From Obscurity to Limelight: Multi-talented choreographer, Ndjara shares his inspiring story with the publisher of Diaspora Glitz Magazine
Kindly introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Ndjara Rasolomanana, but my artist name is Ndjara. I’m from Madagascar and I have been living in Finland for the past ten years. I’m a dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, artpreneur and most importantly, I’m the artistic director of Ndjara Dance Company. I have my dance studio in Helsinki where people come for dance lessons.
When did you start dancing and how did you come up with what you are doing today?
I can’t even remember when I started dancing… I think it should be when I was 10. I started dancing back in the days to the beautiful songs of Congolese music legend Aurlus Mabélé. After that, we saw hip-hop on TV and I was interested in that as well. Hip-hop dance influenced me a lot and it is part of me today. All my training is between hip-hop dance, break dance, locking and popping, African dances etc. This is what I have been into while growing up.
Being an African dancer in Finland. Has Afro dance been able to penetrate the Finnish society?
Our Artists in Africa have done a great job for us. The likes of Burna Boy and Diamond Platnumz and many others have made the job a bit easier for us by dishing out good music that attracts people to dance. They have popularized African music around the globe. It also depends on the person that teaches it, and how much passion they put into it. For me, dancing is part of the life I live. I’m very passionate about dancing. I don’t do any other job in Finland, dancing is my job. I dance to bed and I wake up with dance. What people also love about the dance that comes from Africa is the joy of life we share while dancing. The energy and the joy are what attract people the most.
Support from the African community?
For now, I have been putting things together all by myself. When we talk about the African community, sometimes we are kind of spread up within different communities but the good thing is that if everybody is strong in their community, it will translate into having a strong African support. The strength of different communities will help to impact our community and make us more formidable. Today I have my studio and you have your Diaspora Glitz Magazine, now we have two solid tangible things to put together.
Places where you have performed?
Since I became a professional dancer, the biggest show was in Paris in 2002. My team and I performed at La Illet, which is one of the biggest hip-hop dance festivals. Another thing that I need to say here is that one of my dreams came through by performing at such a big theatre in France. I remember watching the theatre dance in Madagascar between 1998 and 1999 and we saw amazing performances, Some of the professional dancers we used to watch on VHS came to Madagascar and we were privileged to meet them. We undergo some dancing tutorials and we created our piece which was a mix of Madagascan traditional dance and hip-hop. A producer from France saw the piece and loved it, that was how we were invited to France for performance. It was a dream come through. Dancing on a stage we used to watch and admire back in Madagascar was a big honour for me. I have performed at Afro Sunday and most recently I performed at the Afro Jazz Festival at Alppipuisto in Helsinki.
When did you establish your dancing school?
My dancing school is located in Helsinki. It was established in 2019. Everything you see here was built and created by me. I do a lot of teachings that are open to everyone and coordinate several dance groups. The majority of my students are Finns and they are female. Despite the technicality that entails our kind of dance, the Finns have been able to embrace the dance. They take classes 2-3 or even 4 times a week. I’m very proud of my students.
Do you make a living out of dancing?
From 2001 until now, I have been making a living out of dancing. I’m also trying to make sure that other dancers make a living out of dancing. Most of the dancers around me are from immigrant backgrounds and i ensure that they get paid for whatever service they are rendering. We must support each other. If I call a dancer to work with me I make sure the dancer makes some money, not just to hang around.
At the moment I have a very good and very big studio. I’m trying to maintain it and grow it. I would love to increase the number of people that are interested in our art by collaborating with those who are in the same field as me. I’m committed to developing African art in Finland which will equally elevate our culture and tradition here in Finland, I want to see more people coming to learn how to dance to African music & rhythm and more people coming to watch us perform. The more people are interested in us it makes us grow.
Advice for upcoming artpreneurs?
Talent is not enough, we need to get knowledge and work hard to make the dream work. Knowledge of how to put yourself out there is very important, if you don’t know how to do it you can look for someone to help you out. If you are not visible, people cannot see you. If you know how to penetrate the market, you can maximise that. Work hard, believe in yourself and don’t give up. In Finland things don’t come easily, you need to work them out. 10 years ago, I was struggling but today I have a dance studio and my students are happy.