This year, DanceAfrica is paying homage to the ancestral energy of Haiti, an image of Black liberation, with the theme: Vwa zanset yo: y'ap pale, n'ap danse!, "Ancestral voices: they speak... we dance!"
The festival, run by Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), is the nation's largest celebration of African and African Diasporic dance, music and culture and will be taking place virtually this May.
This year, DanceAfrica Artistic Director Baba Abdel R. Salaam commissioned pieces from HaitiDansCo in Cap-Haitien and three American companies — À?? Dance Theatre Collective and The Fritzation Experience in Brooklyn, and Rara Tou Limen in Oakland, who will come together to perform on May 29.
Each company will pay tribute to a different lwa -- spirit of Haitian Vodou -- through traditional dance, Parigol, Agwe/Li Sirene, Banda/Guede, Petwo, and Nago, BAM said in a press release.
"The dances manifest the lwa, bringing messages of faith, hope, and healing, and staying connected to the ancestors, and giving praise and gratitude," the release said.
"The performances embrace Haitian culture's strength, healing, and resilience through deep, rich, vibrant-colored scenes and landscapes depicting traditional dance movements, costumes, masks, headwear, and elements from the Vodou tradition."
The DanceAfrica Ensemble will also be performing on the night. BAM said the group was an annual favorite and a powerful symbol of youth involvement in preserving African heritage.
"Many long-held traditions are reimagined for the 44th celebration, including a virtual Libation Ceremony and a Procession of the Elders that crosses the country, featuring elders from seven presenting DanceAfrica cities," the organization said.
This year the festival has been reimagined as a virtual celebration, allowing audiences from around the world to tune in and experience the much-loved Memorial Day weekend event, which has been running since 1977.
The festival will also include a digitial DanceAfrica Bazaar, where more than 20 vendors are selling crafts, food and fashion; Haitian movement master classes for families and adults; and a choreographers' conversation on May 19.
Details of the DanceAfrica visual art exhibition, the FilmAfrica series, and a late-night dance party are yet to be announced.
DanceAfrica 2021 programming includes:
- DanceAfrica Digital Bazaar -- May 5 to June 14
- DanceAfrica 2021: Choreographers' Conversation -- May 19
- DanceAfrica Community Workshop -- May 29
- DanceAfrica 2021 Performance Vwa Zanset Yo: Y'ap Pale, N'ap Danse! "Ancestral Voices: They Speak... We Dance!" -- May 29
- DanceAfrica Adaptive Workshop -- May 31
- DanceAfrica Master Class -- May 31
For more information, visit BAM's website.