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There's been a folk-dancing workshop for the last few years here. It started the year I arrived in Mayotte, and was under the name of the Bretons de Mayotte association. Now, it's led by a man who has lived all over France, travelled all over Africa, speaks eighteen languages such as Indonesian, Malagasy, Bislama, Dioula, Wolof, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, Fulfulde and Quechua along with English, French, Italian and Portuguese, and who seems able to do anything from plaiting leaves to make baskets, growing / cooking his own food and healing through bioenergy to teaching and carrying heavy loads on his head without holding on. His name is Vincent, but he likes to be called Nyota. And, as if this were par for the course, he knows most of the French traditional folk dances.

This workshop takes place twice a month. It used to be at his house - he moved house deliberately to find one with a big room where he could hold his dancing lessons - but is now at a high school in the centre of Mayotte, a village called Kahani. When it was at his house, they used to dance to music on a CD player when there were no musicians available. Now, however, they negotiated having the lessons in the school on the fact that the musicians would generally be more available, mainly because there wouldn't be such a distance to cover first thing on a Sunday morning.

The dancers are all French, the musicians as well. There's one Mahorese lad who comes occasionally, but only because Nyota talked him into it. It's just a workshop, so the music side of it isn't that interesting, we keep being told to stop, start again, repeat the beginning fifty times, slow down or speed up. The idea, though, is to teach the dancers how to dance to what we feel like playing. Unfortunately, Nyota has turned this notion on its head and has taken it upon himself to teach us how to play what the dancers feel like dancing. Which, although theoretically perfectly reasonable, was not the original plan.

                 

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