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Upstairs at Dance Ireland, in the corner of a dimly-lit studio with a high ceiling and white walls, Favour Odusola and Lapree Ncube are laughing.

Odusola has propped a phone on a tripod. It’s pointed at a cream-coloured curtain and a banner that says: “JAIVA THE AFRO DANCE EXPERIENCE”.

Standing in front of the banner, in between two lights elevated on tall tripods, they toy with ideas for a short promo video.

“Oh my days, I don’t understand Favour … ,” said Ncube, practising her line.

Odusola cuts her off. She needs to sound angrier, he says. He tries to demonstrate.

“Okay, first of all, you are angry; you won’t be like, oh my days … ,” says Odusola, softening his voice.

Ncube laughs out loud.

In this studio on Foley Street in the north inner-city, Ncube and Odusola – both dance teachers – are prepping for a big project: a three-day Afro dance camp in Rialto that goes beyond just dance, mixing in other slices of culture from parts of the African continent, through food and talks.

That’s to show how dancing and celebration of mundane things are sewn into the fabric of life where they grew up.

“With Nigerians, right? With Yoruba, right? There’s a dance for everything we do,” said Odusola recently.

“We’re going to the farm, there’s a dance. We’re cooking, there’s a dance,” he said, smiling broadly.

A wariness of discriminatory border policies means they have already slightly pared back their project. They’re still worried that the one dancer they hope to bring over from Nigeria won’t get his visa in time, they say.

But they are pressing ahead with enthusiasm. It’s vital to learn about the genuine roots of commercialised things, says Odusola.

“A lot of these [dance] movements that people give whatever name to, and they’re highly commercialised; it has its background in African dance,” he says.

“When you see people doing it in this washdown way, it kind of gets you thinking about the importance of learning that,” he said.

Dance and More

Jaiva – the name of Odusola and Ncube’s camp – means “dance” in Zulu, a South African tongue.

It’s an ode to the freedom and self-confidence that dancing brought Ncube as a small girl in Johannesburg, chucked into a sea of street dancers by her parents.

She still remembers them and the parents of other kids hollering, “Jaiva! Jaiva!” she says.

“That really impacted so much in your confidence and self-esteem as a kid,” says Ncube. It felt like a triumph, she says.

“You feel the love, and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’m doing this in front of everyone,’” said Ncube, sitting across from Odusola in an upstairs room of Dance Ireland.

During the three-day dance festival, slated to run from 19 to 21 May, there will be food, cultural talks and rousing music, they said,

“It’s a way to introduce people into the kind of Nigerian-Congolese culture and just get them to experience that,” says Odusola.

Dance battles are on the schedule, too. For Odusola, they are a way of remembering Nigeria, his place of birth, back before cell phones and the internet swallowed up people’s days.

DJs would dip out and play new songs on the streets to see how they went down, he says. Dance battles would ensue. Like most fights, there were winners.

“You’d get to see different dancers just come out and battle it out on the dance floor,” says Odusola. “That’s the kind of vibe we’re looking for here.”

Travelling for Dance

For the festival experience to be authentic, they need to bring over dancers living the cultures that Ncube and Odusola hope to showcase.

But Black dancers often face visa barriers, they say.

As the number of asylum seekers arriving in Ireland grew last year, Ncube saw more of her friends, among them other dance teachers, face greater difficulties crossing the border into Ireland.

One guy Ncube had invited over for an event was living in Barcelona. He is South African, and South African citizens don’t need a visa to travel here.

Still, he faced a grilling. “When he came over, he spent over 35 minutes being questioned like why he was actually here,” says Ncube.

All of his documents were in order, she says. “He had his invitation letter. He had accommodation to show where he was staying.”

He even had a Schengen visa in his passport, she says. But border-control officers couldn’t believe he’d only travelled for dance and thought he might probably seek asylum later, says Ncube. He eventually got in.

Odusola and Ncube had planned to bring over three dancers based in the African continent for Jaiva. But because of how long it can take for visas to come through – if granted – they settled on one.

A month ago, Ambrose Idemudia Joshua, who lives in Nigeria, applied for an Irish visit visa to attend the Dublin dance camp.

Joshua says he’s used to visa problems. He’s also used to them impacting his dance career, he says.

“You might have all the necessary documents, and for some reason, you just get turned down, and it’s very detrimental to the growth of an average Nigerian dancer or artist,” said Joshua on a WhatsApp call on Thursday.

The first time Joshua applied for a visa, it was for a gig in the United States, he says. He didn’t get it. It still stings, he says.

It would have been his first time travelling abroad to dance. “I was invited to come to a performance in DC,” said Joshua.

Odusola and Ncube, who are funding Joshua’s trip with their own money, wonder if his visa will come through in time or at all, they say – and that’s stressful.

Odusola says it’s frustrating to face the relentless suspicion at airports that you might be there to seek asylum. “It’s annoying, the anxiety and the stress, and that affects you mentally.”

“But you also get to realise that the level of trust that system has in people like us is really small, it’s tiny, you know,” says Odusola.

Part of their dance camp is about shattering racist stereotypes about Black people, he says.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this, to get people to see that we can bring something important, we can contribute,” says Odusola, a tricolour pin on the collar of his jacket.

“That we don’t need to be treated like criminals or treated like or looked at with a bombastic side eye,” he says, as Ncube laughs and nods.

The F2 Centre on Reuben Plaza near the Fatima Luas stop is to host Jaiva, they said.

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim Malekmian covers the immigration beat for Dublin Inquirer. Reach her at

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