‘Skitishim’ is the word that I am afraid I wouldn’t know how to literally translate in any language other than Tigrigna. I turned to some dictionaries and just like I expected the word is in short supply. Though in different accents, in few and elementary words, ‘Skitishim’, is the word Eritreans, specifically the Tigrigna and roughly the Tigre, Bilen and Saho ethnic group, use.
The word makes sense in relevancy to the action of dancing. When Eritreans move their shoulders to the upbeat of the traditional dances they habitually verbalize, repeatedly, the word ‘Skitishim’ to the rhythm as they dance.
‘Skitishim’ it is a short five letters word, so easy to mumble rapidly next to the smiles that dominate the dances’ partakers’ faces’. People also use it in phrases. “We will say Skitishim tonight” is the verbatim of a phrase that in Tigrigna means “we will dance tonight”. However, we are not talking about the ordinary kind of dancing. Skitishim’ hints to the kind of dancing that stretches all the facial muscles to form the brightest kind of smiles and that kind of dancing that turns on all of the neurons to make the body euphoric.
For majority of the traditions, Eritrean people, dance in groups moving in a circular motion. Here, I must advocate that Eritrea’s traditional dances are superbly diverse and all exceedingly colorful. Present days bequeath the Eritrean people, and just about anyone who’s interested in taking a step or two along Eritrea’s frolics, an ocean of dance moves from all over the nation to cheery over. The praxis of the nine ethnic groups’ dances is a rich heritage that calls for more than a mere remark. Rather, a wellstudied approach, therefore, I shall now move to the main topic on today’s issue.
In connection to Eritrea’s twenty seventh Independence Day anniversary, the whole nation is in patritic zeal. Institutions and artists of all genres have been preparing for this special occasion. A chance for them to show their talents must be the week of Independence as there it is one of the hugely celebrated occasion in the nation’s calendar. Countless stage performances, theatrical acts, carnivals, documentaries, street shows and hundreds of songs are all formulated accordingly to the delight of the people.
Next to the capital, Asmara, other cities and towns are the most vibrant around this time of the year. Nevertheless, the celebrations wouldn’t be as vibrant as they are is it wasn’t for the mighty ‘Skitishim’. For the reason that during these almost ten days long celebratory season there is laud music in most parts of the cities it is only a matter of instinct before people get lost in their vivacious ‘Skitishim’. But when professionally speaking of all the songs, musical dramas and aerobatic acts we see dominating the streets and cinema halls of the cities the merit goes to the thousands of dancers that accompany the singers and actors with their choreographies.
Going around the city for multiple nights this past week to rejoice in the warmth of the festive spike, I came to realize that what makes the season a rare kind is people dancing in every corner where music is laud. But above all, what delights the eyes of the spectators most, is the choreographies that accompany most of the artistic acts.
On the 19th of May, Cinema Roma hosted a joint concert of ten artists. But this is no news given that joint concerts are a common event in cinema halls and out in the venues. Taking the joint concert of the 19th of May staged in Cinema Roma one can realize the efforts dancers put in highlighting the essence of the song or the act through their bodies and souls. Undeniably, the costume, makeup and stage beautification do have an impact to the total breathtaking acts presented but if one looks closely it is the dancers and the movement of over muscle in their body crafting the artistic beauty we perceive.
For example, the song ‘Twufitey’ of the young vocalist Efrem Amare was a song staged on the same night next to some other performance of nine singers. The singer’s note in the song is Eritrea being the center of his emotional and physical concern. The song was accompanied by Admas Dance Crew. Beyond the musical compositions, the lyrics and the singer’s ability to deliver a beautiful song, it was the Admas Dance Crew’s act that blew the minds of the people present at the concert. This dance crew of a dozen of young people put on a memorable performance. Wearing the Eritrean Military Uniform their body and moves told a story that echoed more than the song itself. It was a choreography that suggested youthfulness, readiness and continuity. Admas Dance Crew was indeed dazzlingly capable of framing the account of the Eritrean youth in an approximately 4 minutes stage act.
Every year, especially, during the Independence season thousands of dancers are deployed to light the overall mood. These exceedingly talented young people are the busiest people during this time. The ordinary day of a dancer preparing for the celebration of Maya 24th starts very early in the morning and last till very late at night.
To each song that comes out on this season there must be a crew of dancers. To most of the musicals, too, a crew or two is inevitable. On the larger scale, the aerobatic acts, are the acts that sign up a couple of thousands of dancers.
Practice and training sessions start early in March. So, thousands of dancers across the nation embark on another journey to make May 24th yet another dazzling event at least two month ahead. Their hard work pays off in marvelous ways when they sparkle standing behind singers and actors. Conversely, they don’t get the attention they rightfully deserve. Radios, TV crews and photographers look for best angles to capture the singers or the actors. Only few take a close look to the dance crews who from behind create a picturesque vista for each scene to glow. Nowadays dance crews are looking at dance in a scientific way. They conduct researches and dive in to the traditional diversity of Eritrean ethnic dance routines and cultures. They shape their bodies, mind and soul to best express well thought notions with every move.
Taking an instance from the beautiful joint concert held in the premises of Cinema Roma on the evening of May 19th, seemed to me the best of example of how young dancers are contributing tirelessly to make the Independence Day celebration as lively as they rightfully deserve to be. Compliments to every single dancer in every corner of Eritrea taking art, and Skitishm, to another level. Joyful Skitishim season to all!