African-dance instructor will use $20,000 RAC grant to visit homeland for inspiration

By Nancy Fowler
St Louis Public Radio

As an African-dance instructor in St. Louis for nearly two decades, Diádié Bathily is immersed in African culture. At the same time, he longs to experience it — up close. Now, thanks to a recent grant, Bathily can return to his home continent to soak up creative energy. Bathily is one of 10 people each receiving $20,000 fellowships from the Regional Arts Commission in 2015 (see full list here and below).

After years of struggling to make it the local dance world, Bathily could hardly believe his good fortune when he got the news. “I asked ‘Are you kidding? Are you sure?’” he said.

Bathily founded the local Afriky Lolo dance company in 2003. He also teaches in St. Louis Public Schools and other districts as well as at Washington University. He said his students are hungry to experience African culture.

“Because they are so curious to know who they are, where they’re coming from,” Bathily said. “They’ve never been to Africa but they want to know what Africa looks like, outside of the movies they’ve seen on TV.”

Bathily will travel to his native Ivory Coast as well as Senegal and other African countries. He plans to work with dance instructors, some of whom learn from nearby villagers, and return to St. Louis with new inspiration and knowledge.

“I think that will be an amazing plus, not just for me but for the community, too,” Bathily said.

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