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CU offers lesson in culture through African dance
When you walk into Fara Tolno’s African dance class, it seems as if you traveled to an unfamiliar land. Drums pound rhythmically, as people sing in West African French, and bodies flow to the beat.
The class introduces a culture foreign to students at CU. Tolno became a dance instructor at the age of 15 in his home of Guinea, West Africa. He then established a dance company, Guinean National Company of West Africa.
He moved to the States to become an advocate of his culture and spread his way of life. Fara said his message is "to become together as one people, and for us to appreciate different form from different places around the world.”
He does this through teaching the African dance classes at CU and leading an African dance and percussion group, Kissidugu. It has given Toino the opportunity to dance for artists such as Neil Young.
The goal of Kissidugu is to build a School of Music, Dance, and Education in Guinea, West Africa.
In addition to Kissidugu, Toino has founded the Project Drum, whose mission is to “provide rhythm based education and team building services to schools, organizations, and music educators.” By bringing West African dance and music into schools, Toino believes his culture will add a special morale.
While being at CU, Toino is pursuing his master of fine arts degree in dance. In addition to spreading the word of his culture, he wants to absorb others as well.
Each move a student does represents an activity. These activities symbolize what Toino calls “Yung Kudi,” translating to “here is good.” Yung Kudi is the dance that Toino is currently teaching his African dance students. There is more to moving your body, it is becoming one with each movement, which connects with the message the dance conveys, brought to life by dance. It symbolizes the world coming together as a community, and uniting under one goal. This one dance stands for everything Toino teaches.
Students get more out of the class than just a grade. Each day becomes a workout and lesson. For Lindsay Koehn, it was the first class she registered for back in December. She said the class is “full of energy. I look forward to this class. It is an experience that I am glad I can take part in.”
At the end of the semester Fara’s reward is witnessing the change he implemented. Toino said, “Seeing you guys evolve and seeing you guys letting go is the most rewarding part. Seeing you guys understand the essence of the culture and essence of your body, that’s most rewarding.”
The class’s final is open to the public. A performance at CU’s dance studio will be held May 2nd at 7:30 pm.