DANCE DIASPORA III: TRACING TRADITION FROM BOKÉ, GUINEA
Friday, March 8th, 8pm
Saturday, March 9th, 8pm
Warner Main Space
Tickets are on sale at CTS (440-775-8169) for $5 in advance and $6 at the door.
Dance Diaspora is embarking on a journey through tradition and culture from Boké, Guinea in our production Essence Presents: "Dance Diaspora Dance III: Tracing Tradition from Boké Guinea." This performance showcases traditional dances curated over the past 20 years from Dance Diaspora’s travels to The Gambia, West Africa with artistic director Adenike Sharpley. For over two decades Dance Diaspora has worked with the Guinean community in The Gambia, namely with Alasane Soumak of the Fatala Dance Company (Fatala) and the Jaina Family Dancers. Dance Diaspora Dance III is the third of a series of shows dedicated to the cultural rhythms, music, and dances of our dear friends from the Gambia and it is a rare opportunity to see this part of Dance Diaspora’s repertoire in concert form. Dance Diaspora will explore the story behind the cultural migration of several ethnic groups of the Senegambia region, such as the Susu, Landuma, and Baga from the Boké region of Guinea, West Africa.
This show will be over an hour-and-a-half of drumming, singing, and dancing traditions from the Susu, Landuma, and Baga peoples. These traditions traveled with their people as they migrated from their original regions due to the colonization that swept the former Mali Empire. The Mali Empire encompasses several West African countries now known as the “Senegambia Region” including Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Senegal. As we showcase the landscape of Boké, Guinea, Dance Diaspora will journey from fishing to farming to forest communities. The audience will experience several celebratory and ritual dances including: dances practiced in coming of age celebrations for young men and women; a dance dedicated to the Guinean liberation from French colonial power; and even a processional dance performed for royalty. The show will also feature contemporary adaptations of old rhythms and dances that are performed at community performances and celebrations by the Jaina Family Dancers.
The show features several Oberlin College alumni, namely contra-master drummer Matthew Hill ’00 who traveled to Boké to study with the community’s master drummers. Sharpley comments that, “Matthew currently makes his living working and playing with the Guinean community in New York City and continues to use the traditional aspects and paradigm of Afrikan culture that he began studying in the Dance Diaspora program.” She continues, “Many of my students have taken these forms and applied them to their artistic endeavors as educators, technical artists, and performers. From what appears to be just a dance program, the Susu, Landuma, Baga, Yoruba, and Kongo traditions intersect and are used in different aspects of applied arts of previous students including Rachel Schaffran ‘04, Pheonix Singleton ‘00, Pia Murray ‘05, Sebas Constante ‘06, Kantara Souffrant ‘08, Rashida Bumbray ‘00, Johanna Almiron ‘00, Francisca “Kika” Chaidez-Gutierrez ‘05, Chaz Mortimer ‘02, Matthew Tinari ‘04, Kevin Lewis ‘00, and Farnell Newton ‘99 to name a few. I owe Fatala our complete gratitude and that is whom we are dedicating this show.”
Guest performer Matthew Hill OC ’00 will be playing the djembe—a wooden hand drum with a goatskin head—notes that “the djembe is a traditional drum of Boké but it actually comes from Mali and the eastern part of Guinea.” The djembe is a powerful drum that is said to “talk” when it is played well. Hill states, “the drummer is the one who is recreating the music of the ancestors. The spiritual ‘re-living’ of the tradtion. Every time the drums are played, the dances are done and songs are sung, they are bringing the past to the present and invoking the ancestors of the community that they came from: Boké. In Boké, the spirits, are not just gods of the past, the ancestors are generated in the specific way that allows them to be present with the community all the time.” Let it be noted that this performance is no different.
“Alasane, Fatala, and Jaina Family Dancers have shown us so much love and taught us their best over the years,” Adenike Sharpley comments. She continues, “This show is a culmination of all the trips we’ve made over the years. All of our teachers—from our dance teachers Alasane and Maria to drumming teachers Sabula and Sini—were not from the Gambia but were called to maintain the music and dance in the Gambia. At one point Fatala was the national dance troupe for The Gambia and is truly a world-class group. They’re depth of drumming and dancing is one of the best out there. I was privileged to see them perform at a community performance on Dance Diaspora’s first trip to The Gambia. This is when I first met Alasane. It was Dance Diaspora’s fate to meet him and work with him over the years and build relationships with other performers such as the Maria from the Jaina Family Dancers.”
Sharpley adds, “Boké is the heart of tradition of Guinea and the drumming and dancing is distinctly more powerful than artists from other regions of the country and Senegambia overall especially in the coming of age ceremonies. Through my research over the years I found that when Mali came under Arabic colonial rule, certain Malians took the tradition to Guinea to hide it and preserve it closest to its original forms. We are blessed to know these descendents who maintained those traditions and for us to bring them to our families and communities here.” The show will be the opportunity to see the mixture of the styles that Fatala and the Jaina Family Dancers have preserved combined with the artistic vision of Adenike Sharpley.
The show will feature contra-master drummer Matthew Hill ’00 and performances by alumni Francisca “Kika” Chaidez-Gutierrez ’05, Kantara Souffrant ’08, Kristal Boyd ’10, Haydee Souffrant ’11, Anthony Osei ’08, and more. Other featured dancers include Ellery Kirkconnell ‘13, Vanessa Champagne ‘13, Nicollette Buckle ‘13, Jasmine Nunez ’13, Leanna Frye ‘13, Anthony McCain ‘15, Gifty Dominah ‘15, Kara Mahon ’15, Koryn Lockett ‘15, Si Wang ‘15, Donnay Edmund ‘16, and Sophie Umazi Mvurya ’16. Drummers for the show are Brieanna Frye ‘13, Malachi Thomas ’14, Ian McArdle, Shawn Myers ’13, and Daniel Spearman ‘16. Stage Management is provided by Maryann Kwakwa ’14. The show also features the work of Chicago-based lighting designer Phoenix Singleton ’00. The show is also made possible by the support of Warner Dance Studio’s Technical Director Daniel James and the Art Department’s Visual Resources Curator, Joseph Romano. The show will take place at Oberlin College’s Warner Dance Center on Warner Main Space on Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, 2013 at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale at CTS (440-775-8169) for $5 in advance and $6 at the door.