About NIKA Dance - African Inspired Dance in Aotearoa
NIKA Dance is a community of dancers and musicians who gather to move and be moved! We draw our main inspirations from rhythms and dances of Africa and the African Diaspora, primarily from West Africa, Zimbabwe and South America. We also draw from contemporary community dance practice, yoga and other movement forms.
Bio: Monica Evans - Director/teacher/performer
Kia ora! I'm Monica, and I'm passionate about building community through the simple and ancient practice of coming together to create rhythm and movement.
I've been seeking out new ways to move from a young age, beginning with jazz ballet and gymnastics in the small rural town I grew up in, then moving on to capoeira, which I studied intensively in South America, as well as acrobatics and yoga. I first came across African-inspired dance at the Festival de los Mil Tambores (Festival of a Thousand Drums) in Valparaiso, Chile, in 2006. It was love at first sight, and since then I've studied a number of African and Afro-Brazilian dance forms, counting among my teachers Chris Berry, Mohamed Bangoura, Epizo Bangoura, Naby Bangoura, Jimi Dale, Jenny Bloomfield and Susana Gonzalez Mancilla (and many others!). I began teaching in 2011.
My 'day job' as Project Leader for the Express Yourself youth arts programme at Toi Ora Live Arts Trust involves working with young people facing challenges, through the medium of creative arts. I bring my commitment and sensitivity to the social and emotional elements of creative self-expression, as well as to social justice and arts access for all, to my dance classes. I hold a Masters in community development and an Advanced Diploma in modern dance, and am a certified yoga teacher. I love helping people find new ways to move, and I'm a firm believer that dance is for every body!
Values and Kaupapa
NIKA's work is based on an ethic of inclusivity. We find ways for everyone in our workshops to participate and be challenged, whether or not they have any dance experience to begin with. There is a focus on 'moving together' rather than 'all looking the same'.
In class, we try to make space both for spontaneous self-expression and for building new movement vocabulary. When we have more ways to move, it can empower us to make new choices both on and off the dance floor.
As we are exploring movement and rhythms from cultures that are not our own, we also seek to find ways to honour the cultures from which these traditions come, and to find ways to make what we do meaningful for us here in Aotearoa/NZ. This is a continual and evolving conversation, and we welcome your input!