Interview with Sydney based African dance teacher, Mory Traore

Mory Traore and Aicha Keita are 2 talented dancers and dance teachers from Conakry, Guinea. They currently teach and perform in Sydney, Australia.

Last year James and Drew from the djembefola.com team sat down to have a chat about who they are, where they come from and where they’re going.

James
So Mory, where are you from and how did you come to dancing?

Mory
I was born in Conakry in Guinea, now I live in Sydney Australia. I have been dancing since I was 7 or 8 years. I learnt from Ballet Matam. My teacher’s name was Sekouba Camara and he taught me how to dance and he was a very good teacher.

Drew
Sekouba was a big man in the ballets?

Mory
Yes Ballet Djoliba, Ballet Africain, but he died 1 month ago, so I am very sad.

James
From Guinea to Australia, how long have you been living in Sydney?

Mory
I have been living here for 3 years now. 2 years ago I teamed up with Jeli Bouba Kuyateh from Melbourne, we toured around Australia, Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne, Lismore. Performing and teaching a little bit.

Since then I have been working with a group called Drum Beats, doing corporate work as well as many other kinds of performance.

Drew
How do you find the corporate stuff compared to what you were doing back home?

Mory
Yes it’s very different. It’s like teaching, but it’s really basic. Back home, we work very hard, but here it’s much easier.

James
In what way is it easier?

Mory
With teaching, it is harder because many people, have never danced before. You have to be patient, and teach them slowly. For performance, you know what you are doing, so it’s easy. For teaching, it’s a little harder.

Drew
So the dancing comes more easily for someone from Guinea?

Mory
Yes its easier for people from Guinea.

James
I suppose in Africa there they are used to hearing the drumming where as here they aren’t used to the music.

Mory
In Guinea we’re drumming all the time. In Guinea, I danced in the Ballet Monday to Friday, its like a job.

James
How many years did you dance in the Ballet?

Mory
15 or 16 years… but I really enjoyed that, it’s good to learn and it’s very important. Now I live in Australia and I’m happy to share my culture. It’s good for them to understand our culture.

Drew
When you do a dance are you telling a story of something in the culture.

Mory
Yes, some movements are telling a story, like when you’re washing the clothes and putting them up to dry. All the Rhythms in my country you play them for some reason. Everything has a meaning. You play for this reason.

To learn. It’s good to tell Australian people what this means and what that means.

James
In Conakry do they play rhythms outside their normal context?

Mory
Yes, but only in the Ballet, to learn. In Conakry, the same, but only the Ballet, you learn everything, and we play for the families when they have something special, like weddings or if someone wants to get married or if someone dies.

Drew
When you said about some movements telling a story, would you be able to demonstrate a step from a dance to show a step and what it means?

* Mory kindly obliges *

Drew
Where do you see yourself going with the dance in the future?

Mory
I’m going to keep going with the dancing until I get old, and then maybe then I’ll stop

Drew
Do you have an advice for people in Australia who want to learn to dance?

Mory
They should come to my dance class to learn :). It’s a little hard for some people if they’ve never danced before, but we can help them.
We have simple steps that will be easy for them.

I think it’s important for them to learn West African dancing because it’s good their bodies.

Drew
What if there are good dancers in your class?

Mory
You have to mix and add some harder steps so we can check the level of people in the diagonals.

James
So the way you’re teaching is it the same way you learnt?

Mory
No it’s different. In Africa, people don’t have time to teach you like that. You just look and you do it. Sometimes your friends can help you afterwards, but not normally you don’t have that kind of opportunity.

In Africa you can see a step and you can try to learn it. In our Ballet, we try to create new steps all the time. So we put together traditional steps from the village.

Lots of steps are original, but many are created on the way.

When you have a lot of experience you can come to dance class and just do your dance class, you don’t even have to think about what your will do. It is easy for your when you know what you are doing.

I really enjoy doing my dancing. I really enjoy performing and teaching.

James
How important is it to smile when you dance?

Mory
It’s very important. You can’t dance if you’re not happpy and if your not happy you can’t dance. It’s important to show poeple that you are happy and you can make people happy at the same time.

Drew
When you dance in the Ballet, how often do you do repetition?

Mory
Every day, Monday to Friday. Sometimes 5 / 6 hours a day.

James
Nobody compains about the drumming?

Mory
No, they don’t complain, not even at 2 in the morning.

When you do a wedding in the streeet, like a dundunba, you don’t even have to invite people. Just start and you’ll see how many people will be there….

Even 1 – 2 o’clock in the morning, they will come and they will be happy.

Mory and Aicha are African Dance teachers in Sydney.

They currently teach at noon every Saturday at Forest Lodge Public School near Glebe.