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Exile Guayla: Episode 02 – Dance

The second episode of the web documentary Exile Guayla on the Eritrean music culture in Switzerland focuses on the environment around the Eritrean parties. It sets the spotlight on the art of Eritrean dancing, tells us more about the purpose of the concerts, and shows different events all around Switzerland. It features the female dancer Yodit and male dancer Hermon as well as the promoter Alex.

Exile Guyala – a web documentary by Sidney Sutter and Valentin Mettler (2017)

How to Find Dancers

At the time, we shifted our focus from singer to dancer after the release of Episode 01 [1], we didn’t know how to find suitable participants. With the three-weeks-until-the-next-release-clock ticking we released a call for help on our Facebook page.

After about two days we got contacted by a woman who said she loves to dance. Her name is Yodit and she lives in the city of Aarau. She is doing an apprenticeship in a bakery and enjoys going out for a dance at Eritrean parties whenever possible. We visited her at her home and she told us a lot about the Eritrean party scene and showed us how to dance to their music. She tutored us a little as well – but our dancing skills wouldn’t make the quality cut.

Seare (one of the singers from the first episode) also connected us to a friend of his who is a passionate dancer. Hermon lives in a small Swiss village somewhere in the Emmental. He showed us the modern and the traditional Eritrean dance styles.

With the dancing explained we needed someone who could tell us more about the whole party and concert scene. After a while, we remembered, that we met a promoter at our first ever Eritrean party. Thanks to some messages and the fact that the community is extremely well connected, we found Alex. He was a DJ in Eritrea and is now working on a construction site and organizes parties on the weekend. He gave us an insight into the party business and told us more about why it is important to have your own culture and keep up your heritage.

We got aware of this when we visited the concert of legendary Eritrean singer Abrar Osman. The crowd at the concert could let off some steam, let go of their homesickness and celebrate a wonderful evening together. We also discovered that our dancing skills are in no way comparable to those of our Eritrean friends. To showcase that even more we made a video of Swiss people dancing to Guayla music.

How to Get Knowledge

We found the footage for our «looking for dancer» video on YouTube. Surprisingly and after just some hours, a woman in Canada shared our video and commented that she is the dancer from the video. After we got in contact with her we found out that she is doing YouTube videos about Eritrean topics. Coincidentally she was doing videos about Eritrean dancing styles as well. With her help we got great amounts of information about the different dancing styles which were super handy for the outcome of the episode. Once again it is fascinating to see how small the world is and how social media can help you to find and connect to the right people in the right moment.

The Eritrean Dance

Every ethnicity in Eritrea has at least one dance style. They are normally related to their music. Yodit told us that Guayla is the most common style, which everyone can dance to. It is because this type of music is made for dancing. The young people don’t get taught how to dance. All our interviewees told us the same thing: that they’d simply picked it up from watching, participating and practicing by themselves. Hermon explained that the older generation usually follows the rules of the Kuda. Kuda means to dance in a circle. Nobody could really tell us why it has to be a circle. The current generation doesn’t really have a specific style. Hermon informed us that they are just moving to the beat and get inspired by the other dancers. In the video, you get a good overview of the different styles by our friend Salina.

We have reached a milestone: it is halftime for our project. The first six weeks were very intense but an incredible journey nevertheless. We learned a lot and are excited and motivated to get the second half rolling. Exile Guayla aims to be influenced by as many people as possible. If you have any inputs, comments, contacts or questions don’t hesitate to contact us through one of our many channels: Facebook [2]YouTube [3]Instagram [4] – Snapchat: exileguayla – Whatsapp [5].