West African Dance
Born into the sacred stilt-dancing tradition of the Mahou people in northwest Ivory Coast, Vado was destined to dance. His father taught him the sacred ways, and soon Vado exemplified the highest standards of the age-old customs. Discovered at an early age by scouts, Vado was taken to Abidjan to join the budding Ballet National de Cote D’Ivoire, where he was exposed to the diverse dances of over 60 ethnic groups of the Ivory Coast.
Vado toured the world for over 15 years as a principal dancer in the Ballet, impressing audiences everywhere with the Tall Mask, “God of the Sacred Forest," Gue-Pelou. He established his own dance company, L'Ensemble Kokiegna d'Abidjan in 1989 in Abidjan, touring the Ivory Coast and Australia. He re-established his dance company in New York City in 1994, as Kotchegna Dance Company, developing a corps of multicultural dancers and a repertoire that is widely loved and admired.
Choreography began for Vado at the Ballet National. He has been commissioned by dance companies, theatre companies and schools to create powerful traditional dances, and has inspired many students and teachers to integrate his culture into their dances.
Vado is a guest artist with many illustrious performers, artists and dancers. He has been a part of Tamango’s Urban Tap for many years, touring the US and Europe. He has contributed to Maimouna Keita, Umoja, Les Merveilles de Guinee, Seventh Principle, Les Ballets Africains, Ballet Djoniba, Masabo, Spirits SOA, Ancestral Messengers, as well as Haitian, Brazilian, Tap and Modern dance companies.
As the heartbeat of all West African musical traditions, the drum is an integral part of Vado’s artistic life; he has drummed all his life. He often creates drum pieces for performers of all kinds, and is a beloved drum teacher.
As a master dance teacher, his inspiration leads his students to pursue both dancing and drumming, in true African tradition. He has taught at the Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre since 1994, as well as at Alvin Ailey, Fareta, and Ifetayo, and gives workshops to schools and colleges everywhere.
Djembes, doundouns, songbas, kenkenes, yado…Vado is sought out by many professionals, highly respected for his craftsmanship and superb sound in all his drum-making and repair.
Kotchegna Dance Company is Vado’s greatest creation, known for its masked dances, intricate footwork and explosive energy. Kotchegna was celebrated at three childrens’ festivals in 2003, and has been embraced by audiences from Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn to the Ordway Theatre, Minneapolis; from the American Museum of Natural History, NY to Quad City Arts, Illinois; from the African Film Festival, NY to the Lowell Folk Festival, Maine. They are beloved by all who experience them.
Vado Diomande’s Advanced Beginner class will focus on a variety of the different ethnic dances danced by the diverse people of the Ivory Coast. Vado warms up and stretches the body before teaching choreography facing the mirror. Dances such as Koukou, Bademalon, N’Goron, Katana, Kong, Manekadon, Vado Wenan, Mamian, Bolohi, Aboudan and Temate will be taught, as well as harder dances such as Zagrobi and Zaouly; male and female parts will also be taught. Vado also teaches the songs that begin each dance. After the choreography has been learned, the drummers join the class with the accompanying rhythms with the students dancing the choreography as a whole. Then Vado takes his students across the floor, teaching steps to a second, maybe third dance. The class ends by dancing the first choreography to finish.
Ivory Coast drum rhythms are different from other West African dance traditions. The footwork is fast, syncopated and polyrhythmic. The class will be geared to people with some experience of African dance and drumming, although first-time beginners will not be excluded. The class demands stamina and strength. Skill comes with practice.
Vado's Teaching Schedule