By: Janice Malone
In Swahili the word “Hayiya” means “to dance with joy.” The word is quite apropos as it’s also the name of a Nashville-based performing arts company that’s bringing a lot of. The group consists of talented and diverse performers of all ages. “We’re more than just a mere dance group. We showcase local dancers, actors, poets and spoken word artists,” says Hayiya founder/artistic director and choreographer Nomalanga Eniafe. Hayiya has performed at events throughout the city, such as Ellie’s Run and the annual African Street Festival. They recently performed at a tribute event for Nelson Mandela at the new Global Mall.
The group features 15 dedicated members who range in age from 8 years old, all the way to age 49. Ms. Eniafe says one of Hayiya’s main purposes is “edutaining” its members and audiences about African culture & generally promoting African culture as a whole.
She says, “I’ve been dancing for most of my life and African culture’s been an integral part of my life as well. One day I was reading this children’s book when I saw the word ‘hayiya.’ I immediately knew that one day I would use that name for something.” That day finally arrived in 2006 when she launched the Hayiya performance group. “I started the group because I felt there was a need for it,” shares Ms. Eniafe. “We don’t have a lot of activities in schools that feature the African culture. I wanted to be sure our children knew something about the beauty of the African culture,” says Eniafe, who is a native of Nashville.
It was during her years as a student at Lipscomb University when she became interested in learning more about African cultures and lifestyles. Nationally acclaimed artist James Threalkill gave her a book that would dramatically change her life. “I was part of this student program and one day Mr. Threalkill gave me the book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He told me it was an important book that I needed to read. The book sat on the shelf forever but one day I finally did read it, and he was right. The book really opened up my eyes to a whole new world I didn’t know existed!”
The Hayiya performance group holds auditions twice a year but anyone interested in joining are welcome to attend one of their rehearsals, which take place each Saturday from 9am – 12 noon at the East Park Community Center. “We welcome people of all races, genders and ethnic group to join us,” says Eniafe. But what about those of us who have two left feet when it comes to dancing, especially African dance? “It’s not a problem,” says Eniafe with a laugh. The movement is in everybody. Everyone has their own sense of rhythm and style, even if they’ve never danced before. Dancers are made and not born. Once you join the group we will teach you all the moves.”
Hayiya will be performing at the Nashville Public Library during Black History Month, along with several other shows during February. For more information about joining the Hayiya or to book them for shows, contact group founder Nomalanga Eniafe at: firstname.lastname@example.org