Young or old, African or other cultural backgrounds, dancer or non-dancer; it didn’t matter. Unity was the theme of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s 6th Annual DanceAfrica performance Oct. 7, 2011 at the Majestic Theater in Downtown Dallas.
The audience was welcomed into the DBDT village by DanceAfrica Founder and Director Dr. Chuck Davis. (I had the pleasure of taking his African dance class over the summer and he is a truly inspiring person. He taught me to be proud of who I am and where I come from. Check out my African dance experience here.) With the help of DBDT, DBDT II, Altanta’s Giwayen Mata and Bandon Koro African Dance and Drum Ensemble, Davis showed us the rituals and dances that make up most of the cultural vitality of Africa.
Respect is an importance part of the African culture. Respecting yourself and especially respecting your Elders. The first half of DanceAfrica was centered on this theme. The Elder council members were brought on stage to introduce themselves and the younger members came out to greet them. (Note: Rarely can younger members look their Elders in the eyes.) Everyone stayed onstage for the tribute to the ancestors.
As Davis read the names of those who have passed on, dancers (forming a straight line across the front of the stage) lit candles and then melted into a deep plie in parallel, raising the candles high over their heads before standing upright and slowly walking offstage. Davis then asked the audience to say out loud the names of loved ones who have passed on. This tribute to our ancestors and the Elders didn’t contain any jetes or pirouettes but it was still a beautiful dance. It had a flow, a story and a spiritual influence that is lacking in many of today’s dances and dancers.
The second half of the performance was a vibrant display of African music and dance. The Bandon Koro African Dance and Drum Ensemble played the Bao (which celebrates the return of the initiates from the Sacred forest), the Soko (which is associated with initiation), the Dundunbah (the young male initiates return from the sacred forest and display their physical and spiritual strength to the elders) and the Soli (the Soli rhythms accompany the initiation and circumcision rites.) I don’t know much about African drumming but what I do know is that the rhythms they were playing were not easy nor the speed in which they were doing them.
Though the male drummers were amazing, it was the female drumming group Giwayen Mata who brought the house down. These ladies can do it all; singing, dancing and drumming. They were so in tune with one another and their rhythms were so crisp. I was also impressed with their endurance. Like I said, I have taken an African dance class with Davis and I was huffing and puffing 15 minutes into it. How these ladies do it I will never know. You have to see it to believe it.
If you missed out you can see DanceAfrica tonight, Oct 8 @ 7:30p.m. at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas.