Ethiopians take UK stage to show dance changes lives
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Two Ethiopians who take to the London stage on Monday evening are living proof that dance really can change lives.
Addisu Demissie, 30, and Junaid Jemal Sendi, 28, will perform in "A Holding Space", a dance collaboration which explores their extraordinary journey from the streets of Addis Ababa to some of the biggest arts venues in Europe.
In the film "Billy Elliot", the son of a tough northern English miner breaks taboos and challenges a community's prejudices by ditching boxing to take up ballet.
In the real world, Demissie was in his early teens and out shining shoes to make extra cash for his family when a stranger turned up at the door offering the chance of free education.
He and hundreds of other children turned up the following day, and quickly realized that the education they were to receive was not blackboards and books but movement and exercise.
In just 17 days, at a time when there were no known contemporary dancers in Ethiopia, some 120 children from the streets were dancing in a performance of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana".
Andrew Coggins, chief executive of the Dance United charity which organized the project in the mid-1990s, recalled the transformation he saw in the children.
"You saw kids on the street who were rather supplicant suddenly standing on the stage and taking their full space in the world," he told Reuters at The Place, the London dance venue where A Holding Space is being performed. Continued...