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West African Dance Comes to Beloit

            Andrea Markus, a teacher of West African Dance based out of New York City, spent the past week at Beloit College offering a variety of workshops and classes. Markus taught four open classes for the college community, one class with high school students in the Help Yourself program, and spent about twenty hours creating an original piece highlighting Beloit students.

          Markus, originally from Kingston, Jamaica, is trained in West African in Guinee, where she has traveled multiple times. The Guinean style of West African involves the djembe drum. In West African dance and music much of the style is denoted by this type of drum which accompanies the dancing. Many other drums are also used in Guinean dance, but a djembe is almost always present. Markus often includes aspects from different styles in her work, including some Afro-Caribbean. She also uses her modern dance training in her teaching, often pulling vocabulary from various modern techniques and movement languages, such as Laban, which offers one possible way to describe movement using terminology such as slash, flick, and punch. 

          Markus didn’t intend to work in the dance field, or arts at all, as she initially wished to study biology in undergrad, with the goal of attending medical school. However, towards the end of her time at university, she started getting increasingly involved with and interested in various forms of dance, including modern and West African dance. After graduating from Ithaca and moving to New York City, Markus ultimately got an MA in Dance Education from NYU. Now, Markus teaches at the Alvin Ailey school, directs their summer camp, and does residencies at various schools, from elementary schools to colleges, and is able to successfully make a living in New York through her various artistic and teaching endeavors.

          Markus’ offered a variety of advice for those who want to make careers as artists. Markus believes that “it’s easy in our society to do something people consider safe or sensible, but if you love what you do, you’re going to make it work…you’ll be successful if you push through.” Markus also suggests surrounding yourself with people who will support you “if you’re an artist and your friends don’t like that or they’re always saying stuff, it’s not a good idea to hang around them because those messages will seep into your conscious.” For anyone planning to pursue arts in a city after graduation, she suggests starting out with a secondary, part-time, job and as many roommates as possible.

          Markus offered an exciting dance opportunity for Beloit, and a dance style which is not typically taught here. To see some of Markus’ work, come to Chelonia on February 5-8, 2018.

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