The nation’s largest African dance festival returns for its 41st year from May 25 through May 28, 2018, with “Remembrance, Reconciliation and Renewal,” a tribute to the rich cultural history and traditions of South Africa. Since its inception in 1977 under the direction of the late Baba Chuck Davis, DanceAfrica has established itself as the largest celebration of African and African-American dance, music and culture. This year’s performance under the leadership of Artistic Director Abdel R. Salaam honors the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth with a celebration of freedom fighters past and present.
South African supergroup Ingoma KwaZulu-Natal Dance Company brings traditional movement idioms alongside the contemporary stylings of Durban-based Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre. They are joined by the BAM/Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble and, together, rejoice in the transcendent power of movement and music in a range of forms and traditions. This year’s performance draws parallels between South African anti-apartheid and American civil rights movements, portraying the struggles for justice and, ultimately, serving up triumphant celebrations of culture.
Ingoma Kwazulu Natal Dance Company is a collective of South African dance groups that are showcasing a variety of different South African dance styles. Specifically created for DanceAfrica, the supergroup includes The Champions, an isiPantsula dance group; Kanagroo, a traditional Zulu dance group; Tswana Group, an all-female group specializing in Setwana, Pedi, Venda and Xhosa dance; and Amatsheketshe, an all-female group specializing in Ushiyameni, Umkhomaas and Umzansi dance. Siwela Sonke means “crossing over to a new place altogether” in Zulu and the company exemplifies this by drawing from a variety of influences: the classical and contemporary dance vocabularies of KwaZulu Natal, isicathamiya, contemporary African dance, hip hop, pantsula, classical Indian dance and ballet.
The BAM/Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble is joining them in a performance that draws parallels between South African anti-apartheid and American civil rights movements, reflecting on the history that connects the Sharpeville massacre and the march from Selma to the current struggles for social justice. The promise of hope and renewal are embodied in the transcendent forms of dance and music, creating a triumphant celebration of culture to pave the path forward.
FilmAfrica, part of BAMcinématic and companion to DanceAfrica, returns for its 25th edition, kicking off on Thursday, May 24, and concluding on Monday, May 28. This year’s program features a special focus on South Africa, offering a showcase of the country’s best new narrative, documentary and short films. For a complete schedule, go here.
This year, DanceAfrica also features a visual art exhibition by South African artist Nandipha Mntambo, a multimedia artist who works across sculpture, painting, photography and video. She is perhaps best known for her evocative, large-scale cowhide works and other uses of organic materials. From Thursday, May 24, to Sunday, June 24, the exhibition will present a survey of her recent video work, including three videos from roughly the last decade –– Ukungenisa (2009), Paso Doble (2011) and The Island (2015) –– Mntambo’s exploration into the relationship between life and death, power and fragility. On Saturday, May 26, Mntambo will join Ashley James, assistant curator of the Brooklyn Museum, for a personal conversation.
For future or aspiring dance masters of all ages, the festival offers the DanceAfrica Family Workshop, co-presented by BAM and Mark Morris Dance Group. On Monday, May 28, caregivers and children alike deepen their engagement with DanceAfrica in this fun-filled, hands-on workshop focusing on South African movement and music led by choreographer Siyanda Mwandla of Ingoma KwaZulu Natal Dance Company.
Adults of all physical abilities can be a part of the DanceAfrica community through an inclusive class, where they can learn the rhythmic beats of the South African gumboot dance. African and diasporic dance forms celebrate community and every aspect of life, providing a unique window into the culture, history and traditions of the people. Participants in this interactive workshop experience the diverse cultural traditions of Africa with feet stomping, hands clapping and voices blending! For adults (ages 16 and up) of all levels and abilities. Participants are asked to share any accommodation needs in advance so that we can coordinate assistance.
Intermediate or advanced dancers can join choreographer Siyanda Mwandla of Ingoma KwaZulu Natal Dance Company for an immersive workshop in the music and dance of South Africa. Participants are introduced to South African rhythmic traditions and master the fundamentals of traditional movement styles. Space is limited; pre-registration is recommended. Visit MMDG.org or contact Mark Morris Dance Center at 718.624.8400 for details.
From Saturday, May 26 through Monday, May 28, DanceAfrica’s beloved bazaar will transform the streets surrounding BAM into a global, buzzing marketplace. An estimated 40,000 people from all five boroughs of New York and the tri-state area will celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Africa and its diaspora, and experience more than 150 vendors from around the world, offering African, Caribbean and African-American food, crafts and fashion. The bazaar also features entertainment for families. Rain or shine – it will be there!