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08 Dec 2023

Imani Sorhaindo is one of the directors of ACYCLE (African and Caribbean Youth Creative Learning Experience), a community programme that plays a critical role in raising the bar socially, educationally, and culturally for this group of children in Ipswich.

Dance is something that Imani enjoys: “I love dance and dancing. I have a passion for it! I dance for maintaining my own self-esteem as a black woman, for my own cultural enrichment.” She also sees dance as form of connection, with the power to bring together people in and across communities: “There’s a phrase I use a lot, “I am, because we are”, which is an Ubuntu phrase. It’s a guiding principle I try and live by” and this means collectively coming together and creating a caring community, adding that “dance is a great way of doing that.”

Imani shares one of her favourite memories of dance: “there’s a dance that we do in the black community, which is a little bit like a line dance, but it’s to a song where the whole community takes part. Whether it’s a party or a family occasion, someone would always initiate this dance.” Drawing on the joy of dance being a universal form of connection, Imani adds that dance has the power to bring together people across the world: “I’ve done that dance all over the place; in America, in England, at my mum’s 80th birthday, at my best friend’s brothers’ parties. Whether I knew the people or not, it included me and everybody else.”

Imani is passionate about widening access to arts and culture for the children who attend ACYCLE Youth Project, embedding it in the programme by organising opportunities, such as bringing them to watch a performance or take part in a workshop. Recently, the ACYCLE group took part in a workshop with Breakdance teacher Isaac James, and this has opened up doors for families to access DanceEast here in Ipswich. Imani says lots of the parents wouldn’t have known it was a place for them” but since coming to DanceEast feel that it is. Imani says “it’s been amazing for DanceEast to invite ACYCLE Youth Project, to co-produce something that our young people can be a part of, so they can be part of this amazing space and community.”

Imani would love to see more African and Caribbean dance classes taught outside of big cities, like London, so local people can access these traditional dance styles in their towns, “because it’s something we’ve been separated from in my history.” She suggests that everyone has knowledge to share and exchange, adding “we have to form a bridge to enable people to be the teacher as well as to be taught.” This would enable more people to share their knowledge, culture and history, dance can be a medium to share this, to celebrate all the different cultures that make up towns like Ipswich.

Find out more about ACYCLE and the brilliant work they do here.