He walks into the room and all eyes are on him. He begins to speak and one can hear a pin drop. That’s the effect that Danny “Diallo” Hinds has on many. The breadth of experience and knowledge he possesses is a rare gem to say the least.
This is why the Barbadian dance community calls him “Baba”, what in many African countries people define as father, grandfather or wise man. In many respects, Diallo, as he is affectionately known, endows these qualities as a true dance maestro.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), Diallo was invited to the island to lead the Afro Caribbean Dance workshops. The image of him dancing is on the iconic NIFCA logo.
The sexagenarian led the workshops skillfully over the past week and catered to a diverse group of participants, that spanned from children to adults, including both novice and seasoned dancers.
There were lots of hugs, smiles and emotions ran high as Chief Executive Officer Carol Roberts and staff welcomed Diallo back to his home at the NCF.
Reuniting with old friends, several of whom he worked closely with while as a Cultural Officer for Dance at the NCF and throughout the decades as practitioner; and meeting new acquaintances, Diallo appeared delighted.
He piqued the interest of those in earshot as he shared stories about residing in the United States, race relations there, his quest to teach Americans about Africa and Barbados, and of course his passion for dance and all aspects of the African culture.
During lengthy discussions, which included many light moments, CEO Roberts and Baba Hinds spoke about future joint projects aimed at benefitting the Bajan dance community.
While reminiscing, Festival Events Planner at the NCF, Karen Pestaina, who is also a former Dance Officer, became visibly emotional while describing Diallo’s role in the success of her career as a cultural practitioner.
“I look good because of him. He was the greatest benefit to me in learning. It goes pass dance, even into drumming, eating. The regiment and the discipline . . . . To see him getting his flowers means a lot to me,” Pestaina said as she choked up trying to hold back her tears during Diallo’s recent courtesy visit at the Foundation’s offices at West Terrace, St James.
Pestaina’s praise and adulation for Diallo was one among many as persons bore witness to the monumental contribution he has played to Arts and culture at both the community and national level in Barbados.
When speaking about Dance specifically, his face lit up. It is a passion that has been burning from the time he was a babe growing up in Farm Road, St Peter.
Born out of the need to maintain healthy living/eating habits because members of his family had a propensity to be “plump” and every now and again would get sick, Diallo turned focus on the movement of his body coupled with veganism. But his artistic career would begin in earnest with the Yoruba Foundation in Barbados nigh 50 years ago around 1975. By 1978 he would move onto a fledgling teaching career which kicked off with the Barbados Dance Theatre.
Teaching the Arts is an artform that he spends much time honing now. Having migrated to the US in 1988, at present he serves as Cultural Arts Director and Teacher with a school in the Kansas City school district called African-Centred College Preparatory Academy.
So, even though winters are seriously frigid, he faces it because of his belief that the ultimate goal is even more important.
“I love teaching the Arts at that level and location to children who are deprived of the knowledge of their ancestors,” he said.
For him, this is truly important and empowering because of the seeming dearth of such knowledge.
“I did a show downtown Kansas City and I asked the audience to name five countries in Africa and you know who answered? A seven-year-old little boy who was from our school because the adults in there couldn’t answer. They couldn’t tell you five in Africa. I asked another question, how many countries there are in Africa? They didn’t have a clue. But it’s those little details people need to know… because people lie about Africa, people lie about the Caribbean.”
Prior to migrating, Diallo introduced various methods and practices of teaching, studying and performing cultural and artistic styles of Blkdance-tek both at the community and national level. At the community level he created a prototype that saw the growth and development of a prosperous community organisation of drummers, and dancers we now know as Haynesville Youth Club.
He was in his element.
That’s why Diallo is desirous of continuing to play a pivotal role in Barbados’ Arts and Culture through possibly collaborations between Barbados and Kansas City.
“There are some conferences that I go to teach at that I would love to host Bajan dancers coming up to the conference and vice versa . . . The idea for me is moving back home and setting up a place where I can encourage people to come and visit, do retreats, and have wellness. Culturally speaking, I would like to do something on that level where they learn about Barbados and the Caribbean and then Bajans learn about life in America,” the dance maestro, who is also a drummer, explained.
Though near or far, Diallo remains proud to be Bajan to the bone and said he has never stopped flying the Trident high.
“Every exhibition I go to I fly my Bajan flag. [People] come and ask questions, come and talk about it. In the school, the children know about Barbados. As a matter of fact, the principal came to Barbados for a vacation last year and came back and asked ‘why have you left?’. That was in the sense of the beauty, the culture, the atmosphere, the warmth of the people. She felt at home.” Currently, Diallo is working on a theatre production of the 1978 musical The Wiz, which is set to be staged in February 2024.