Thursday.”

The dances are suitable to all body types and all skill levels. Participants from grade school to gray hair took part in a Tuesday evening intermediate and advanced dance class. Some of them had the beat, some of them lost it, some were reserved, some were expressive – but they all smiled.

The advanced class is accompanied by three drummers, who are learning the intricate polyrhythms that inform African and Latin music and, in a lot of ways, anything danceable.

Mike Kimmecom, who plays an hourglass-shaped hand drum called a djembe, was a heavy metal drummer for 12 years. He got into Latin music and from there found a natural connection to African drumming.

“This is the most fun ever,” Kimmecom said.