It was the late noughties, we were young, we were earning, and we were free. Our biggest problem those days ranged from where next to hang out to an erring boyfriend (which meant major heartbreaks😁). We always helped each other through it though.
We would meet after work to sit out the traffic, Piccolomondo was one of our favourite bars, I can still see myself sipping a pina colada on my favourite seat there 😜 . There was always something to do, fashion-shows, house-parties a wedding party every now and then or we could decide to go clubbing. A lot of things were just taking shape in Nigeria then, the fashion, the music – the culture was just being embraced by the young crowd.
One thing that was still a bit alien was professional dancing. We loved to dance, we did it at parties and clubs but not professionally, professional dancing was still looked down on then. This was the period I met our personality of today. Bunmi and I have a mutual friend, I remember her telling me that Bunmi loves dancing, ‘my kind of girl’ I thought as I also love to dance. Little did I know that Bunmi was a notch up, we were not on the same level at all. Bunmi not only loved dancing, but she also lived it and at a time when dancers were looked down on, this beauty was set on taking it up professionally.
That is exactly what Bunmi did, she dived in against all odds taking up the world of dance one move at a time.
I sought her out for a chat on her journey so far. I have followed her progress albeit from a distance for some time now. It’s my pleasure, therefore, to introduce you to the dancing lawyer – Bunmi Olunloyo
In good company
With the gait and swiftness of a dancer, Bunmi whisked into her dancing studio where I had been waiting for her. I had always been intrigued by her, I love to dance and Bunmi’s love for dance has always been a known fact, but I needed to know how she turned her back on the law career she trained for to become a full-time dancer, choreographer and Instructor.
It takes a lot of courage and guts to do that, especially because dancing as a profession (until recently and with the efforts of people like Bunmi) was looked down on as an unserious profession taken up by wild and promiscuous young people. Bunmi has faced this backward criticism herself as she has been tagged all sorts of uncanny names but she rose above it all and has taken the dancing profession to a respectable height in Nigeria.
Let’s meet her 😊:
I am a lawyer, professional dancer, Choreographer body confidence coach, performer (theatre), actress and entrepreneur. I am an all-round entertainer.
After law school, I intended to practice but I had started dancing whilst waiting to get a job. I was making some money from dance and I was really enjoying teaching. I was enjoying imparting knowledge to people, watching their reaction and generally making people happy. After a while, I decided to take it up full time and see if it works for me, I figured I could always go back to 9-5 if it didn’t work.
I studied law to be a lawyer but I’ve always loved to dance. I’ve always been the one dancing, the one entertaining. In primary school I was in the dance club, secondary school I was on stage for shows. I’ve always gravitated towards anything that had dance in it. I did a bit of dancing in college too – departmental shows when I was in University etc. Though I studied to be a lawyer, my passion for ‘dance’ was too strong to be ignored.
Luckily, I’ve always had support from home, my mum just wanted me to finish school, get the degree and then do whatever I wanted to do. She has never questioned my career choice, she has always been supportive.
Dancing in Nigeria
When I started dancing it was frowned on in Nigeria, dancers were tagged with all sort of names. We were called low-lives, prostitutes, useless, ne’er-do-wells with no drive or ambition. It was everything negative, but that actually made me more determined, I needed to let people know that there’s nothing wrong with following ones’ passion – whatever it was. I felt I needed to educate people that you can be a graduate and still choose to follow another path. Anyone can choose any career of their choice, people should be free to follow their passion.
I decided to do it properly, getting the right training was key for me. I didn’t just want to be a freelance dancer, not that freelance dancing is bad! We need freelance dancers. I just felt the need to enlighten, to let people know that dancing was not just shuffling feet and prancing from side to side but it could be a profession and it requires a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of work.
I did some training in Latin and ballroom. It was my main technique when I started. I also did a certification exam with the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA) in the united kingdom. I’m an associate which means I can teach and I can judge anywhere in the world. I also go for dance training with teachers I respect all over the world, experts and champions in their field. I simply reach out to them, make payment and go for the training.
Body Confidence Coaching
The body confidence classes are for women to find themselves, find their beautiful, be totally unapologetic about who they are as a woman. Women are constantly being criticized for one thing or the other, today it could be weight, the next day it’s your appearance that is being attacked. There is always something we’re been accused attacked for, unfortunately, it sometimes comes from ourselves. Sometimes we just don’t believe in ourselves.
The class helps bring ladies struggling with these issues out of their shells. It helps them recognize and appreciate everything about themselves – flaws, beauty, skills, sensuality and all. It especially helps women embrace their sensuality because we live in a society where expressing sensuality or sexuality is wrongly perceived and judged. There is nothing wrong with it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a woman being a woman, being feminine and being unapologetic about it.
The class deals with low confidence, it encourages women to let go and free themselves from the inside out.
Bailaimos Dance Company (BDC)
I run my own studio, called Bailamos Dance Company (BDC). Apart from running my classes and rehearsals there, I do studio rental. I also do costume and just alot within the space of dance entertainment.
I have tried to expand the view of dancing. I’m working hard on ensuring people understand that there’s so much more to dancing than the few minutes of presentation they get to enjoy. There’s the choreography, the rehearsals, the injury sustained during the rehearsals, the time put into it. It’s mental, it’s physical and psychological, people don’t see nor do they understand the hard work that goes into it.
I do choreography for videos or events and shows. Coming up with the choreography depends on different things. It depends on the rhythm, the song, the genre, the theme, sometimes my mood. If it’s a class it depends on the attendees – if it’s a beginners class then the dance has to be easier etc. Choreographing for shows depends on the kind of guests expected at the event
I also perform, I do stage productions, I was in Fela and the Kalakuta Queens (a Bola Austen Peters Production) where I play a lead role – Queen Lalamide from Ghana.
Dancers are chosen by auditions or by referrals. The dancers I work with depend on the type of job.
Fit by Bunmi
I recently started my own athleisure brand – Fit by Bunmi. I have always sold athleisure wears but I only just started my own brand which is channelled at fitting everybody. It works for women of all shapes. You know we African women are so diverse, we have different shapes and I want to cater for everyone.
I have always wanted to own my own brand, to sell something specifically for our body type. We currently carry size small to large which is 14-16. The business is still new, so I’m still studying the market, I need to get people to know and trust the brand. I am very pleased with the reception so far, it has been fantastic, I’m excited about the future.
Almost everything is against you, I spend so much on amenities and just keeping the light on. I have come to realise that there are seasons in this line of business. October/November/December gets very busy. January/ February goes quiet, it then picks up again and goes down during Lent as it does during the Muslim fast. I have learnt to understand the cycle and work around it effectively.
Covid has disrupted it all though, as it has done with so many other businesses. Work is gradually resuming, hopefully, it’ll all be back to normal very soon.
Afro beats has taken a great spot in the world and it has successfully carried our dance along with it. Dance is therefore doing very well at the moment. I don’t see myself ever stopping, even when I have to stop dancing I will still coach, or judge, I will be doing this till my last day.
The future looks great for BDC. I see us becoming bigger, having branches in other parts of Nigeria and beyond. I see us expanding on the services we provide. I’m excited about the future, there’s so much to do, so much to achieve.
Letting my hair down
I relax by going out with friends, I enjoy meeting up for lunch dates every now and then. I also relax by catching up on my sleep which I think I don’t get enough of. Netflixing and travelling are other ways I relax – I would like to travel more though! I would love to see the world and experience different cultures. Our cultural dances are amazing, I enjoy all cultures and the dances that come from them.
I splurge on food 😁, I like good food, I like to go out and eat good food. I like good things and I splurge on good things, shoes, clothes…
For budding Dancers
I must first state that it’s not going to be easy, there’s nothing easy about this profession. In the beginning, you actually have more days you hate what you’re doing! However, if it’s your true calling, there’s that drive that just keeps you going and gets you out of bed to keep pushing. As long as you’re a fighter and you know that a lot of hard work is required, then you’ll be fine, nothing good comes easy…
My dreams scare me all the time, they frighten me, they keep me awake and leave me questioning myself on who I think I am to have such big dreams! I kick myself out of that state of mind by reminding myself that I am a child of the most high. I am a child of grace and so I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.
Dream big, don’t limit yourself, remember it’s a journey. Try not to compare your journey to another person’s journey it has to be taken one day at a time. You have to build, you have to be patient. You have to keep it at the back of your mind that there is always room for improvement. Make sure you train, make sure you do the best that you can. Do your research, see what’s happening all over the world, see how you can elevate your skills at all times.
Do not be complacent or rest on your oars because you are popular today. You need to work harder every single day! You need to push through because you don’t want to peek. When you peek there’s only one way to go and that’s down, so put yourself in a state of growth, you are constantly growing, you’re constantly improving. When you trust God and believe in yourself, there is absolutely nothing you cannot achieve as long as you work hard.
Thank you Bunmi, keep dancing, queen…
Similar reads Passion to profession – Toyosi Banjoko