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Dancing to his own Drum: Sidiki Conde
anna gonzales 12 editor-in-chief volume 86
February 25, 2010

Guinean dancer, singer, and drummer Sidiki Conde, who lost the use of his legs at the age of 14 from polio, enthralled students and guests on Sunday at the second Academy Event performance of the winter.

“Music and dance became his transcendence and his vocation,” says the website for Mr. Conde’s dance troupe, which performed at DA in February 2007.

Dean of Students Jan Flaska called Mr. Conde’s life an “amazing story.” In Guinean tradition, disabled people are considered shameful and unlucky, so in order to protect the rest of the village and the families, they are exiled from their homes.

Following his paralysis, Mr. Conde was sent deep into the forest to his grandfather’s village. Undaunted by the coming-of-age ceremony, of which young Guinean males must dance into manhood, Mr. Conde joined in the ceremony by recreating the traditional steps using his hands instead of his feet, knowing that his future in the community was at stake. Through singing and dancing, Mr. Conde reconnected to his culture.

Mr. Flaska first saw Mr. Conde perform five years ago at a lacrosse camp that focused on character and motivation in addition to lacrosse. Mr. Flaska found Mr. Conde’s life story and performance so impressive that he asked him to come to Deerfield. His first performance was well-received by the student body, even without the added bonus that at the end of his performance, he announced a Head of School Day.

Four-year seniors, who saw Conde as freshmen, reflected fondly upon his performances. Caroline Schurz ’10 summed up Mr. Conde’s visits: “I was mesmerized in my seat.”

Former Academy Events, such as humanitarian Paul Farmer and modern-day Indiana Jones Wade Davis’s speeches, have been much calmer and quieter than Mr. Conde’s “electrifying” performance.“This performance is a lot of sound and moving around,” Mr. Flaska said excitedly.

The Academy Event committee coordinates all the performances, presenting a compelling blend of culture and science and lending a new sense of perspective to students.