By NBF News

Dance into drama
By Ireyimika Oyegbami
March 17, 2010 06:53AM
The initiates did many dances during the event.
Fresh students of the Performing Arts Department, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, were welcomed into the demanding world of the stage with an all night show recently. The event featuring music, comedy, dance and drama, was themed INITIATION 2010.

In praise of the gods
After a somewhat rowdy start, old students opened the all night show with a performance, saluting the 'Orisas' in Yoruba mythology. Four actors came on stage one after the other and danced to chants eulogizing Sango, Osun, Ifa, and Esu. The performance caught the attention of the noisy audience who then settled a bit. The fresh students were later ordered outside to a lit bonfire which they circled in white cloths tied around their body and with white markings adorning their bodies.

Eight similarly dressed old students but who had fewer markings-they were the new executive members of the Performing Arts Student Association (PASA), OOU branch– acted as guides during the initiation ceremony. They lit clay lamps (fitila) from the fire and returned to the dark hall which had gradually filled again with the crowd who went to see the bonfire. As the 'seniors' made their way to the foot of the stage where they dropped their lamps, a lady intoned a song on the ethics of theatre. 'Ere la wa n se, amo ise yi le ki n ma tan yin. Iya mi lo'ku, ere gbodo maa lo, ese n ro mi, ori n fo mi, ere gbodo maa lo. Ise ni ere yi o, e ma fi oju ole wowa mo, ise yi le ki maa n se ere o' sang the lady in a high pitched voice. The song is a warning to the new students that theatre art is demanding and that the audience should note that theatre artists are not lazy people.

The elders pray
The initiates who had hitherto patiently lined up in a single file mounted the stage and paid homage to the gods and ancestors of the land in sacred songs and dance. The executive members of PASA moved among them and whipped them as they sang and twisted their body in tune with the songs.

The singing and dancing lasted about thirty minutes before three people came on stage. A shout went up from the crowd when they recognised two of them to be eminent actors, Kola Oyewo and Peter Fatomilola, the chief priest appointed for the initiation ceremony.

Peter Fatomilola guided the PASA executive as they solemnly swore to 'uphold the glory of theatre' while Kola Oyewo led the initiates who swore to 'be good ambassadors of the theatre.' The duo ended the induction for the two groups with prayers rendered in Yoruba. They later sat with the audience to enjoy performances by the students.

The dancers pulled off their white cloth to reveal different dancing attire underneath the white cloth as they entered into another dance session which lasted another 30 minutes. They danced in the Igbo and Hausa/Fulani style. It was interesting to see them intersperse Bata dance with contemporary Yahozee and Alanta with a touch of Fuji.

Tunde Onafaliyo and Ozoma Madu, both Performing Arts students entertained with a humorous dance drama denouncing stealing.

Iyalode Efunsetan resurrects
The main performance of the night was the initiation play, 'Efunsetan Aniwura' written by Akinwumi Isola and directed by PASA president, Jide Ogunlana.

The play opened with a narrator who gave a brief introduction of what old Ibadan used to be like in the days of Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura. Tiwalade Olaitan, a 400 level student was Iyalode Efunsetan while Henry Ezenneka, a 300 level student was brilliant as Aare Latosa. Olaitan gave a realistic portrayal of the domineering Efunsetan. She did not spare any of the actors playing Iyalode's slaves as she thoroughly beat them.

It was a scary moment when the executioner (Idris Bello), who had just beheaded the pregnant Adetutu emerged in the midst of some women gossiping about the incident. The women ran off in different directions but the executioner had not come for them; he turned to the crowd with a blood-spattered chest and waving a bloodied machete asked the crowd, 'tani iku kan?' meaning who is next to die.

There was no dull moment during the programme which also featured comedy, contemporary dances, Ewi presentation and drama from groups including students of the Dramatic Arts department of the Obafemi Awolowo University and Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan.

It was a night to remember for the initiates who shed their inhibition and faced a crowd for the first time to enter into the 'hard' world of the stage.