This is Part III of a three-part series that chronicles the experiences of Bangaly Traore, a young boy in Guinea who came to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a professional dancer and teacher with the Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC).
In Part I, Bangaly (nicknamed “Sergey”) was selected from RDDC’s program in Kindia, Guinea, to travel to the USA for one month of intensive dance training. In Part II, the experiences of Bangaly traveling to and studying dance in New York City were shared as he learned how to manage with a completely new environment.
I waited with anticipation by my phone the hour I knew that Bangaly was expected to be arriving back in Guinea. After a month of intensive training, it was time for him to take yet another giant step in his path towards becoming a professional in the field of dance: upon his return to Guinea, Bangaly would begin teaching the other students in the RDDC program in his home town of Kindia.
Bangaly’s return was quite the event in Kindia, a large village about two hours from the capital city of Conakry. There are very few Guineans who have gone abroad from Kindia and returned, and there are even fewer who are children with no formal education and minimal language skills that have traveled outside of Guinea. In fact, I am pretty sure that Bangaly is the only man from Kindia who has ever left to go to the USA for one month of formal dance training—and that being after only 11 months of training! Bangaly had said to me in New York, “No one believes I am actually here .. and no one will believe it when I return either.” He was right.
The first question everyone asked Bangaly was the same: “When are you going back to the USA?” That happened to be the same question he heard from everyone when leaving the USA: “When are you coming back [to Guinea]?” Bangaly said, “Well, Rebecca says that I have to master eight pirouettes for a plane ticket. I have six more to go!”
Training is part of this young man’s mindset and despite the wonderful feelings of being back amongst friends and family speaking your native tongue, the drive to maintain and improve his dancing never ceases. Bangaly went to Maison des Jeunes, the RDDC training center in Kindia, prepared with new techniques, new choreography and new music to teach the students in our program.
Bangaly is serving as one of RDDC’s Youth Assistants and temporary dance teachers when members of the international RDDC team are not in-country to give the daily training classes in jazz and contemporary dance. Although Bangaly had found himself in this role before, he couldn’t do more than just replicate what he had seen in Guinea and what other RDDC teachers had explained in their own classes. Now, for the first time in his life, Bangaly had a knowledge base large enough where he could build his own classes from the teachers and training he had experienced from multiple sources in the USA. Instead of a “RDDC Youth Assistant,” now the Guinean students will yell out, “Sergey is teaching!”
Of course, the transition back to Guinea has not been without its challenges. Bangaly wants to teach classical ballet classes there, but RDDC has yet to raise sufficient funds to build ballet barres, mirrors, and a sprungwood/marley floor in the training center. The ultimate goal is to have Bangaly start a dance program for younger children—mostly street children in Kindia—that will become a feeder into the older program of RDDC. However, that requires RDDC to launch an additional program since such street children need to receive meal provisions in order to sacrifice the time they would spend on the street searching for food everyday.
When Bangaly returned, the other Guinean students described him as “incredible” when they first saw him dance after his American training. Sometimes it’s hard to understand all the things that change inside and outside a person when you live and work side-by-side one another each day. Yet, when you hear someone else’s impressions you realize the extent of what has been accomplished.
Bangaly has the potential to be one of the most amazing dancers ever, but in our world, 50 percent of that depends on his work and 50percent of that depends on the opportunities he is given. He’s made a giant step forward to achieving his dream. Now, he continues to work diligently back in Guinea—waiting for the next opportunity to take his dream one step closer to reality.
To support Bangaly Traore and other students in RDDC’s programs in Africa, please visit www.rebeccadavisdance.com.