Nigerian Choreographer/Dancer Qudus Onikeku to Make U.S. Debut With SPIRIT CHILD

By: Feb. 04, 2020
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Nigerian Choreographer/Dancer Qudus Onikeku to Make U.S. Debut With SPIRIT CHILD

Nigerian choreographer/dancer Qudus Onikeku makes his U.S. debut, accompanied by Uruguayan artist Fernando Velazquez and musicians, with his work Spirit Child March 13 and 14, presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan Avenue.

Spirit Child is inspired by the main character in Nigerian author Ben Okri's Booker Prize-winning novel The Famished Road. Azaro, the restless spirit child, is caught between life and death, between Earth-bound reality and an idyllic spirit world. Onikeku, with Velazquez and the musicians, has created an atmosphere of transition between the enchanted world of dreams and spirits and the world of the living. Spirit Child offers a meditative journey into dreamscapes, creating a poetry that brings a new kind of truth-or an old truth that no longer captures our attention.

These performances are the debut of Onikeku's choreography on a major U.S. stage, though he has performed all over the world. He spent the fall 2018 semester at the Dance Center as practitioner-in-residence, working with students and setting work on those enrolled in the Repertory Performance Workshop.

Residency activities

There will be post-performance conversations with Onikeku after both performances. Additional residency activities with community partners and Columbia College Chicago students take place throughout the week leading up to the performance weekend.

Qudus Onikeku

A love for acrobatics at a young age led Qudus Onikeku to create a movement identity that fuses dance and acrobatics, while basing his choreography in Yoruba traditional philosophy combined with hip hop, capoeira, tai chi, and contemporary dance vocabularies to weave an understanding of dance, art, politics, and everything in between. In 2014, Onikeku founded the QDance Center, which blends artistry and community on both the grassroots and global levels, impacting nearly 50 countries worldwide. Its centerpiece event, danceGathering, is a two-week, collaborative, "anti-disciplinary" festival that gathers dancers, writers, musicians, architects, and scholars in Lagos.

Onikeku's artistic journey as a solo artist has intensified his interest in the aesthetics and artistry of African peoples in general. He writes, "I am particularly animated by body memory rather than history, by the will to reach out and touch the audience above the will to express something of the self, and, in so doing, I've constantly searched for ways to fuse poetic attitudes with African satirical and fictitious modes of storytelling, as in the griot tradition, combining social history, collective memory or collective amnesia with personal autobiography, as a critical launching pad in the process of myth reading and communal rejuvenation."

Qudus Onikeku performs his work Spirit Child Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $30, $24 for seniors and $10 for students, available at or by calling 312-369-8330. All programming is subject to change.


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