Due to Covid restrictions our classes are going to be online for Semester 2.
Usually, our classes are on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm in the University of Edinburgh's Chaplaincy Auditorium.
However, this semester due to Covid our classes will be online on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 6.30pm.
We are open to all levels of proficiency, whether beginner or expert so come along and join us if you're looking to move!
Check our Facebook events page to find out about classes and our events that we are holding this semester:
Please see the Resources tab to find out more about our society prices.
The West African Dance Society was created in 2014 through the separation of the African and Arabic Dance Society. As of May 2018, the society has been renamed the 'West African Dance Society' for the range of rhythms to which we dance. These include rhythms such as Yankadi, Makru, Mendiani, Kpanlogo and many more which belong to the people of various ethnic groups throughout West Africa and are often practiced at social gatherings.
The society has a few different teachers, including Stuart Dinwoodie, Adie Baako, Beti MenCal and Raquel Ribes, please read below for a bit of background on each of our wonderful teachers.
One of the society’s longstanding teachers is Stuart Dinwoodie, who heads the drumming and dance group Waa Sylla. Originally from Colorado Springs, USA, Stuart studied the culture and traditions of drumming as well as the accompanying rhythms, rituals and songs under the guidance of Moussa Sylla from Guinea. Since then, he has taught and performed in Guinean styles of music and dance for over 20 years in the USA, Spain, West Africa and the UK. He began teaching and performing in Scotland in 2002 and has been collaborating with many other talented performance groups since - including Samba Sene and Diwan as well as Baobab Gateway.
"Through Moussa Sylla and my many other teachers, I learned the importance and the power of drums in bringing together people in community; connecting them through song and dance; connecting them to their ancestry, to their culture, to their land, and to themselves."
– Stuart Dinwoodie
Our classes are also taught by Beti Mencal who started her career as a dancer in West African dance in 2010 in her home town Galicia (Spain). She trained and performed with her first teacher, Cristina Malvarez, and her group called Mesturas Danza for 2 years. Beti then came to Edinburgh where she continued her training in dances from different parts of Africa attending courses and workshops both in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. She has also travelled to Senegal several times to attend courses and workshops taught by native teachers, learning djembe dance, Sabar dance and Togo dance among others.
Currently, Beti performs with the Edinburgh-based Ubuntu Vibes group, who mix different aspects from traditional West African dances and Gumboot dance (traditional dance from South Africa) with clowning, theatre and drumming merging a fusion of traditional dance styles with a more Contemporary and Urban feeling. In the past she has also been part of other Edinburgh-based groups such as Sankofa Beats and Omar Afif - Gnawa Trance Fusion. At present, she is involved in different projects with the ‘performing arts’ company CirqArt CIC based at Aerial Art House in Edinburgh.
Over the years Beti has developed her own dance-class style which she calls ‘Afro Experimental Dance’. This is what Beti teaches in classes with the society with a focus on improving awareness of the body and self-confidence through West African inspired moves.
“Listen to your body, play, enjoy, relax... Dance! WOOOOOZA!”
– Beti Mencal
Adie Baako, also teaches classes with the society. He grew up on the Atlantic coast of Ghana and therefore has a rich wealth of knowledge of the local area. The village Adie grew up in had no electricty and so entertainment frequently consisted of dancing, drumming and singing. Music in Ghana, and West Africa at large, holds a crucial role in the community used to bring people together in celebration, to relay stories of farmers and fishermen and to honour ancestors.
Adie is currently the lead dancer of Akrowna, a drum and dance ensemble originating in Ghana. After moving to Scotland in 2015, Adie, alongside his childhood friend, Thomas Annang, (the lead drummer of Akrowna) eastablished a UK base (Akrowna UK) bringing 'Ghana to Scotland through performances and workshops'. Together the pair work for Live Music Now in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland and the pair have performed at numerous festivals across the country including WOMAD, in Wiltshire. Independently, Adie has delivered workshops and performances in collaboration with ABC Creative Music for Scottish school children and currently also teaches at Dance Base in Edinburgh. In the past, Adie was also part of the Edinburgh-based group Sankofa.
Raquel danced throughout her childhood in Spain, learning ballet, flamenco and other styles. But it wasn't until she came to Edinburgh to learn English in 1995 that she discovered and fell in love with African dance. She trained and performed extensively with a local group called Afridonia. Since then, following her passion, she has travelled to Uganda, Ghana, Gambia and Senegal to study and perform with some great artists. She shares these experiences through her teaching and through performance. Performance highlights include dancing for the King of Buganda in Uganda, and dancing for the Queen of the UK in Westminster Abbey! Raquel currently works as a nursery teacher and sometimes she teaches African dance workshops for children. She also teaches at Dance Base and performs with the Edinburgh-based Ubuntu Vibes dance group.
Now Raquel teaches on-line Afro-inspired dance classes, where she combines dance styles from different parts of Africa to create fun choreographies inspired by the exciting and rich live music created by Andy Cooke.
“African dance makes me feel alive! I love the connection of the movement with the music and the people I dance with”
– Raquel Ribes
The society also has a group of superb live drummers (from young to old!) who provide the rhythm for each class!
Photo credits: Dennis Rewt, 35th Annual Dance Performance 2020
Comments from some of our regular members:
"For me, these classes aren't only about dancing. These classes empower us, creating a sense of community among us, where we can express ourselves freely." - Tamara
"I joined West African Dance Society when I moved to Edinburgh 4 years ago and I am loving it ever since. Not just for the fun, as the dance really is, but it gave me so much sense of belonging and gave me amazing friends I can share the love for dance with!" - Nadja
"I look forward to it every Wednesday, an opportunity to let go of the stresses and complexities of life, leave them outside the Chaplaincy and become absorbed into the drums' beat and learning new steps. It's the perfect place to let go, have fun, and try something new. You'll end up leaving the class feeling so much better!" - Elisabeth
For more infomation about the history and the meaning behind the dances and instruments please see 'The Meaning of the Dances' booklet in the Resources tab above!
From everyone in the society, we look forward to seeing you all there!