Library offering African dance class

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.

Is learning African dance on your to-do list? If so, then you're in luck because the Alachua County Library Headquarters will be offering free African dance classes peppered with drumming basics and African history and culture.

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Noni “Ojouba” Jones teaches a group of audience members and dancers a traditional African dance called Sinte during “Black History Outside the Book: An Afternoon of Dance” at the Alachua County Library Headquarters in Gainesville.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian



What: African dance classes for all ages.
When: 11 a.m. June 8, July 13 and Aug. 10.
Where: Alachua County Library Headquarters, 401 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free.
Information: Call 352-334-3900.

Taught by Noni “Ojouba” Jones, the African Dance monthly class will be offered at 11 a.m. June 8, July 13 and Aug. 10 at the library at 401 E. University Ave.

Jones said those interested can just show up to class wearing comfortable clothes and prepared to dance barefoot. “We ask them (participants) to take the shoes off,” Jones said. “That's the only thing I require. It's safer and more flexible.”

Jones said the dance class is open to everyone and geared to youth. She said adults are welcome and parents with children as young as 3 years old have participated in the monthly classes, which began in March and usually draw 15-30 residents. Jones said the dance classes open with a drum call to make a connection between the drumming and the dance.

Phillis Filer, public services administrator at the library district, said Jones presents African dance in a participatory format that allows those involved to feel a kind of kinship with each other. “Her instruction illustrates the call-and-response interaction in our culture,” Filer said. “Getting people involved in it makes them feel an ownership in the whole thing that is going on.”

Jones, who is in her 60s and works with special needs students at Metcalfe Elementary School, said she studied dance in college and fell in love with African dance. Jones teaches African dance at community events, such as the library district's Black History “Outside the Book” program, and she has performed with the Agbedidi Africa Ensemble at the University of Florida.

Originally from New York, Jones studied dance at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts and also at the Chuck Davis Dance Company, now located in Durham, N.C. Jones said she moved to Gainesville about 30 years ago and served as an elementary school and ESE teacher for Alachua County Public Schools.

During the dance class, Jones said she identifies the differences between traditional dances from Senegal, Nigeria, and other regions in Africa. She said popular American music is infused with African traditional music, and through the class, participants will hear the similarities and learn about African culture.

“The class is fun,” Jones said. “Living should be fun.”

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