Casting Call for a New “African” Dance Reality Show

By Nkeiruka Oruche

Headshot of Nkeiruka Oruche

Photo courtesy of artist
[ID: Nkeiruka, Black woman with short dark hair in clear eyeglass frames, bright pink lipstick, and colorful floral blouse with a large bright yellow collar, facing the camera, books, candles, and the corner of a framed print visible behind her.]


Internationally-Flexing, Izzie-Award-winning, Artistic Director of Afro Urban Society, Nkeiruka Oruche, a 15-year+ IRL & URL vibes dispenser and charlatan of Afro Urban Dance is casting for a new show that takes place at the renowned Ase-Umoja-Juju Cultural Dance Center.

This docu-series, tentatively titled DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW TO DANCE?, follows participants as they navigate the riveting world of African dance class, from Congolese to Senegalese, Afro-Brazilian to Cuban, Haitian to Hip Hop, and more. We are looking for movers of all types and levels, including but not limited to: folks who can launch into unsolicited full splits and back-bends, the ability to dance on the 1, non-stop chatterboxes, people that always do that one ‘African’ dance move, social media slayers, and more. Talent must be comfortable acting out improvisational scenes and demonstrating extreme emotion on camera (e.g. unwavering focus, I-don’t-care attitude, just-give-me-da-light eyes, am I disgusted or is it “I just can’t see the instructor” frustration).


Teachering Teacher
Maybe you’re the homegrown 5th-generation master dancer who just came from the motherland yesterday, or you spent 15 years studying under so and so, or you realized that hmm this African dance thing, I can do it as a profession o. Either way. We don’t understand what you’re saying, and we can’t keep up. But we love it here. Do you have any of those lapas for sale?

Counting Courtney
Is the dip on the 5,6 or the 6,7? How many times do you twist your middle left toe, before you do the turn? But can you please count it? You keep saying Trakata trakata boom, and I don’t know if it is 1, 2, 3 4 5. Sis, this is African dance, if I say, Umm aH, boom boom, traga traga ah eh tikititi tukuttu tikiti tukutu, oooh oooh Ah-baka baka bak! Cos if it’s- then it’s-, LEAN , then it’s ra ra POP. Then that’s what it is. Adapt.

Serious Sammy
They never smile, or do extra galavanting with anyone. Their eyes and attention are always on you. The whole time. Unless you say otherwise, of course. Following every move. Revising and paying attention to their body. You wonder if you should have brought scantron sheets for the test.

Authentic Abena
They are actually from the culture, or they are an elder in the practice. You show a move or combination and when they do it and it’s like *sun glints off an untouched river in the Serengeti *. They not even trying to show out, they just got it. Easy. A gazelle flitting through the savanna. You question your validity.

Loyal Lola
They will come. Every week. Every class. Even if you travel to Mars to do class, you will see them there. They will pay their money. Not a dollar more or less. They will say, see you next week, and you will, in fact, see them next week.

Comfortable Comfort
They walk in, holding their water bottle. Smiling at the wall, the floor, the ceiling, everyone. They wave. Today na today. You will always find these ones in the center of the room. Nothing is going to ruin their moment.

Backhome Bintou
They come in and they are giving it what it’s supposed to give! You are getting life. You’re giving them, they are taking it. They are giving you! You are receiving it! But beware! Some of them are habitual contrarians. They. Will. Never. Follow. Instructions. They won’t follow your moves. They’ll do their own thing because they already know how it’s spose to go. They are irritating af but you can’t say shit, because, well, you’re grateful they are here. What’s that tiny bead of sweat just on the corner top of your left eyebrow? My friend, call it what it is: Molecule of Apprehension. Because with all the glee of having your fam in the building, you know, you BETTA not fuck around and do or say a move incorrectly. The eye roll and sucking teeth that will follow, enh? You will cry for your mother.

Searching for the Meaning-Third Eye LunaLightLove Grass
Africa! Oh Ancient “undiscovered” Africa. Enshrined in a glass case of pure antiquity. These ones have come to find you, your dance, your music, your ways. What does this back pop move mean? Does it open my 5th chakra? It reminds me of a move I did at this silent yoga retreat I went to last week. Can you speak more to the energy and depth of this whole experience? Allison, it’s really just ‘shake. your. ass’.

Rootful Ruwa
This is their first time coming to take an African dance class. Even though you’ve been asking them for over 7 years to come. But now they have watched Black Panther. They must discover their roots. Incase Wakanda citizenship application comes. Well done sah. Well done ma. Whenever a person wakes up, is their morning. Here’s your dashiki.

Thrifty Tammy
Aunty! Do you want me to live in poverty? Do you know how many hours it takes to be learning dance, practicing routines, curating music, packing all my shit, putting a smile on my face and energy in my voice, while my life is in shambles to be here for you? I don’t have health insurance. If my leg breaks today you will say ‘sending healing vibes’. You want all the joy and life I have to give, but you want to complain about money? Listen, man cannot live by vibes and inshallah alone. Why is it so costly? Have you asked your Gucci bag the same question? God is watching you. Send Money.

Show off Salem
Ok. You need some kind of attention that you not getting elsewhere. Or maybe you just a Leo and you always just do that anyway. Breh, this is not an audition or performance. Calm down small abeg. Oh! ohhhh? I see. You ALSO teach your own class, and you came here for the sole purpose of everyone noticing you so that folks will come and talk to you, and you will give them a promo flyer. Ah ah. I see what you did there. We bow. Tactics.

Trifling Tribalist
They are from another African ethnic group, and they are there solely to express their superiority over you. These are the mumus that never miss a Ghana vs. Naija jollof battle. But you’re Senegal. Flex your superiority. Ignore them. E choke.

Ever-knowing Evelyn
In 1983, I traveled to Makoko village. Have you been? No, Evelyn, I’m sorry that colonization has made it so I never was able to visit any other African regions, and now have been forced to arrive in the U.S. and the way the immigration system is set up? I can’t ever really go back, or go anywhere else. Oh that’s nice, you’ve been to my family village as well? Oh lovely, tell me more. Do I know Chief Manguru? No. No. I don’t. Oh you created a charity for him. Lovely. Yes. Yes. I’m just a basic dance teacher. I know nothing. I’ve been nowhere. Oh I see I’m not ‘that’ interesting after all. Thanks for not coming to my class anymore. Tell my villagers I said hi.

Private-Lesson Pooja
I’m really struggling getting it, and I just can’t really deal with other people distracting me in the space. Can I set some time for privates with you? Ah, Pooja. This is a social dance, part of learning is being with other people. If strangers don’t sweat or breathe on you, the dance will not work. Just keep coming. Omg are you pouting? What is this behavior?

Masterful Mackenzie
Do you know it takes me an average of 2 years to learn each movement? And I’m still learning and refining. But you paid $15 and you are angry because you didn’t ‘master’ it in 30 minutes. Am I a microwave?

FitFam Maya
They come in jogging. They have overpriced non-wicking tight pants on, a headband, a fresh tee from their gym program, step-tracker watch, and a protein shake in a highlighter colored bottle. Whenever you pause to give instructions or move the formation of the class, they start jogging on the spot. When you call for a water break, you find them in the corner doing jumping jacks and burpees. They think your warm up is weak af.

‘My Spot’ Sharif
Front row warriors. They protec’, they attac’ but most importantly they come back. If you tell the front line to move to the back, they will wrinkle their nose and look up to the ceiling to avoid eye contact. Every time you change up the rows, their ears will close and they still end up in front. Unaware victims (see: Comfortable Comfort), who find themselves taking their spot, will mysteriously receive a, Oh, my bad, did I bump you?

Backwall Betty
These ones will never come out of the woodworks. Their eyes are unrelentlessly wide and bulging. The ones who will have a heart attack if you look at them, or tell them to do a demo or solo. Oh god. They have died now.

Watchful Huang
Oh you’re just here to ‘watch’. Well, since you’ve decided that we are African Netflix, as of next week I’m going to start charging a subscription fee.

Managing Manager
Oh what y’all doing in here? Is this some kind of African Hipity hop? Oh you know I used to do a lil’ African dance back in my day. Learned a few moves. Oh nah. It’s okay. I’m good, I just wanted to see what all the noise was about. Oh and by the way, y’all ten minutes over time, I need to close the building, if y’all don’t leave in the next 5 minutes, I’ll be forced to write you up. Ha! Uncle, how did we come to the end of the road so fast?

Mirage Miriam
Mama so and so, it was great to see you. You really were amazing, I don’t know if that’s your real name, and I don’t have your contact info. If you see this message, I still have the wrapper and left over food container that you kept in the corner even tho I mentioned no eating in class. Also, have you seen my phone charger? It was next to your bag.

This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of In Dance.

Nkeiruka Oruche ( is a cultural organizer, multimedia creative of Igbo descent, who specializes in Afro-Urban culture and its intersections with social issues. She is a co-founder of BoomShake, a social justice and music education organization, and founder and executive artistic director of Afro Urban Society, an incubator and presenter of Pan Afro-Urban arts, culture, and social discourse. In 2022, she created and directed ‘Mixtape of the Dead & Gone #1’- Ahamefula’, a shit-just-got-real dance-theater piece about life, death, and what the fuck comes next. She is a 2022 Dance/USA Artist Fellow, a Kikwetu Honors Awardee, a 2018 NYFA Immigrant Artist Fellow, YBCA 100 Honoree, and recipient of awards from Creative Work Fund, MAP Fund, New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, California Arts Council, among others.