Meet The Fellows...
Stories of Jubilation: Biboti Ouikahilo
"Teaching is my duty, my service to the world,” says Biboti, "a way to bring, be, and express peace, as well as nurture peace with others through music and movement.”
Biboti was born in the village of Kouetinfla Progouri, in the central west region of the Ivory Coast of West Africa. A dancer, drummer, choreographer, and teacher, he has toured throughout the world. He's also performed with such disparate artists as Jimmy Buffett and Bruce Willis. In 1997, he came to the United States to co‐choreograph a celebratory show about Africa, Brazil, and the U.S. And stayed.
"As an African folk artist, teaching youth through dancing and drumming is another way to immortalize my culture,” says Biboti, "which is rooted in rich rhythms and movements.”
Energetic and enthusiastic, Biboti's intention is to share his love, passion, and joy for dance and drum with the community, uniting and celebrating the diversity of the world's cultures. Working easily with all ages, he loves to collaborate.
"For children to be able to feel their joy, their spirit, and to connect with their own natures through rhythm -- I do what I can to encourage and support their success as whole, healthy human beings.” To that end, he founded Wacheva Cultural Arts. "Wacheva means ‘unity' in the language of the Gouro people, my ethnic group,” he says. "It is more than just a name, but an expression of my core belief.”
"It's critical that the students, whatever age, feel comfortable in class right away. My philosophy is to make it fun and approachable, both the art and myself as the teacher, as well as educational. I also encourage questions during class.
"When teaching the rhythms and dance, I break each part down step by step, slowly and steadily. I stop along the way, checking in to see if they understand what they just learned. The steps then build on one another, and the rhythms become layered in parts, forming a collective experience that they've been part of the entire time.”
How do you create a vibrant learning environment?
"Fun is the key. If you're having fun, you can forget for a few minutes all your stresses. When there's no stress you will feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself your body relaxes and you feel good physically, spiritually, mentally, and morally. When you feel good like that, you love the others in class, as well as yourself.”
How do you encourage youth leadership?
"My tradition teaches me to pass my culture along to others. You must let children love and enjoy what they are doing. Help them remember that they are the future. Then help them to feel their joy, their spirit, and connection with their own natures. Then they can serve their community and pass on what they know to others.”
How have you evolved as a teacher?
"I began learning dance, drum, and mask as part of my upbringing. These traditional art forms are a means of expression and a way of life. When I moved to the U.S., I continued to express this traditional folk art on stage. But now it has grown into a more shared experience of teaching and learning in classrooms, lecture halls, dance studios, festivals, and community centers.”