If a single word could depict the young Ethiopian dancer and choreographer Junaid Jemal Sendi, “generosity” would be spot on.
At the end of 2010, Sendi took over the management of the Adugna Dance Company where he had started dancing in 1996 under the guidance of British choreographer Royston Maldoom. Sendi has spent much of this year enthusiastically reorganizing the Addis Ababa-based company.
His main goal was the introduction of shared management: he and his long-time colleague and dance partner, Addisu Demise, along with two other members of the company, have taken up responsibilities for the troupe. Once mentored by Japan’s Saburo Teshigawara in the Rolex Arts Initiative, 28-year-old Sendi is now mentoring others.
“As choreography and rehearsals director, I deal with everything that has to do with dance,” he explains. “I need to ensure the development of contemporary dance in my country.” To mark the “re-creation” of the company and translate the process into body language, Sendi and Demise set up a project entitled Renaissance, for which Sendi created a dance called Adwa. It was performed – along with the three other pieces choreographed for the occasion – by 45 dancers, some of them disabled, in October 2010, at the national theatre in Addis Ababa. An essential feature of Adugna’s work is “Adugna Potentials” through which 11 disabled young dancers have joined the company, clearly demonstrating that everyone can dance.
In April 2011, Sendi was invited to the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, for a screening of Destino (2009), a Dance United film portraying his life story. Co-founder of this U.K.-based, non-profit organization, Maldoom had set up a dance workshop for children in Addis Ababa. That is where it all started for Sendi. After the screening, he performed live a new solo piece, Telet. “I had originally created it as a duet in 2007,” he says. “I have changed the music, but kept the same costume and reworked the choreography. Telet is a traditional Ethiopian scarf which takes on a different meaning depending on the colour chosen and the occasion it is used for.” In June, Destino was shown in Addis Ababa at the Addis International Film Festival.
Sendi also performed live before leaving for another festival in South Africa with five dancers, three of them from Adugna Potentials. He stays in close contact with Dance United, giving occasional workshops for young, marginalized people in cities like Bradford, in England. “I’m telling them my story,” he says. “It gives them confidence and they are inspired by my energy.”