Body Positivity as a Dancer: An interview with Afia Thompson
An Interview with Afia Thompson of Bahiya Movement
To all of the readers unaware of what your company creates– can you give us a brief description?
Bahiya Movement was founded in 2011 me ( Afia Thompson) and my daughter (Nafi Thompson). We, as directors, are a dynamic mother/daughter duo fuse hip-hop, jazz, modern, and African dance to create an electrifying, energetic movement that stands above the rest.
You and I have had conversations about your work and addressing body image. could you speak to this a little?
My vision for Bahiya Movement is to cross and break all barrier lines regarding body image and self-esteem through the art of dance. Our goal is to show the world that it’s not about your body size or type that defines you as a dancer, rather the skill, technical training, creativity and love of the art that defines you as a great dancer.
I’m super interested in dance and it’s relationship to matriarchy/lineage– and you perform with your daughter! Could you tell us a bit more about this?
As a child, I danced with my mother in several African dance companies. That love for dance and connection to our roots extended on to my daughter. I always told her that we would dance together in our own dance company; I just patiently waited for her to become of age to bring my vision to reality. I am thankful to be able to have the experience with my daughter. So many mothers don’t have the connect/relationship with their child. I am blessed that I do.
As an Oakland native, what excites you about being a dance artist in this city?
I was born and raised in Oakland and was exposed to all forms of art throughout my child and adulthood. I love Oakland because Oakland is highly diverse and rooted in all types of culture due to its melting pot of ethnicity. I grow up in East Oakland and experienced traditional Latin culture and history, due to being surrounded by it daily. My mother danced Traditional African dance such as Haitian, Cuban, and West African, and would take me to all these dance classes. In 1987, we then started dancing with a Traditional African dance company, I was only twelve years old. My father was a percussionist, and played the traps, congas and other instruments with his friends of all walks of life. My parents were involved in the Black Panther Party, and stayed very connected to our African roots. I grow up being exposed to culture here in the Bay area. I have lived in other states and have yet to see any other state offer the vast amount of culture that is grounded here in Oakland. I have passed the love of the arts to my daughter. I hope that she will continue with this love affair with culture, music and the artist.
Since WYV mag is a digital feminist publication, I’ve been thinking about the increase in mainstream use of the term “feminist” and who feels connected to the word. Would you use the word “feminist” to describe what you do?
NO, I can not say that I would use the word feminist to describe what I do. More like body equality for all human beings. I want equality around body image when it comes to the arts. Do not cancel me out because of my body size, and or type. Accept me for who I am, regardless if I am plus size or what society considers normal body type.
Any upcoming projects/dreams for you?
I would like to continue creating positive body image works. Continue showing the world that it’s not about your body size that makes you an outstanding dance, rather the love for the arts that does. I dream to one day be as big as the moon, however, my hopes of catching my personal shooting star that will dance with me until eternity.