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February 2019

We were in Dakar, Senegal for a Sabar Dance internship. The dance was even more complex than we had anticipated. 
But we were also energetic and happy to be with many Senegalese people who wanted to show us their Senegalese way of life. By accident, we also saw things we might not have been supposed to see. Like tears.
Crying is something they don’t seem to do willingly in Senegal. They prefer to be extremely exuberant, friendly, and positive.

In Dakar, Senegal, we also saw many things that we found to be very beautifully culturally Senegalese.
A real Dutch person would say “typical African and not at all Dutch.” 
We can’t help but compare and try to place everything. 
During our theatrical translation during the research week, we couldn’t do much with it. We felt that we had not been on African soil long enough and there was a risk that our observations and conclusions might be unfounded. 
What can a theater maker say or not say, and what context should they provide when they do say something?

One thing is fortunately certain: we now know much more about the Sabar dance than most of us. 
Sabar dance promises a lot of fun and positivity, but in reality, it’s very complicated. It’s a dance with very wild arms and legs and very complex rhythms that we don’t understand because we don’t know the rhythmic drum language of Senegal. 
It seems like you can dance freely and do whatever you want, but it’s not that simple. There are many rules to follow, and you have to have very good ears to start your dance at the right time. 

At the same time, people look at you very expectantly. If you manage to start at the right time, you have to stay in eye contact with the percussionists while you dance and be very sure of what you’re doing. 
They will then play the percussion that fits the timing of your movements. That makes it thrilling because if you’re not sure what you’re doing, the percussion won’t understand you, and you’ll look silly because they won’t follow you. 

Which is not that bad actually because Senegalese people find it most fun if you just try your best and give all the energy you have. 

And be sexy.
And dare to look at the percussionists. 
And be proud. 
And pretend you’re really good at it.

One thing is very certain:
Senegalese people don’t find you interesting if you hide.
What you give is what you get. 
That’s what you can learn very well by practicing Sabar in Dakar, Senegal.