Dance has been part of human existence from time immemorial; it has been employed in diverse ways as a way of demonstrating and interpreting culture, as a language of communication, and as a mode of expression. Although, not recorded in earliest times in this form, it was practiced in different forms and cultures, as a form of healing, a ritual, as a leisure activity and in some cultures for popular hunting games.
Dance drama on the other hand, is a form of dance theatre that arose from the evolving art of dance, practiced by different cultures as a pattern of movement that stresses emotion, character and narrative action.
In the Niger Delta, our multi-cultural disposition makes us partakers of different forms of dance, most of them shaped by our history, culture and environment.
The Seki Dance Drama is one of such dances that has borrowed from our history and culture and has become a celebrated dance drama worthy of note. Largely popularized by Yibo Koko – a film director, producer, actor and dancer, the Seki dance drama is a pantomimic dance which traces the American tap dance to the Indigenous people of the lower Niger Delta area of Nigeria; fused with cultural heritage, it depicts the traditional Niger Delta culture and traditions.
Seki was originally created in 1998 as Owu Amaputi and as an official entry to the 10th anniversary of the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
With a strong interpretation of culture, the dance is a rhythmic agreement of dance pattrens of different ceremonial dance groups predominantly from Okrika, Kalabari, Bonny and Ikwerre ethnic groups in the lower Niger Delta area.
The narrative focuses on two fishermen who became by the weird, unusual. Admix of mysterious sights and drumbeats of the gods. They abandon their initial pursuit and mobilize the community to narrate their unique experience at sea and in the process present a parody of a re-enactment to the amazement of the locals.
Through this dance Yibo Koko has continued to expose the culture and history of the Niger Delta to the outside world, dramatically narrating through oral traditions, a relationship and union between the gods of the land who are domiciled in the womb of their aquatic residence making contact with earth to forge a relationship with mortals. The drama recreates the indigenous response to the struggle in resistance against foreign culture and the promotion of indigenous tradition.
The dance drama has also gotten a rave and media attention after being staged first in Rivers State and thereafter in Lagos at the terra culture. Ever since, it has gone on to be featured on CNN with widespread demands for a world tour of the staged dance.
Yibo Koko’s involvement, creation and staging of the dance drama, has not only documented history through dance, it has revolutionized it, making a case for the place of the theatre and dance in promoting tourism, redefining narratives and celebrating culture and art on the world stage.