How did you get into dancing?
Dancing has always been a part of my life. My passion for music and dance started from an early age in my birth country, Guiné-Bissau, West Africa. If my memory serves me well, I remember family get-togethers with music and dancing. My move to Portugal in my early twenties introduced me to social dancing in clubs and eventually to organising events alongside Eddy Vents, my cousin.
My teaching career did not start until much later when I moved to the UK and this was through the Pitanga dance team with the support of Eddy Vents, Norma Facey and Miguel Kizomba Monteiro. I started later Kizomba Suave Nights at our well known Banana Bar venue and it was there with the support of my team (Gem Gem, Josy, Susanna, Paparazzi, Karen Chau, Fabio Semba) that I was able to develop my teaching style and structure, and support students on a regular basis in the advancement of their dance.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I am very busy teaching at many different festivals around the world, but mostly across Europe. I travel abroad almost every weekend and I love sharing my passion and knowledge for African Rhythms and showing everyone the beauty of these dances. I do still have time for regular classes in London and can be found teaching on Thursdays at Tia Maria Bar in Vauxhall with Sonny Varela.
I also regularly teach African Rhythms with my dance partner Adda Dociu at the UK Dance Connection dance school also in London. My biggest project to date has to be my festival Sardina Afro Beach Festival of Friendship, with the third edition taking place late May next year. This is a joint project undertaken with my good friends Nuno (aka DJ Paparazzi) and James Chong. The Azembora project in Tenerife is another regular event I am involved in with Juan Carlos Palensuela to help develop students understanding of African Rhythms and culture.
What’s been the most memorable moment of your journey as a dancer so far?
I have had many memorable moments throughout my dancing career so far. The first would have to be taking part in ÁfricAdançar and winning the UK competition. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to compete due to my partner, Josy, suffering an injury. Choreographing, organising and performing my first show with Gem Gem was also a big step for me and was a sharp learning curve as it involved pulling together many aspects from show moves, music mixing, costumes and entertainment. I also still remember one of my first demo with Ana de Pina in Oxford city when I first arrived in UK.
Been on the stage at “Yuri da Cunha” concert in London with my lovely friend Riquita Alta and a year later dancing on the stage with Adda for “Djodje” concert in London. Another moment that has been very special to me is my work with Adda in the Ricadda Dance School with the student performance group. Lastly being asked by Marie Doyen to help organise and run the UK ÁfricAdançar competition in 2017 was special as it took me back to where it all began. There have been so many wonderful moments and I cannot mention them all but I must thank and recognise all the wonderful teachers, promoters and students I have had the pleasure to work with on my journey so far.
What advice would you give to up & coming dancers looking at you for inspiration?
Choose your teacher wisely. Look at how they dance because that is the style you will develop. Attend classes regularly. Don’t just stay with one teacher; go around, you learn different things from different people. Also never stop learning and taking lessons, even now I drop into classes to support other teachers but also it helps develop me as a teacher.
But most importantly have fun and dance socially because this is where you get to put it all into practise, and remember don’t just learn the dance, learn the culture behind it! My joy and my happiness always come from dancing with everyone, no matter the level, age and race. And always SMILE.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
I will be continuing with the projects I have been working on. I look forward to seeing all our hard work for the third edition of the Sardina Afro Beach Festival next year. I am also looking forward to working with our cohorts from the Kizomba Lab auditions to help push high level dancers even further. Everything else is just going to have to wait until 2019!