Dancer, teacher, choreographer and director, Adedayo Liadi popularly known as Ijodee tells FAITH AJAYI about his career and other issues.
dance In Nigeria it is not as popular or lucrative as other aspects of the Nigerian entertainment industry. Why is that, despite how much the industry has grown over the years?
Dance is not growing in Nigeria compared to other performing arts genres. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that this is so because there is no structure in Nigeria that will help dance artistes sustain themselves until they get old, unless they enter politics. For many dancers in Nigeria, the moment they reach the age of 40 or 45, they stop. My case is even better. I’m 50 years old and I’m still dancing, and that’s because I’m lucky. I am always working abroad. In France, where I live, people between the ages of 70 and 75 still dance professionally, because there is a structure in that country.
Today, many artists and directors do not use professional dancers in their videos. Instead, they go looking for foxes who will dress scantily and shake their ass. How do you feel about that?
To survive as a professional dance artist, one’s life really needs to be planned. I started traveling outside the country very early at the age of 16/17. That was because I planned my life. I learned how to build myself, my career and my future. I tried to structure my life, although there is no structure in Nigeria. When I was in Nigeria, I was always educating the younger generation (dancers) that music video is for quick money. That’s why I don’t. I prefer to go on big dance projects that would keep me busy for a year or more and even go on tour.
Dance is still not well accepted as a respectable profession in Nigeria. What can be done to make more people aware of the possibilities offered by dance?
There are many talented dancers, especially in Afrobeats, which is common in the West. Afrobeats is really winning in Europe, and has been for many years. If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have made it to Europe. As far as I know, it is very well accepted. The only problem is that people in Nigeria take advantage of us (dancers). When it’s time to pay the dancers, clients always have one story or another. I stopped doing a lot of things in Nigeria because when one would tell clients their fees, they would say, “Isn’t it just for dancing”? People came to think I was being rude and arrogant because of the confidence with which I spoke. I don’t think the generation before me (dancers) made as much money as my generation. But now, it is difficult for dancers to earn as much as N50,000 for a job. Things like this will continue to happen if the dancers don’t come together. When I was the President of the Dance Practitioners Guild of Nigeria, I always said that.
Also, many dancers are not well educated, so they don’t know how to negotiate. They don’t know the business side of dance, which is completely different from the art itself.
Is that why you moved from Nigeria?
I am busier outside Nigeria. Most Nigerian dancers depend on music videos, but not me. I only worked on the video of Head of the farm (Song by a defunct gospel music group, Infinity). That was also based on an invitation from Infinity. If not, I wouldn’t do it. Because of my training, I can play without a music artist.
However, I moved because of my family. My wife and kids had been living in Europe for over 12 years, and I’ve been traveling the world for so long without my wife and kids, focusing on my career. I came to a point where I discovered that I needed my family by my side, so I decided to focus more on them. Besides that, a few years ago I was very sick. I had some injuries that really affected me, and I tried to take care of them in Nigeria, but there was no improvement. Then I traveled to Europe where I received better treatment and care.
I also thought of having branches of my dance company in Nigeria and Europe. Fortunately, when I arrived here (France), I was appointed to be the artistic director of a certain organization.
What were your main achievements as president of GOND?
When I started back in that office, nothing was happening there. With my personal funds, me and my team started traveling. We spent money on awareness and education, organizing workshops and bringing in more dancers because they had already lost hope in the guild.
We also opened more offices in Nigeria because when I started as president, I discovered that the guild was only active in Lagos. During my tenure, we reached about 13-15 states; and all this was financed from our own pockets. I saw it as a way to give back to my range of dancers. I was in office for only one term (about four years), after which I started thinking about my family and personal business. Many people expected me to continue in that office, but I had to step down and focus on my future and destiny.
What are the highlights of your career as a dancer?
There have been many highlights throughout my career. One of them was the first time I left Nigeria in 1994. Another memorable moment was when I got a contract to tour some countries between 1995 and 1996.
When I got a scholarship to study at one of the biggest African dance schools in Senegal—L’ecole des Sables—it was another unforgettable time.
Starting my own dance company and festival were others. I also remember when I appeared in Olori Oko’s video; also when I got my first big international breakthrough as a choreographer. When my work, Ori, was named the best, I got a scholarship to study dance in Vienna, Austria.
Are any of your children showing interest in following in your footsteps as dancers?
All my family members are dancers. My wife and my children are artists. But, I am the only one who practices professionally. My wife was a professional dancer and is the artistic director of the organization I work for right now. Manages the children’s department.
My father was also a good dancer and played sports. My mother was also a dancer, but she never did it professionally. I am the only one in my lineage who decided to take it up professionally. I don’t know if my kids will dance professionally, but for now, I know they can dance, sing and act. I will not force anyone (to dance). I will leave them to follow their own paths and destinies. They don’t have to follow my path because they have their own lives to live. I didn’t become what my father wanted me to be. He wanted me to be an engineer, but I decided art was the path I wanted to take. Even though my father was against (dancing) then, today he is happy that I was able to prove a point that one can be a professional dancer and have a good life.