Brooklyn’s dynamically rich and diverse culture cultivates a community where residents and visitors can be exposed to and embrace new ideas to enrich every aspect of their lives. Dance, a language that transcends mere words, continues to elevate ways in which Brooklyn residents exchange, learn, grow and flourish. Recently at Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance, dancers, revelers and passersby enjoyed a moment on the dance floor as the company joined Haitians and Vodou practitioners in Gede, a celebration of the dead, all through dance.
It’s celebrations and events like these that bring communities together, erase boundaries and even fears. It’s through dance that people from all walks of life and any spoken language are able to connect with one another.
Because dance is such a vital part of human relationships, especially in a changing community like Bed-Stuy, Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance has launched a special series of donation-based performance dance classes. Being offered are three traditional dance styles that introduce people to the dance and spiritual cultures of Haiti, Cuba and parts of West Africa. Each 6-week workshop will culminate in a performance at Cumbe’s student showcase on December 16.
The goal of the workshop series is not only to share the power of dance with everyone, but it is also a statement to the current socio-political climate that has caused division between communities and that has forced so many to choose between survival and cultural connection.
“Dances from Africa and its diaspora in the Caribbean and Americas are first and foremost dances of the people, dances that were a natural part of both daily activities (farming, fishing) and special life celebrations (births, rites of passage, marriage, death),” says Jimena Martinez, co-founder and executive director at the organization. “At Cumbe, we want the entire community, and especially those of African descent, to reclaim these dance traditions. We are thrilled to offer donation-based African and diaspora classes so that we remove the money barrier and as many people as possible can enjoy the spirit and vitality of African-rooted dances on a regular basis.”
Entitled Dance For Us!, this series will be taught by some of the most lauded professionals in dance. Live drumming, to bring out the very heart of the dance culture, will also be a part of the experience. And parents – free childcare will be provided. This series ends December 12, 2018, and takes place at Cumbe, located within the Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza at 1368 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY.
Check out the classes below:
Beginning Afro-Haitian with Julio Jean Mondays @6:30pm Journey to the nanm (“soul” in Haitian Kreyol) of Afro-Haitian dance and become acquainted with the different Iwa (gods) in the Vodou religion through their dances, songs, rhythms and rituals. You’ll explore the undulating movements of Yanvalu, the powerful precision of Nago, and the grace and beauty of the Kongo dance – all traditional Haitian dance forms with roots in West Africa and the South American Amazon. Haitian dancer and teacher Julio Jean’s extensive credits include work with Katherine Dunham and performances of his company’s choreographies at Alvin Ailey and Central Park’s SummerStage. He is also a songwriter and composer of traditional Haitian music.
Beginning West African with Darian Parker Tuesdays @6:00pm Learn the basics of West African dance in these introductory classes designed to make the shyest new dancers feel welcome, have fun, and build the confidence to get on the dance floor. If you’ve always wanted to start dancing but felt intimidated, our Absolute Beginner classes are for you! Or if you want to get back to basics and learn the footwork from the ground up, these are also for you. The amazing Darian Parker will return to Cumbe to break down and share the soulful and intricate dances of Mali, West Africa. Class begins with a warm-up that is designed to improve flexibility, strengthen the core, improve stamina, and get acquainted with West African music. The second part of the class starts with a brief history and context of the dances (that will inform your execution of the movements) and continues with an extensive breakdown of technique. Then, you’ll practice what you’ve learned as you move across the floor.
Afro-Cuban with Danys ‘La Mora’ Perez Wednesdays @6:30pm Celebrate the rich diversity of Afro-Cuban dance in this very special class with beloved teacher Danys ‘La Mora’ Perez. Explore an exciting range of traditional folkloric dances with origins in West and Central Africa – some via Haiti. Featured cultures include Yoruba (Orisha dances), Congo (e.g. Palo) and Dahomey (e.g. Arará). The class will also delve into Rumba and popular styles such as comparsa and merengue. Some sessions will be taught by guest teachers selected personally by La Mora for their artistry and knowledge of Cuban dance. Join us as we light up the dance floor on fire with Cuban heat!
Dance For Us! is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.