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Opening a dance studio was once only a dream housed in the mind of Biboti Ouikahilo when he first arrived in America. Now, it’s daily proof that dreams do come true.
Wacheva means unity in Guru, the language of West Africa’s Ivory Coast – Biboti’s home.
The Wacheva Cultural Arts Center of Syracuse, NY affirms the notion that unity is needed to make any good thing last. And while it took some time to get things up and running, Biboti’s dream business has been nothing short of successful since opening in 2003.
Nine years later, it has become the “multicultural reference point for Central New York,” Biboti tells me, something he always wanted.
Located off of Westcott Street, people of all ages can come learn the techniques of West African dancing and drumming from a professional.
It isn’t a place for youth only but from the looks of things, they are certainly shown some favoritism. Biboti says he enjoys working with young people because of their willingness to learn.
“I get to share culture with them…we dance, play the drums, sing, and I do African storytelling…what’s not to enjoy? You know what I mean?” he says while cracking one of many small smiles.
Dancers Tevin Johnson, 15, Deanna Eure, 15, and Ana Suarez, 13, all agree that dancing is something they thoroughly enjoy.
“Wacheva is like a second home,” Ana says. “Here I get to escape and do something that I love…dancing is my passion,” Tevin adds.
Instead of being home with family or friends, these three teens are busy trying to perfect their latest dance moves well past sunset and after their fellow adult dancers had left.
They giggle at each other and offer kind words of constructive criticism when one forgets a step or adds an extra move. They joke and even wipe sweat from each other’s brow.
It’s clear these tweens are unified by something more - something they find only at Wacheva.
Being a professional dancer since 1980, he is thrilled to have a chance to share dances native to his country with a wider audience.
To see Tevin, Deanna, Ana and others’ enthusiasm for dance brings him joy. He tells me he’s able to see himself in them because of it – it also makes all his hard work worthwhile.
“To see smiles in class and people laugh…to make them happy, I’m happy,” he says.
Finally, Biboti’s dancing dreams have come true.
Ana, Tevin and Deanna