Growing up as a child in Nigeria, listening to and telling stories in the chill evening after dinner was the best part of my day.
I believe that there is a huge amount of learning that goes on in the exchange of verbal storytelling, singing, dancing and observing through embodied knowledge transmission. I learned a lot through traditional songs, in which there were a lot of meanings that I understood without much explanation. I have embodied a huge understanding of the world around me through these and other stories.
I believe in listening, hearing and revering the process of art making. When a student approaches me with an idea, I listen and affirm all the ideas and never say “no” and “cannot” because a little seed can grow to become a huge tree.
Ideas are seeds and they appear in the form of a single research question in both scholarly writing and artistic creation. In order for this seed to grow, as a teacher I nurture with care. Such nurturing is a daily process. The in-class questioning, studio practices, research paper reviews and performance/rehearsal feedbacks are carefully planned to properly guide students to reach their goals.
In the cause of nurturing, I create a completely free and safe environment to allow the expression of individuality and self in my class. I have trained myself to desist from judging and self-deprecation but to help while saying; “yes, it’s possible” and “yes, we can make it happen” as means to give rise to successful future artists and scholars.
I want my students to be a beacon of light. They will learn to appreciate the “other” as much as they appreciate themselves. Through embodied practices, I want my values and that of my students to meet the sweet spot of dance so that, movements can be shared in a holistic and communal atmosphere, where standards and structures are unanimously agreed by all.
I research beyond the walls of dance and I cross borders. These borders are crossed in all spheres of my life including scholarly works, academic fields, environments, race, sexuality, gender, and culture, religious and other socio-economic constructions. Because of my upbringing in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment and a young man from Nigeria, I fully understand what being the other means, thus, I bring a particular experience and quality in allowing self-expression and findings that reaches beyond restrictions. My students are constantly encouraged to “do” and “learn” in the face of all sorts of discouragements to achieve and excel in their goals inside and outside of the classroom.
Student success statement
In 2014 I walked into my West African dance class at the University of Maryland, College Park USA. This time however, it was a class filled with people from various ethnicities. I was afraid of what the outcome would be. I knew I wasn’t only going to share a couple of dance steps with them but to share my entire culture. In other to reach my goal, I used various new media and embodied practices I had learned from my years of study to make the class an experience. I collected video recordings of movements and sounds, used projection to display images of motion, costumes, landscapes and cultural landmarks of my people and of Africa to create a little African in my Maryland class. The movements were broken into bits so that the young lady from China could understand the body rhythm and the young man from Pakistan could sing along. They read books and articles I had read while at home in Africa and listened to my stories. Most importantly I allowed them watch me, so they learned through sensing. The little nuances were very important and through the course of the semester they learned a lot from me through all the many channels of embodied transmission. My class took a different look. They wore African rappers and sang the songs better then I would.
The core of my work is both embodied and intuitive. As a modern African dancer I have been influenced by the world around me. In my one body are different cultures, cultures my people in Nigeria have come across through time. To the north of Nigeria where I was born is a huge Arabian and Islamic influence and to the south where I’m from is the pristine Bantu culture. I live at the intersection of modern and traditional dance expressions. I have a strong classical traditional dance and a strong influence of the western world. This makes my body a confluence of expressive dance art that speaks and reach a wide range of people from around the world. My classes have been very successful through the ways that I teach and the experiences that I bring to the table. I believe students come from different walks of life and they bring their experiences with them, I believe that I am there to guide them, I see their aesthetics because I allow myself to listen and understand and accept them, for this reason, I allow the collaborative-ness of my artistic works to bleed into my daily dealings in the studio with my students.
In my teaching experience, I have come to realize that each student have unique developmental patterns and ways of assimilating, absorbing and articulating concepts, logics and philosophies. The student’s individuality is seen in their different learning capacity and approaches. My goal as a teaching artist is to identify these qualities early during the teaching process to fully understand the physicality and psychology of the students in other to properly serve them. One of the following processes I have successfully used is: Creating a proper and concise fun introduction to the course of study online weeks before the students enroll for my classes. During this fun introduction, I start up with introducing myself, the class and the materials to be studied, I go even further to creating various visual displays of picture, videos and fun questions and answer sessions. Students are asked to prepare a brief first day turn-in assignment of “Fun-Fact”, for example:
“Tell me about yourself, and why you want to take this class?” and “Include fun facts of what you love doing most and where you have visited” also “Please feel free to include pictures and social media images like Instagram, Facebook and/or SnapChat :)”
The above getting-to-know-the-student-and-the-teacher methods have worked well for me in gaining their attention, and curiosity to being in the class. Many students through the get-to-know the teacher and course technique have been very receptive and open right from their first step into the class or dance studio. Conversations have also been very easy to start since through how the get-to-know the teach assignment have broken the ice. For me as the teacher, I, after the first introductory class, now have the opportunity to properly read the student’s assignments and begin to acquaint myself with each student’s individualities, focus, and future projections.
I believe every student has a unique voice that needs to be heard, understood and catered for. One of the major drive for me as a teacher is to be able to put myself in their shoes everyday to understand them and better serve them. Through teaching dance classes that are fun and physically tasking to both the body and mind, I find there is always a reveal at the end of the semester, where the students all open up to the endless possibility of the art of dance and it’s application to their various fields of studies and future endeavors.
A few testimonies and feedback from my students are below:
1. Sinclair was by far my favorite instructor I have encountered at the University of Maryland. He treated all students with an abundance of respect and patience and created an environment in which we were all able to find personal connection and meaning within the dance. It was intellectually challenging as well as physically challenging. Sinclair is truly a gem within the school of dance and should be applauded for the connections he is able to make with his students, especially ones with no previous experience in dance performance.
2. I thoroughly enjoyed this class. Sinclair was an excellent instructor who enforced high expectations while also demonstrating genuine care for the students and the course content. In addition to learning of choreography, this instructor incorporated assignments and class sessions about the culture from which this dance style originated. I feel fortunate to have been able to take this course.