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Otehlia Cassidy
Paddy Cassidy
Kurt Engelen

Neil Sisauyhoat

Avery Kansteiner

Graham Thorbrogger
Amy Kruger

Courtney Rolnick

Alaina Wendlandt

Briana Boodry

 


Otehlia Cassidy, Wadoma’s co-instructor and lead choreographer, is an energetic and charismatic dancer-educator whose graceful interpretations of traditional West African dance movement reveal artistry steeped in experience. Otehlia’s onstage presence, like her classroom instruction style, embodies the explosive energy that is characteristic of West African dance.

Since her childhood in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Otehlia has been a student of movement, beginning with ballet and later moving on to Middle Eastern and modern dance. In 1993, she began intensively pursuing her interest in traditional styles of dance, especially West African. From ’93 to ’98, she studied with such renowned artists as Eno Washington, Denise Hawthorne Bey, Moustapha Bangoura and Abdoulaye Sylla.

In 1998, Otehlia moved to Madison to earn her master’s degree from the UW-Madison in Conservation Biology, and also to further her dance career. She began a community dance class and founded Baraka Drum and Dance Ensemble. From 2000-2006, Otehlia taught African dance and choreographed numerous pieces for the UW Dance Program. She continues to teach in the community and to conduct outreach programs in elementary schools throughout the area.

Otehlia has traveled numerous times to Mali and Guinea, studying traditional dances within their cultural context. Otehlia continues to study with Guinean and Malian dancers such as Djeneba Sacko, Mouminatou Camara, Moustapha Bangoura, Michael Markus, Sidiki Sylla, Seydou Coulibaly and M'Bemba Bangoura.

Paddy Cassidy, WADOMA’s musical director, is a versatile percussionist, educator, and entertainer who has played drums since he was a child. At the age of ten, Paddy began learning drumset, and also traveled to France as an exchange student. These experiences led him to the passion for African music that drives his creativity today.

After playing in a rock band as a teenager, Paddy discovered jazz music, which opened the door to a new world of rhythmic and musical understanding. While at UW-Madison, Paddy met his first African drum teacher, Elhadji Jean Sene. His facility in French allowed him to form a unique bond with Sene, who introduced him to traditional jembe and sabar rhythms from West Africa. In 2005, Paddy first traveled to Africa with Sene to fully immerse himself in the music and culture. His subsequent travels in West Africa have taken him to Guinea, Mali and Senegal, where he has lived and studied with internationally renowned artists such as M’Bemba Bangoura, Abdoul Doumbia, Mamady Keita, Famoudou Konate, Minto Camara, and Michael Markus. In Madison, Paddy is an integral part of the burgeoning African music scene. His work with the UW Dance Program and School of Music helped to bolster African percussion pedagogy at the UW. With his wife, Otehlia, he has led WADOMA to become the benchmark African dance company in Madison. He has performed and taught throughout the Midwest, as well as in France, Ireland, and Guinea. In addition to co-directing WADOMA, Paddy records and performs with a variety of artists, including Tani Diakite and the Malian Blues Band, The Rhythm Section, and Talking Heads cover band Houses in Motion.

 

Amy Kruger began her formal dance training at the age of fourteen. She studied modern dance at the Minnetonka Art Center and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. For six years Amy worked at the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Center creating choreography and teaching aerobic dance. In 2000 she took her first African dance class and has been pursuing this style of movement with great focus and enthusiasm. She currently studies with Otehlia Kiser, and has received training from African Dance Masters such as Moustapha Bangoura, Sidiki Sylla, and Michael Markus.

Courtney Rolnick began her dance training at the age of three. Courtney continued her dance career and received her B.S. from UW-Madison in 2006. Courtney has studied with various companies and artists including Joffrey Ballet, Point Park College, Dan Wagoner, Bill Evans, Li Chiao- Ping, Jin Wen Yu, Chris Walker, and Marlene Skog. Courtney has been dancing and performing with WADOMA since May of 2005.

Alaina Wendlandt studied and performed with Classical Ballet Academy and Ballet Arts Minnesota from her childhood until 2004. She spent one summer with the Milwaukee Ballet, as an intensive program student. She began studying African Dance under Otehlia Cassidy in 2006, through the UW-Madison Dance Program. In 2007 she traveled Guinea, West Africa, to study dance under artists from Les Ballets Africains and Ballet Djoliba. She joined WADOMA in 2007.

 

 

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        Don Stovall Photography

 
© 2007 West African Dance of Madison