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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rhythms and Liberation: Meet the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble

by Tamar MacKay

While many New Yorkers headed out of town for Memorial Day weekend, BAM presented the 36th DanceAfrica Festival. In another successful year, the youth dance company Restoration Dance Theatre Company represented Brooklyn in the highly coveted event. This important partnership between BAM and the Restoration Dance Theatre began in 1997, when the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble debuted. The company includes dancers varying in age from small children to young adults. The dancers are ambassadors for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation's first community development corporation, which partners with residents and businesses to improve the quality of life in central Brooklyn.

We caught up with some of the company performers, all of whom have been with the company for several years, and two who started dancing with Restoration at the ages of 4 and 5! They shared some of their favorite DanceAfrica moments and gave valuable advice to the next generation of artists.

BAM/Restoration Dance Ensemble performers Deirdre Brock, Qahirah Kibler, Shaniya Hyndman, Jasmine Poole, Tianna Smith






Name: 
Jasmine Poole
Age: 24
Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant

How long have you been performing with Restoration Dance Company?
I have been dancing with Restoration for about 12 years.

What is your favorite form of dance?
My favorite form of dance is African. It's funny because at first I hated it; all I wanted to do was tap! Once I found myself becoming one with the syncopated rhythms, various styles, and the liberation it gives I grew to love it. The bass of the drums speaks to my heart and I thank my mom for introducing me to the world of African dance.

Do you  have a favorite DanceAfrica moment?
Every time I come to BAM and step on the stage is a favorite moment. One thing I can say is that I love when Baba Chuck gives us big brothers and big sisters from each group because it gives us that one-on-one connection. I still keep in contact with people that I met five years ago.

Any words of wisdom to other young people interested in the performing arts?
To the up-and-coming artists in the world... I would say to never give up and always believe in yourself because if you don't, who will? I was once told that anyone can dance and do tricks but it takes an artist to be true and unique, to master the art of dance, and to take the audience on a journey with you. So always dance from your heart.


Name: Tianna Smith
Age: 13
Neighborhood: Crown Heights

Do you have a favorite DanceAfrica moment?
This year is special to me because this is my first time dancing centerstage. Also, I have a "brother" from Zimbabwe now.

Do you have a memorable performance story to share?
Well, the first time at BAM doing DanceAfrica was both exciting and nerve-wracking for me, because it was my first time and I had never danced in the Opera House. I was dancing in the aisles that time. From that moment I knew something magical was starting.

Any words of wisdom to other young people interested in the performing arts?
To be good at what you love, you have to work hard on it. Don't let nobody, and I mean nobody, stop you from doing what you love, even if you are big, small, quiet, may have an odor, or anything else. Just let your dreams come true!


Name: Deirdre Brock
Age: 15
Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant

How long have you been performing with Restoration Dance Company?
Since I was four years old.

Have you participated in DanceAfrica before?
Yes, I've participated in DanceAfrica seven times.

Do you  have a favorite DanceAfrica moment?
My first year dancing centerstage is my most memorable moment. We danced with a Cuban dance company [in 2011]. It was my favorite year because after all of my years of dreaming of dancing centerstage my dream finally came true!

Any words of wisdom to other young people interested in the performing arts?
Dancing isn't easy, but if you put your best foot forward you'll achieve your level of success in the dance world.


Name: Shaniya Hyndman
Age: 18
Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant

How long have you been performing with Restoration Dance Company?
I have been dancing with the company for four years.

Do you have a favorite DanceAfrica moment?
My favorite DanceAfrica moment would actually be finding out that myself, as well as a few others of my dance members, were some of the faces representing DanceAfrica 2013!

Any words of wisdom to other young people interested in the performing arts?
For young people interested in the arts, I would say to just be dedicated and open-minded to everything that their craft entails. There is always something new to learn that would make you a better, well-rounded artist.

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