Leading to the Beat: How A High School Freshman Became the “Afrobeat Queen”
Wuraola Adetola goes by many different names. Her parents call her “Wuraola.” Her friends call her “Wura.” At Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, however, she’s been dubbed the “Afrobeat Queen,” for bringing her love of dancing and an urge to try something new to create the Afrobeats Club — in her very first year of high school!
Wura took advantage of HSLA’s wide variety of clubs, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to follow her passions and create her own (one of the many opportunities HSLA scholars have). Looking back on the past year, Wura reflects on her greatest challenges, joys, and the leadership skills she’s developed — as well as the teacher who pushed her to take chances.
How did you learn about the style of Afrobeat dancing?
Since the first grade, I’ve been in love with dance. I participated in SA’s dance electives, training countless hours in ballet, hip-hop, and contemporary dance. In middle school, I gained an incredible mentor: My Success Academy dance teacher Dashawn White. Ms. White pushed me to open myself up to new opportunities: to participate in competitions, record my own videos, and take professional dance classes. She eventually introduced me to the style of Afrobeat dancing. The more we danced, the more I fell in love: There was something about the joyful nature of the movements, set to a backdrop of energy-infused drum beats, that set my heart on fire. It also gave me an opportunity to celebrate my Nigerian heritage (I was born in Nigeria), and in a way, I felt more connected to my family than ever before.
What made you decide to start the Afrobeats club at HSLA?
When I entered high school as a freshman, I thought a lot about how Ms. White had pushed me to open myself up to new experiences. She was the voice in my head, telling me to start the club. I was hesitant at first, but I wanted to do what she did for me: Share my love of Afrobeat dancing. I discussed it with some of my friends, who seemed excited, and that was all I needed. I reached out to my school’s principal and my dean, and after making sure I was in good academic standing, they jumped on board.
What were some of the greatest challenges you faced when you started the club?
I tend to think of the club in two distinct phases: My first attempt to create the club during my first semester, and then the real Afrobeats club during the second semester. I remember being so confused about, well, everything, those first few weeks. I hadn’t the slightest idea of how to run a club: Rehearsals were inconsistent, and I felt overwhelmed by taking on the bulk of the work (I’d spend hours at night choreographing our entire show).
When we had our first show in December, more teachers than I could count congratulated me, and students of all ages approached me to ask about joining. Their support meant the world to me. Let’s do this for real, I thought. Committed to avoiding the mistakes I’d made the previous semester, I developed a plan: I selected three co-captains to help with choreography and developed an audition process for January. We took on 27 additional dancers, nearly doubling our numbers. My co-captains and I also created a rehearsal schedule, attendance policy, and clear ways to communicate with the group. I’ve learned so much since the start of this club, and I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to develop these important leadership and organizational skills.
What’s the best part of running the Afrobeats club?
There’s a look that dancers often get on their face — one that screams, “I’m confused” when they’re struggling with a dance move. I seek those dancers out, pull them aside, and work with them. That new look on their face when they finally get it — that “aha” moment of pure joy and understanding — is what makes this all worth it. When we all have our “aha” moments and are able to dance together, you can tangibly feel the spirit of community on the stage. To me, Success Academy’s teachers and leadership gave me the opportunity to create that spirit of community, and that’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Interested in seeing the Afrobeats club in action? Follow @SAAfroNation on Instagram!
Wuraola Adetola (Wura) is a rising sophomore at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts. She started at Success Academy in the first grade and has been dancing with SA ever since.