Junaid began his dance career when he was 10 and living in the streets of Addis Abeba. Thanks to a local NGO, Ethiopian Gemini Trust that supports disadvantaged families, Junaid was chosen among one hundred kids to learn dancing with Dance United. The British company sent two teachers (Royston Muldoom and Susannah Broughton) to Addis Ababa to make a big dance piece. “I had never experienced anything like contemporary dance before. I was crying a lot when they left, I thought I really want to do that”, Junaid explains. Fortunately, they came back to Ethiopia and chose eighteen of those kids to be granted with five years of training in contemporary dance, ballet technique, Ethiopian traditional dance, African contemporary dance, drumming and language skills.
In 2004, Junaid Jemal Sendi won the international Rolex Young Choreographer award, becoming the first African artist to win this prestigious award. The prize was a year’s work with the renowned Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara and his company, KARAS.Since then, Junaid has performed in many different stages around the world and he is now forging an international career.“Dance can be a source of education and inspiration and has a life-changing impact. Dance changed my life and can change the world. It is like a social worker. It helps you to improve your communication with the body language, to make friends, and to get focused on something. Many streets kids feel nobody takes care of them, so dance can help them as a transformational tool to promote self-esteem, creativity or discipline”, Junaid assures.
Since he started dancing, Junaid was also part of Adugna, a vibrant, international and successful group of dancers; Ethiopia’s first Contemporary Dance Company. The group is composed by 11 young people who were trained like him. All of them are highly committed to create awareness about issues that two groups of marginalized people daily face. Those people are young offenders and handicap people. Adugna members wish they can bring about community behavioral change. Today, he founded DESTINO in 2014 together with Addisu Demissie, an Ethiopian social enterprise born to support underprivileged young people in developing their inner-potential through dance. It aims at providing art education, creating a professional dance academy in Addis Ababa and spreading Ethiopian-contemporary dance in Ethiopia and abroad.
As Junaid says, “Not always talking is the best solution, even sometimes people do not want to listen. But when dancing you can tell many things: stories about HIV/AIDS, early marriage, child assaults, death ceremonies and so on. When people dance, you are giving them the opportunity to express themselves, sharing their beliefs and showing their talent. Everyone is unique. Human and social development must go hand by hand and I believe dance can make a real difference.
Photo article published in AllAfrica and Radio Netherland Worldwide in 2012