Abimbola Obafunwa: I Believe So Much in Story Telling Through Dance

Abimbola Obafunwa is a creative genius. He is an artistic director, theatre administrator, choreographer, dance artiste and author. Obafunwa has carved a career path through dancing since his university days, and has given dance life and changed lives through dance. Dancing and managing dance competitions professionally for over two decades has had him laced in major corporate dance projects for numerous brands and states in various capacities as director, creative consultant, producer, and passionately overseeing these portfolios as he revealed in this chat with Ferdinand Ekechukwu

How long have you been in this career path professionally?                             

Approximately 24 years, 1998 till date.

What’s the inspiration behind your career in dance?

I guess my inspiration was the visually appealing nature of dance. From the moment I watched the likes of Michael Jackson as a young child, through the Usher days and all the great legends, I found out that performance is kind of bland without movement. And when movement is introduced, there’s a visual appeal that comes with it through the body expression of music or sound or rhythm. They say “Dance is the language of the gods”. The bodily interpretations of what humans feel, and the visually appeal that comes with that is the most fascinating thing about dance. I believe so much in story telling through dance and the body.

Has dance always been a childhood dream or a path that caught up with you as an adult?                                                            

I would not be able to say clearly if I had always wanted to dance from childhood. However, my parents had mentioned that I always stood on the table, tried to do a flip from the bed, always dancing. I think it was during my lit days in school that I actually started seeing that there might be something here, and when I got into the university, I eventually joined a group but I started as a solo performer, I went by the name DEGO in the University of Ibadan. After a while of doing solo gigs, I ended up joining Spirit of David in 2000. Spirit of David helped put things in the right perspective. That’s where we began to learn the importance of dance, the effect and the power behind it. Thanks to Segun Lawal and the entire Spirit of David team, it kind of created form, gave us direction and now, I began to see it more as a profession, as something that I could use to change lives.

What challenges have you faced since you began the performing arts and how were you able to handle them?                  

Regarding performing arts generally, the number one challenge will be acceptance, and the belief from people that this art form has the ability to not only change lives, but also has the ability to empower. That has been our biggest challenge and I think that has been the fear of most Nigerians. Also, you see dance and art as a whole, being misrepresented by people who don’t understand the depth of what they carry. Sometimes, the media has a way of propagating this, and pushing this narrative stronger than the art forms or the art expressions that actually carry weight. We have been able to survive by being authentic and we have been able to survive by being persistent, by being goal oriented and goal driven.

What other career paths would you have been involved in if you were not doing dance and theatre arts?                                              

If I wasn’t doing dance and theatre arts, I think I would have been in something close to that. I believe that according to T.D Jakes, if God appeared in human form today, he will be a movie maker or a film maker because Jesus did all his teachings in parables. Visually, he was trying to paint pictures and he was trying to create Visual expressions of the stories he told, and I believe it’s one of the biggest most powerful tools in the world. But the next thing I would probably be doing would be film making, producer, which I am still going to do anyway. That is where I am heading to, I think. I have started doing it but that will be another thing to explore.

As director of Corporate Dance World and founder of Dancerapy, give us an insight into dance in Nigeria?

Dance in Nigeria and dance in Africa is literally powerful and influential in music. Dancing in music has taken the nation by storm. Dance has greatly influenced the mode of entertainment generally. You literally don’t have a music performance without some element or movement of dance. Most of the skits now have dancing in them. African dance or afro dance style has gone beyond the shores of Nigeria and you have musicians and artists around the world wanting to jump on our afro beats style. Dance generally has a great influence and has grown over the years in lips and bounds and we can only be grateful to God for that.  Notice how all social media platforms, Instagram reels, tiktok have dance as its leading entertainment factor. You know that Nigeria is at the forefront of this level of entertainment from our musicians doing great things – Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido etc.

Tells us about Dance as a therapy

We started Dancerapy in 2005, a balance fitness programme and gave it form in 2013. Dancerapy is derived from two words – Dance and Therapy. It has been medically proven that dance is the second most efficient, therapeutic exercise in the world that you can do to stay healthy and live long. It has also been proven that dancing can extend your life span by about 20%. Our slogan at Dancerapy is “Live Long, Dance More”. The health benefits, the emotional benefits, the psychological benefits attached to dancing you find out that through a one-hour session with Dancerapy, dancing and having fun helps you burn between 500-600 calories depending on your intensity.

Which of your projects stand out for you and why?                                                   

Of all the projects that I have had the privilege of being a part of, my number 1 project will still remain Maltina Dance All. I mean all the projects are great; my time on Celebrity Takes 2 was awesome. My work on Maltina Dance All was beyond being a dance director. For a period of 10 years, we had the opportunity to help redefine and shape the minds of Nigerians towards accepting dance as a positive element in our entertainment/creative industry. Prior to then, there was a lot of struggle for parents to accept that their children would be professional dancers and be able to survive. I think what really broke the ice for parents round the nation was the fact that Maltina Dance All was the only show that had father, mother and children involved in the same competition. Maltina Dance All was and in fact is still the most impactful family reality show till date. It inspired unity in the homes of over 30-40 million Nigerians and Africans worldwide annually.

Creatives are fully immersed in their work. How do you balance personal/ family life with work?

You can never really fully balance. However, what I have tried to do over the years is to ensure that everybody has time. When it is time with the family, know that you are with the family. I also take out time to spend with myself, there’s a part of my office where, when I come to work in the mornings, I just sit there for an hour or two just spending time with myself. I still have arguments with my wife sometimes, I am at home and it still feels like I’m doing creative work. 

During your performances, what message do you expect your audience to feel?

Well I need to be sure that at the end of my performance every time, the audience got what they came for. First things first, we do not create a performance without knowing who the audience is and what they would be expecting. Sometimes, performances are created to pass a message regardless of the type of audience. Audiences come from different demography, some come to be entertained, educated, inspired, motivated etc., you as a creative must be able to deliver whatever it is you know they are there for. What we do apart from spending time creating content or a performance, we spend time on the delivery of that content to ensure that the audience get the message.

How many students have you coached so far and what are the age groups?

I can’t put a number to it because coaching is on various levels. On TV shows and other social media platforms, several individuals have been reached through my tutorship in this country. We have also had several students go through our training programme at The Dance Deal Training Foundation, the institution we set up in 2009, as well as through workshops and seminars done by our Forward Dance Championship programme for schools in Lagos State. If I’m to put a number to that I would say we could have done 10-20,000 of them. Through the Dance Deal Training Foundation, we have done 400 certification programmes in dance in the last 13 years. For the age groups, anybody can dance. The regular age groups would be between 16 and 35 years. For us, we teach any and everybody, people of various age groups.

What’s the most fun and bad times during your years as a dance genius?

As a dance genius, I would say my most fun moments are when I’m in the studio creating. I love to create, pull up a new move, and create something new. I believe in creativity so much. I am a creative genius. Sad moments would probably have to be when I meet someone who does not believe in creativity, dance as a form of expression or when I meet someone who doesn’t know the power they have within their creativity.

What project do you have coming up and what are we to expect from it?

I have one major project and that is the launch of my creative institute, the Bimbo Obafunwa Creative Institute (BOCI). The institute is an initiative that is going to help creatives in general, business owners and entrepreneurs. The course is basically for everybody out there to realize the power of their creativity to identify who they really are, when it comes to how and what to create. The course ultimately is to build resource in terms of more income for their area of specialty.

What are your hobbies?

I love to swim. I like water a lot. I love to read about people’s lives. I choose what I read like about people’s lives and motivational stuff. I enjoy reading about how people created solutions to problems around the world, reading also about inventions and investors. Basically, my hobbies are swimming, reading, gaining more knowledge and spending time with myself.

What is your advice to the young ones who are looking out for opportunities in dance and theatre arts?

My advice to the young ones looking to make a break in the arts is firstly, know who you are, identify with who you are. Secondly, surround yourself with people that help you become who you want to be. Thirdly, work very hard. The fourth is to gain knowledge, bridge the knowledge gap. Lastly, build healthy relationships because your relationships sustain you.

Related Articles