I’m in Tokyo at the moment, working on a dance collaboration. I am also doing a student dance workshop about Ethiopian history.
I’m originally from a small town in Ethiopia, and I came to Ireland to study dance. There are very talented dancers and choreographers in Ethiopia, but there are no degree or diploma courses there.
The first time I saw Irish traditional dance I was thrilled. Those fast flying feet, and the arms so still at the sides. It was gorgeous, beautiful. There is a connection between dance in Ireland and in Ethiopia.
Everybody does ballet, you know, as a base training for contemporary dance. It gives you core strength and alignment, but in contemporary dance there are no limitations. It depends on what the choreographer or director wishes to create. That’s what I love most, you can just pick something, put it on a plate and serve it. It is beautiful!
I was born in a town called Nazreth in Ethiopia. My family wanted me to study something else, you know, to study and do a “proper” job, something where you get your payment. To be a doctor, a pilot something like that – the usual wishes.
Then, the Mekuria dance academy came from Addis Ababa to my town to hold auditions, and I got accepted. They trained us with basic ballet, jazz, African contemporary, Ethiopian traditional dance, everything. And I just fell in love with dance, and I decided this is the only thing I want to do.
So when I chose this and my parents saw me, they were happy. They just advised me: make sure you are good in this field. Make sure that this is the right thing for you.
I was looking for places where I could study more. A friend had mentioned Ireland, and I knew about Irish dancers like John Scott and Liz Roche. Then the team from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick came to Ethiopia, with Prof Helen Phelan and her husband, Míchéal Ó Súilleabháin, God bless his soul. They had a music concert. That’s the first time I met them, and they helped me. I came to Limerick in 2016, and finished my master’s in 2018.
Now I live in Roscommon. I have two families, my Ethiopian family, and my Irish family. I am married to an Irish woman. We were going to go to Ethiopia in 2020, my wife is dying to meet my mother. They love each other so much, and they want to meet her. But then Covid hit the entire world. Now it’s the plan for next year, hopefully.
I’m representing Roscommon in the Platform 31 project. It’s a nationwide scheme with the 31 local authorities. I’m working with lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels and with Sinead McPhillips, and it’s exciting to be able to do a deep dive into developing my skills.
I also have my own dance company. When I’m creating work, I let my creation process decide. I don’t want to deliberately, or purposely put something in there. I want to see the process, and then see if it has worked.
I love Ireland. I’m so lucky, honestly. I can work as a dancer. The arts service in Roscommon where I live is so good. Rhona McGrath is the arts officer. She’s so supportive, not just of me but of every different artist. Whenever they need something, she’s there, and she’ll support them as much as she can. There is really encouraging space in that.
I get up in the morning, stretch to prepare for the day. Have breakfast and respond to emails. I’m also a member of the Roscommon Artists’ Panel, and will start a residency at the Roscommon Arts Centre in November.
Every dancer has to keep their body in shape, so I do yoga at home, stretching exercises, improvisations. Chocolate is a challenge. Chocolate is really beautiful. I’ll have a little bit, but not too much.
I love watching movies, and I also relax by listening to music. Music is inspiring. Sometimes I’ll find something in a music composition or my class, for my rehearsals, or when I’m warming up, getting ready. I’ll hear something and think: this is so cool, I’ll use it for this class, or that school.
I also relax by dancing. When I’m dancing, I feel really happy, it makes me feel free. It helps me to let everything go. When I’m dancing, anything I’ve experienced in my life, whether it’s good or bad, if someone made me angry or happy, I just let it go. That’s why I love it. mintedancestudio.com
In conversation with Gemma Tipton
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