When one thinks about the rise of contemporary and hip hop dance in Nigeria in the past decades, the name ‘Kaffy’ readily comes to mind. Since 2006 when Kafayat Shafau Ameh danced her way into the Guinness World Record with her team, Imagneto at the Nokia Silverbird Danceathon, Kaffy as she is popularly called has since become a point of reference in the Nigerian entertainment industry whenever dance is concerned. She has choreographed music videos and concert tours for several artists and has acted as a judge on some Reality TV Shows in her capacity as a professional dancer. In this chat with MUTIAT LAWORE, Kaffy shared her views on how entertainment and her brand have changed lives in the industry, the motive behind her forthcoming dance workshop amongst other issues.
It’s been 19years since you joined the entertainment industry with your specialty in dance. How has the journey been?
Truth be told it has been a bitter-sweet experience but in all, I bless God for the talent and all the supports I have enjoyed from families and friends. In the past 19 years, I am glad that I have been able to change the perception of many about dancers. I have been able to make parents especially accept dance as a career option that has a great future attached with it. Over the years, I have attended several conferences where I have had to fight the assumption that dance is irrelevant and should not even be discussed. One fact I know for sure is that if not for our dances, our music wouldn’t have travelled far. Dance has made a lot of people appear on-screen. I am passionate about my craft and I want to save more life with it.
Did you envisage coming this far when you started out?
Not at all. All I knew then was that I knew I would be great and successful. You know that generally, while growing up as a child; it is hard for anyone to tell the process of greatness. All I wanted to do was to be known in my chosen field so as to be able to impact on people and my environment. For instance, I grew up in a family where they think you cannot become anything meaningful if you are a dancer but I told them I would become relevant to them one day through the dance path I have chosen and today they are all super proud of me.
What is dance to you?
Dance is a way of life, it is a culture and a powerful tool of communication employed to inform and empower people. I have empowered myself through dance and I am totally sure that it can help humanity more than the way we perceive it. In Nigeria, we see dance mostly from the entertainment perspective and I believe the world should consume dance from all levels, from the therapeutic angle, health and fitness, job creation amongst others. That is the more reason you see that I am pushing from all angles and giving people reasons to ask questions is about dance. The same dance that people looked down on before is what everyone is adding importance to and packaging today.
Have you ever had moment when you feel you are in the wrong profession?
I have had moments that got me frustrated, got me pained but I have never had a moment when I am pushed to saying I am not dancing anymore; instead, I look for a means of doing it better. It is all that I have tried that worked but most of them have made me a better person.
You once made popular American singer, Ciara dance to our Nigerian popular moves; how did that make you feel?
You see during Darey Art Alade ‘Love Like A Movie Concert’, Ciara was the surprised guest artiste. I was privileged to have taught her some of our reigning Nigerian dance moves and that was one of the joyous moments I have had as a dancer. Ciara was one of those people I wished to meet one day when I was growing up and having the opportunity to meet her through the Live Spot production was super amazing to me.
I remembered that day I was under pressure when they told me, you know, I was told that you have to impress her because she doesn’t really want to dance but if you could just make it enjoyable for her she could have a change of mind. The moment I saw her, all I did was to tell her just have fun with the dance and she enjoyed it and at the end of the show, she requested that we do a proper shoot of the dance on the street of Lagos, which we did. For me, it was just an opportunity..
It’s the second edition of the Dance workshop and conference, what should Nigerians expect?
They should expect an avenue that will create a shift in the entertainment industry. The essence of the conference is to bring to life things that are hidden, motivate things that are frustrated, train things that require extra skills and also inspire the youth about a future that does not let go of one’s dream just because somebody else has tagged it not the right thing to do.
With the theme this year; do you believe that ‘Dance is a serious business’?
You see, a lot of people don’t know the value of their art and craft and as such, they forget that dance is beyond shaking your bum on stage or appearing on musical videos. Indeed, dance is a serious business because if I had not taken it as business from inception; I won’t be as big as I am today. I can boastfully say that with dance, I have been able to break boundaries and put food on the tables of my family members. Like I said earlier, with the workshop; a lot will be revealed to dancers like why they need to take their craft seriously. My aim at the conference is to catch them young and make them smart at the end.
What prompted your decision to put out this conference for the second season?
This conference is holding as a result of all what I have been through as a dancer. For instance, dancers have been divided, backbiting, passing the wrong information about another dancer, some even go as far as saying’ they want to steal your artiste’, like you take a dancer to an artiste for choreography and the next thing, the dancer wants to be the lead. Also a dancer will do anything to get a fellow dancer for cheap amount of money.
It is important to state also that dancers in this part of the country, are not united enough to be able to create the force in the industry that there is need for dancers to be respected but I believe when we have about five Kaffies available and we become so strong then nobody will want to mess with any dancer. Another thing is that people fail to understand is the fact that dances and music are in a marriage that cannot be divorced, because both parties need one another.
For the first season, we had international dance choreographer’ Hollywood’ as a guest. Who are some of the speakers we should expect?
This year, we are taking it much higher as some of our keynote speakers and instructors are expected from all over the world. Some of them are the Zenith Bank Managing Director; Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, the Ooni of Ife; His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, United State Consular General; Mr. F. John Bray, the world acclaimed Creative Director for Beyonce and Destiny’s child; Frank Gatson, Mrs. Kay Ovia, Transcorp MD; Mr. Valentine Ozigbo. While the workshop teachers include Marcus Cobb from the US, DanceFikshun, Jusbmore, Dancegod Lloyd Ghana, Courtnae Paul, Sino Dinuywa from South Africa, Kwame Kideyez Osei from Germany, Ice Nweke and other top dance professionals and professors from Nigeria.
Do you think the lack of regards for dancers is the cause of the several omissions when it comes to entertainment awards?
This is part of the issue because dancers are being disregarded despite being important. I thank God I have paid my dues enough to get respected by artistes themselves
What impact does the internet have on your brand?
For me, personally, I am proud to say that, I have over a million and above followers. This is not as if I went to buy followers, it only means that people are interested in what I am doing. The internet allows direct access to my followers and the people that are interested in my brand and what it has to offer. This often pushes me to be more creative, innovative, and to also evolve. The internet has drawn me closer to my future customers; it has also created an avenue for me to showcase some of the things that I probably want to launch. It is generally like a great marketing application.
Is dancing something you can encourage people to do?
That is why I am still dancing, I would have quit if I had thought there is no hope. For me to be a science student and venture into dancing, stay in it, get recognized for it, and still trying to impact in my society, with the aim of also changing lives, then, it is certain that I believe strongly in the future of dancing. One thing people don’t understand is that I am not dancing because I want to move my body, I am doing dance because I want to change lives and this has been happening. Movement is very psychological and this is what dance is about.
I have changed lives of mothers and that of young people; I take kids off the streets. I made ladies believe their bodies can create an avenue for job opportunities rather than sell themselves for money. These are some empowering attributes of dance so it’s not just about the movement of the body, it’s about mind building and that’s what I am doing it for.
Do you think entertainment is something Nigeria should really look into?
We are part of the process and as much as possible, we are trying to get to a level where we can empower more kids, take them off the streets and keep them positively occupied. We are an important segment of the nation’s economy, and not just the economy but because of the money we earn, we are very important in the society. This further means that our activities will be required on daily basis. Entertainment is one hope, and a real hope that we can all see for this country.
There is nobody in this life that does not enjoy one form of recreation or the other, whether you like to visit the art galleries, you love to just go and watch a movie or you love to listen to music on your IPad, we, in the entertainment world are the ones providing those services. We are important to everyone. I have not seen any human being that has said, ‘since I was born, I never heard one song or moved my body.’ Art is life.
As a mother and wife, how do you balance your work with family?
There is no template on how to be a good mum and be great at your work. Setting priorities is just one thing that is important in all of these. For me, I am blessed to be married to a supportive husband and friend. Above all, God has been faithful.