The Day I Learned How To Dance

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ninja danceSecondary School is quite an amazing time in a person’s life, that’s where you get your first kiss, your first romantic dance and your first real girlfriend. Sadly none of that ever happened to me. I was quite awkward in school…especially on the dance floor.

I played video games a lot growing up from Street Fighter to Killer Instinct to Mortal Kombat, so it was not surprising that my idea of a really cool dance move was the Subzero (remember him from mortal kombat) fighting stance, which basically entailed me on the dance floor swinging side to side like a ninja and out of beat.

Sadly I had no idea that I could not dance, in fact I really thought I was an awesome dancer until I realized that people were not laughing with me but were laughing at me. But did that stop me from dancing..nah…I kept on dancing mortal kombat style, street fighter style and killer instinct style, nearly killing my poor dance victims along the way. My style of dancing was to move to every beat of the song, that’s what I understood as dancing.

All this went on, until one day in SSS1 (I know, I did this for 4 years) I was dancing flapping around in my dorm room with a walk man plugged to my ear, when Chukwuma Ikeakor walked into the room. One year my senior, he was one of the coolest cats you could ever meet in secondary school. He had observed me dancing…

Back then the album that had just come out was Life After Death by Notorious BIG and the song I was attempting to jam to was Hypnotize.

Now if you remember Hypnotize it has this sick Bassline that goes like this dum-dum-d-dmmmmm if you have not heard the song…then sorry youtube it. Anyway I was jamming and jamming and he was just watching and watching, and then he made me stop…probably right before I whacked him in the head Johnny Cage style.

And then in a deep still voice (added for effects) he said:

“Ofili you can dance, the only thing is that you are dancing the wrong way. Don’t try and dance to every beat, instead focus only on the bass line, that beat in the background, everything else is melodic noise.”

That was the best dancing advice I had ever received. People had given me tips on how to dance before, but no one had given tips on how to listen to the music. And for the first time in like forever, I started searching for the bass line in songs, I would nod my head to the beat, then tap my feet and soon my whole body was bumping, to that one bass line in the background as I ignored all the other layers of beats. And soon (it did not happen overnight) I began dancing much much better (I might even show you guys a video proof). Now I am not Michael Jackson or an Usher Raymond type dancer, I never reach that level. But I can hold my own at any Nigerian wedding…don’t try me.

So now you are probably thinking, what does dancing have to do with the price of pure water. Actually nothing, but that lesson thought me something important about life. In the words of one of the greatest poets Maya Angelou, Everything in the universe has a rhythm and everything dances. You, me and everything around us dances to the rhythm of the Universe. But much like the rap song Hypnotized, the Universe has a bass line to it, a steady rhythm that plays in the background. The one beat that we should tap our feet to and bump our heads to. The rhythm that matters.

Sadly people (just like me in Secondary School) don’t dance to that beat that matters, instead we try to dance to every single beat. And because of that, we fail miserably on the dance floor. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the Christian Religion…

At the core essence of Christianity, when you take away the layers and layers of doctrine and tradition is a core consistent message…Be kind to people, do not judge people and help them get to Heaven. But rather than focus on that core message, people focus on the fringe messages…

O the bible said that women should not wear trousers, our pastor said that the King James Version is the only true version of the bible, that religion wearing white with the funny caps are demonic, that church does not pray loudly they do not have the power of God, oral sex is a sin….

It is one thing after the other, religions stressing themselves over everything but the core message. And that core message is like the bass line beat of the Universe, if we focus on it we find more meaning to life and more clarity in things, we dance better. But this rarely happens as we get caught up with everything the Universe throws at us.

What I thought I learned in my small dormitory room in Ogun state several years ago was how to dance without killing people. But what I really ended up learning was that everything in the Universe has a rhythm and that if I was to successfully get through life without killing myself…I would have to dance to the beats that mattered.

What beat are you dancing to today?

Bonus: You might not be able to dance like Subzero or Johnny Cage but you can always dance like a true the SINE dance…



PS: Share your funny social night experience and for 3 people in Nigeria (only) you get a free copy of any of my books from via refund.

twitterWritten and Drawn By Okechukwu Ofili of
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Author: Ofili

Words by Okechukwu Ofili of
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42 comments on “The Day I Learned How To Dance

  1. Jimmy Falola on said:

    Back then at my prom in secondary school, we had this thing where we decided to have the full american prom experience -i.e drink booze, dance to slow songs and then probably have sex by the end of the night(which didn’t happen though)- So we’re midway into the prom thing, the DJ is playing a really depressing symphony and me being the very bad dancer that i was then(i’m not any better now though) i couldn’t just get into the rythm of the dance and do the whole slow dance, so i take a peek at my classmates and everybody seems happy doing the slow dance thingy but the truth was they actually hated it but their pride in wanting to feel the american experience prevented them from voicing their thoughts… So i literally stormed my way up to the podium, grabbed the mic and yelled
    “This shit sucks! I thought we all wanted to grind, drink booze, have sex with b*tches (no offense girls) and tell our kids that we had the best fucking prom ever.. Then lets have a goddamn prom!!!”
    So every guy tok of their jackets and ties and the girls took off their heels and we “grinded” all night to Nigerian songs, drank booze and shared really stupid stories

    PS: I may have falsified some of the things you read as my speech earlier on…

  2. Lol! Hilarious! Ofili you are busy dancing in secondary school while Boko haram is killing secondary school kids in Yobe! Anyway, you are not President Jonathan or Obama and haave no military might. *sighs*

    You can keep on dancing… (pun intended)
    Nice piece~

  3. Our ideas of dancing were pretty weird in those days. I remember social nights at FGC Ijanikin, and the stress it gives to the socially-challenged amongst us.

    But the truth in your post remains sancrosant. There is a rhythm to everything, and the best you can do is to find the rhythm and plug in to it.

    The music is all around us, you just have to listen to it. – August Rush

  4. LOL! During my secondary school days, any good dancer automatically passes as a ‘Celeb’. Not sure if the baseline thing applies to most naija music – they sound ‘baselineless’ lol
    Great article, Ofili. Powerful message. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Oh Ofili, you make sense out of the most mundane things. And that is such a good trait. Yoruba people have a proverb that when translated means “you (seller or buyer) do not listen to the rumblings and noise in the market. You focus on your customer (buyer or seller)”. It is a saying that I’ve found very useful as an adult, career-wise, business-wise and even in relationships. You dance to the bass beats and ignore all the other sounds. Even in a band, there is often a lead instrument per set/song, around which all the other instruments revolve. So the choir may be singing a song and its the talking drum that is the key instrument, especially if its a Yoruba song, and on another song, the keyboard takes the lead. You concentrate your dance moves on that key instrument and move with the beat, else you’ll be dancing like the crap figure in your illustration.

    About funny social night experiences in school, I didn’t have one. I just didn’t fancy all the heavy beats and loud music. I guess that explains why I’ve never gone clubbing *covers face*. It’s just not my thing, I guess. On social nights, I’ll be curled up on my bed reading Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, and Sidney Sheldon and similar authors. I preferred, and still prefer, the ballads and R&B sounds of the 80s.

    • Ofili

      Ah kilonshele…why you no club. Abi you no fit dance? lol…jokes.

      Really love this proverb you shared “you (seller or buyer) do not listen to the rumblings and noise in the market. You focus on your customer (buyer or seller)” quite profound.

      • Aibee on said:

        Yay! Thank you Ofili! For some reason, I woke up this morning with the need to come back and read my comment on this post. Little did I know I won! Thank you.

  6. lol i can imagine the dancing before you started listening to the bass line rhythm..
    I find a kindred spirit wit aibee as I’ll rather be snuggled with good book or movie than sweating out with loud music….also never gone clubbing ..

    Anyhoo the lesson from your dance tale is true and apt…and should ne applied on our everyday life. There is always a simple core message underneath so many man made ruffles of life..

  7. Shawntaesia on said:

    Sadly no social night experience…. (but I think I can chair-dance perfectly well lol). I am happy to take this home: ‘If I was to successfully get through life without killing myself…I would have to dance to the beats that mattered.’

    Anyways, whenever I open a link to your writeup or read any of your books, I am more intrigued by your drawings. I friggn’ love them!

  8. Motunrayo on said:

    I actually, I dint want comment so as not to laugh at, but the thought of winning your book worth the laugh.

    My funny social night was during my secondary school days. During the time of ‘bissy body’ by P-square. The popular dance steps of ‘shake the ass’. I went to an only girls school and we are always invited for dancing competitions by other schools, esp. Male schools. So I wanted to go for the competition and I put down my name to join. So the day for nomination came
    (For those that will train to go cos we were much that put down our name), they played the bissy body song and the ass shaking began! I shaked and shaked but my ass didn’t move! I saw other girls ass doing the right thing but mine didn’t! I was embarrased and removed from the competition. Till now, I still don’t know how to do the ‘shake the ass’ thing. I hope this ‘shake the ass’ dance get me nominated for the book,this time around.
    Nice write up as always.

  9. Ofili, I don turn last carrier on this blog sha…All you ninja commentators, you berra watch out. I’m reclaiming my position…lol

    Oya, back to the matter. You couldn’t have said it any better bro. We have been so distracted by the doctrines and church dogma that we lose focus of what really matters.

    It’s not just in the church by life generally. Bro, that’s some valuable lesson. Thanks for tying it together very well. You too much!
    Segun latest post is Must Read! Lupita Nyong’o’s Inspiring Speech At The Essence Magazine’s BWIH | Black BeautyMy Profile

  10. So much wisdom in this. A lot of Christians will beg to differ, but then again, I suppose those are the ones who are deafened by the loud oh-so-many-beats sound of the music they’re dancing to.
    Thanks, Okechukwu. For this message.
    ‘What beat are you dancing to?’ Still pondering that.
    Walter latest post is THE QUINTESSENCE OF BEAUTYMy Profile

  11. This is a cool write-up. Seriously trying to picture you dancing 🙂 all I have seen you do is speak.
    Indeed, the core message of Christianity remains Jesus Christ and the Salvation He gives. Thank you for bringing us back a bit.
    And true that! We must learn not to kill ourselves on the dance floor of life.
    I will learn to dance only to the beat that matters. Thanks Ofili.
    Blessing latest post is LeadershipMy Profile

  12. Dear Ofili,I luv reading ur books…I have definitely learnt much here. The Maya Angelou’s proverb is somefn to memorise.Thank u for making reading fun! Well..if there’s still any book tho, I’d luv to have one but’s my dancing experience.

    My experience? Hmmm….when it comes to dancing, I am a ‘misfit’ I dodged prom, VS and even wen we had social functions back den in secondary school,I would find a perfect excuse.Boys bck den used to ‘trip’ for girls dat can dance and if a guy has been trippn and u ‘fall his hand’ by nt knowing how to dance, dey’d make fun of you in skl.
    Brainy,sociable? Yes! But dancing errm..not my thingy.
    However,It dawned on me dat I had to learn dancing from hostel chics.I went to a friend’s (Iyanu) hostel with my bestie one night and Iyanu’s roomies were club girls-‘the luv to have fun’ type of chics. So dey were all singing and dancing azonto in turns but my friend wz dere laughing and staring at them.
    Trust hostel gurlz na…dey dragged her to the middle and forced her to dance! She tried to reject the offer nicely but dey persuaded her. Though she danced small sha..dey praised her and all that..

    It wz now my turn to dance..eeeyeeh!! My bestie(Queen) knew dat that was judgement day for me…as I was trying to show my small skills sha..I was tryn to dance azonto but I found out dat my body was stiff, I tried to move my right leg( u know d way azonto dance is naa), punch my hand in the air but naaa….it didn’t work out all I heard was laughter! Serious one ooo and azonto was d reigning song den..
    ‘My rep fall’..I left dere embarrased and pestered my bestie to teach dat azonto dance!
    The hostel gurls sha finished me, yab d hell out of me(dat must b behind my back)

  13. Peterpidia on said:

    I imagine d ‘subzero’ dance will be so funny..(actually,i couldn’t relate with that..i never played mortal kombat)…people, Focus On the core message and leave peripherals alone..seeing you do what i’d love to do is commendable.Thumbz! I still can’t do the ‘etigi dance’..that partly explains while i’m a ‘chair-rocker’.

  14. I was such an awkward teenager, never got my first kiss till I got into the university and that first kiss is still questionable till date because at the end of it, the thought in my mind was “Is this what all the fuss is about”. Could never dance, it was just too painful to try and move to the music.
    But at least I finally got the hang of the whole kissing thing but I still cannot dance to save my life.
    Chidinma latest post is Soul Mate SyndromeMy Profile

  15. So much to say. Summary: This is the best blog post i’ve read this year. A little kindness, a little nonjudgmental love…will giving it kill anybody?

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  17. Used to thÍnk I was the Ónly human who doesn’t no how to dance.was more of a guy during my secondary school and would rather jump the fence to the neigbouring farm for one stick of cigrette with my dear John Grisham,Sidney sheldon,Ann Rice etc Although my sister kept trying to teach me how to Dance and Catwalk #smh# I just called them to tell them the ‘bass rhythm’ and how it would have my lessons easier. Still don’t no how to dance. Great piece there on religion.what with the way humans now assume God’s police.

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  19. I know I ‘m overlate, but the wisdom in this piece is timeless! Thank you for the reminder. Btw, I am challenging you to a dance contest at any naija wedding (even though you hate weddings, lol, I read that post). Bring your best moves.

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