Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sabar, The Movie @ LA's Pan-African Film Festival

A few years ago, when I saw an online notice that they were seeking African-American dancers for a feature film called, Sabar, I forwarded it to dancers I knew in LA. Two days later, at rehearsal, my dear backing vocalist, Lambert Moss, looked me square in the eye and said, “Ashley, you have GOT to fly up to Oakland and audition for that movie. You are an excellent sabar dancer … in fact … you, Kara (Mack), AND Alecia (Hudson) should go.” This made me burst out laughing. Me? Alecia? Audition? But they specifically asked for African-American dancers. Lambert, bless him, was adamant.


So sure enough, a few weeks later, Alecia, Kara, and I made our way up to Oakland. We walked in and signed up, blithely ignoring the women-behind-the-desk’s raised eyebrows, and trying not to look nervous.

The auditions were simple. Alassane Kane gave us choreography and we danced, then introduced ourselves on camera. The film’s Nigerian director Chike Nwoffiah later told us that he and his producer were super surprised to see these two white girls in the midst of everyone, throwing down! Alecia, Kara, and I all danced really well and were accepted for the movie. Waaw Waaw!!

with director Chike Nwoffiah at the L.A.’s Pan-African Film Festival screening in L.A.Photobucket

Sabar, The Movie’s synopsis reads thus: “An African American hip-hop girl resists the ancestral call of the Senegalese dance "Sabar". When she finally gives in, she discovers more than a dance - she finds herself.” Chike fell in love with the energy and beauty of sabar at the Malonga Casquelourd Performing Arts Center in Oakland and did a beautiful job weaving it into his story.

For the film, Kara, Alecia, and I were extras. We danced in the background for the movie’s class scenes, rehearsal scenes, and the final show. The cast and crew were fantastically nice, Bunmi DeRosario (lead actress and BOMB dancer) was awesome, and both weekends’ worth of filming were so fun and hilarious, I came home to LA with a sore throat from laughing.

Kara Mack, Yours Truly, and Alecia Hudson at my own show at The Conga RoomPhotobucket

When filming the final show, I asked Chike what he had in mind for costumes? He assured me that costumes would be provided. Half and hour later, he distributed them to the dancers and mine fit into my hand like a small stack of handkerchiefs. ???????? When I looked up, as if to say, “This? A loin cloth and black bra covered in cowrie shells?” Chike laughed out loud and replied, “You signed on the dotted line … now go and put it on!”

I solemnly walked downstairs to the dressing room as if going to my execution, imagining spotlights hitting my lone, alabaster white skin onstage (Alecia couldn’t make that filming). I was going to blind the audience! LOL! With mock gravity, I unzipped my bag, pulled out an industrial strength bottle of tanning lotion and insisted that Kara slop it all over my body from head to toe. With the crew photographer snapping away, she and I were helpless with laughter.

Man, that night was really liberating for me, as I had no choice but to transcend all my fears and nerves and just DANCE. Normally, I don’t wear revealing things, yet here I was, wearing not much more than a bottle of tanning lotion (as my mum would say in her British accent, “Nothing left to the imagination!”) dancing in front of a packed house for cameras that would carry my image to big screens everywhere. Brilliant!

SOOOO, all this time later, Chike brought Sabar, The Movie to The Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles. We all went down to see it and had a wonderful evening. The audience enjoyed the film, Chike was in top form, Kara made me fall about laughing as usual, and we all took photos on the red carpet afterwards. I am not sure I really merited The Red Carpet, as all that was left of me in the final edit was a handful of shots of my alabaster love handles and red hair flying in and out of view, but I loved it! My daughter, Koyan, had spent the whole movie yelping, “There you are! There you are again! You look great, Mom!” by my side, bless her.

I wish the movie well. Well done, Chike and crew! Sabar dafa neex!!

Rocking The Red Carpet, Baby!Photobucket

with actor Curtis Campbell, Sunny Moore, and her friend VanessaPhotobucket

Dance Goddess Kara Mack, my beloved daughter, Koyan, director Chike Nwoffiah, and LA drum prodigy, Kahlil CummingsPhotobucket


Blogger Rhesus Media Group said...

Hi Ashley:
It was great to meet your lovely family at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Your positive energy and words of wisdom during the long but steady journey from first frame to final print helped make "Sabar" a reality. Thanks and God bless!

Director, Sabar - life is a dance!

7:06 PM


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