Maguette Camara prides himself on being “a really, really good beginner dance teacher.” It’s true: His high-energy, rhythm-filled West African dance classes burst with joy and community, and his patient, supportive demeanor reminds first-timers that dancing—not mastering every single step—is what’s most important.
If you are lucky enough to go, the sensations of Dakar – the smell of grilled fish and spiced coffee, the feeling of an impending downpour, the bone-rattling vibrations from a dozen drums – stay with you long after you leave. And while it is impossible to fully experience this West African city without making the trip, there are ways to capture at least a sliver of its magic. Unsurprisingly, considering the integral role of music in Dakar’s daily rhythms, it is hard to spend any time in Dakar without coming across some of the many dance styles of the region. Check out the Alvin Ailey Extension school, which offers regular online West African dance classes, led by the Senegalese dancer Maquette Camara.
Choreographer Maguette Camara sat down with Tracie Strahan to talk about his dancing experience and what he teaches at the Ailey Extension.
As Maguette Camara seamlessly shifts between the front of the studio and to play drums that are clustered on the side, it's hard to tell where the musician leaves off and the dancer begins. He's instructing an advanced-beginner level West African class at The Ailey School in New York, and the intricate rhythms are proving challenging to the students - 30 pre-professional men and women.
Shake off winter while shakin' your whole body at choreographer Maguette Camara's open-level class. You may be standing in a lovely Ailey Extension dance studio, but Camara, who emigrated from Senegal, transports his class as he teaches the significance and meaning behind the dances.