Abdoulaye Sylla, master dancer and drummer from Guinea, West Africa, has been delighting students and audiences alike for more than 30 years with his energetic style and infectious smile. He began dancing professionally while still a youngster, when he was recruited by his government, then under the leadership of Sekou Toure, to represent the Republic of Guinea in international dance competitions. He grew up winning numerous regional and national dance competitions in and on behalf of his country.
Abdoulaye was a principal dancer and percussionist with Les Ballets Africains, the internationally acclaimed, award-winning national dance troupe of the Republic of Guinea, from1988 to 1994 and a principal dancer, percussionist, and the director of technique for Les Merveilles D’Afrique, a private folkloric troupe under the direction of Kemoko Sano, which trained dancers for the national company, from 1986 through 1994. He was a co-founder and instructor for Ballet Sa’amato, which included members from Guinea’s military. He has performed on many of the great stages of the world and has toured and taught traditional dance throughout Africa, Europe, and the United States. He was named an “Ambassador of Culture” by the University of California at San Francisco following a residency he did there while on tour.
In 1994 Abdoulaye relocated to the United States. He has taught and performed at hundreds of schools, churches, theaters, community centers, colleges, libraries, and cultural festivals. He is presently Co-Owner and Artistic Director of One World Arts Exchange, an organization whose mission is to foster intercultural appreciation through the arts. He was a visiting professor at Trinity College from 1995-2009, when he left to relocate to Seattle. Abdoulaye spent 15 years as a member of the teaching staff of the Artists’ Collective, and has worked extensively during this time with other Afrocentric folkloric groups, such as Sankofa Kuumba Cultural Arts Consortium (CT), Ballet Bagata,(NY), Jeh Kulu (VT), Ballet Silimbo (MA), and the Bamidele Dancers and Drummers (MA). He has also built a specialty working with children who have special needs and who are in placement. He has had multi-year teaching relationships with organizations such as CT Children’s Home and Boys and Girls Village. He was a member of the Master Teaching Artist Roster and the Master Performing Artist Roster with the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism for over a decade; he was also one of their Higher Order Thinking (HOT)Schools instructors. He was one of a handful of artists selected by the Commission to promote inter-school diversity through the Cultural Tapestries Project. In 1997 he served as a cultural emissary to the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago as a member of an invited delegation to participate in Trinidad’s Carnival and launch an enduring arts partnership.
Abdoulaye relocated to Seattle in September, 2009 where he has co-founded Message From Guinea (now on 4Culture’s Touring Artist Roster) and has been collaborating with local arts organizations such as Adefua, One World Dance, Dounia Djembe and Lagni Sussu. He has also performed with the Juno award-winning Alpha Yaya Diallo.
He is on the Washington State Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Roster, and is a teaching artist partner for the new Creative Advantage arts education initiative of the Seattle Public School District. He is on the teaching faculty for Powerful Schools and Artscorps, organizations that provide school-based arts education programs. Abdoulaye is committed to enriching children’s lives by introducing them to the joy of African rhythm and movement. He continues to focus on his professional development through participation in programs such as the TATLab and the Seattle Teaching Artist Network (STAN).
In 2011 Abdoulaye became a certified Zumba instructor, adding to his repertoire.
To see sample video clips of Abdoulaye’s teaching, performing, and student results, please visit his youtube page.
I have been privileged to study with Guinea’s foremost experts on the indigenous cultures of my country, such as Kemoko Sano, Sekouba Camara, Sekou Amadou Conde, and Frankise Magoulaoire Camara, and to train and perform with the greatest artistic masters of our rich heritage, such as Italo Zambo and Hamidou Bangoura. It brings me great joy to share my culture with others. I enjoy working with students of all ages, from preschool through college and even senior citizens. It is never too early or too late to start learning. Everyone can be moved by powerful spirit of Guinean music.
African dance and drum should be accessible to everyone. Our music is a universal language and I have seen many people whose spirits have been awoken by the magic of the drum. African dance nourishes the spirit, exercises the body and disciplines the mind.
My goal, whether it is through my drum and dance classes for children, youth, and adults or through my performances, is to touch everyone with a message of peace, love, respect, and unity for everyone.
(See letters of recommendation here.)