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Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Guide to DanceAfrica 2019

Photo: Adreinne Waheed

By Akornefa Akyea

DanceAfrica is the longest-running program at BAM. The festival founded in 1977 by traditional African dance choreographer Dr. Charles "Chuck" Davis (1937—2017) began as a three-day event in the Lepercq Space; a note in the program read:

“In essence, you are visitors to our village which is wherever we are. We welcome you with Dyembes (Drums) and Eparoro (Chant). Through the chant we ask that you not only enjoy your stay with us but form with us a comradeship that will remain a lasting association.”

In its 42nd year and now under the artistic direction of Abdel R. Salaam, DanceAfrica is almost two weeks long, taking place in several venues, with a community that is very much alive and well. This year we celebrate the rich movement and dance traditions of Rwanda in acknowledgement of the 25th anniversary of the government-sponsored genocide against the Tutsi.

Here’s your guide to this expansive event, which has everything from performances, classes, and screenings to the sprawling DanceAfrica Bazaar, a late-night dance party, and a chance to talk and interact with Rwandans in real time.

Courtesy of the artist and Ethan Cohen Gallery

DanceAfrica Visual Art: Innocent Nkurunziza (FREE)
Fri, May 10—31; BAM Fisher Lower Lobby

Visual art was first made a part of the festival only five years ago and continues this year with the work of contemporary Rwandan artist Innocent Nkurunziza. His latest abstract work, Intense Emotions, is a reflection of Nkurunziza’s Rwanda and will be on display in the BAM Fisher Lower Lobby for three weeks.

Tribute to the Ancestors (FREE)
Sat, May 18 at 10am; Weeksville Heritage Center

The first weekend of DanceAfrica kicks off with an acknowledgement of those who have come before us. We go off-campus to the historical Weeksville Heritage Center for an inspiring showcase of music, drumming, dance, and a libation ceremony conducted by the DanceAfrica Council of Elders.

Photo: David Gonsier

Community Day (FREE)
Sat, May 18 at 1pm; Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza

Make a splash with your best summer fashion at the first outdoor event of the festival, showcasing youth talent from RestorationArt and is a joyful celebration of all the participating artists.

Chuck Davis Emerging Choreographer Fellowship Workshop (FREE w/ RSVP)
Sat, May 18 at 3pm; BAM Fisher Hillman Studio

Since 2016, emerging choreographers have been given the opportunity to travel to Africa and study with an African dance expert. This year’s fellow, Jade Charon, will lead an intensive workshop (open to all ages and experience levels) corresponding to her extensive studies in Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Chuck Davis Emerging Choreographer Fellowship Showing (FREE w/ RSVP)
Sun, May 19 at 7pm; BAM Fisher

After attending the workshop, see Jade Charon showcase Kony and N’Dep dance styles from Senegal and Burkina Faso.

Memorial Room (FREE)
Thu, May 23—Mon, May 27; Natman Room

In week two of DanceAfrica, the Natman Room transforms into the Memorial Room, open for visitors to pass through and pay homage to the ancestors.

FilmAfrica (TICKETS)
Thu, May 23—Mon, May 27; BAM Rose Cinemas

Co-presented by the New York African Film Festival, FilmAfrica showcases the best new narrative, documentary, and short films from across Africa and the diaspora. This year’s lineup includes Sometimes in April starring British actor Idris Elba and Dreamstates, a debut feature from Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman shot entirely on iPhones!

DanceAfrica 2019 Performances (TICKETS)
Fri, May 24—Mon, May 27; Howard Gilman Opera House

The highly anticipated Opera House performances return this year with a focus on Rwanda and features Rwandan dance troupe Inganzo Ngari. As usual, there will be several guest performances including Rwandan-born spoken word artist Malaika Uwamahoro, composer Michael Wimberly, percussionist Kofi Osei Williams, percussionist Frank Molloy IV, the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers, and the beloved RestorationArt Dance Youth Ensemble.

Photo: Greg Kessler

DanceAfrica 2019 Bazaar (FREE)
Sat, May 25—Mon, May 27; Ashland Pl / Lafayette Ave

The one-and-only DanceAfrica Bazaar gives you the chance to explore the diverse cultural heritage of Africa and its diaspora and how it manifests in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Shop the offerings from over 150 vendors while sliding into a spontaneous dance circle or drinking from that pineapple you’ve been fantasizing about all winter!

DanceAfrica Portal (FREE)
Sat, May 25—Mon, May 27; The Plaza at 300 Ashland

The DanceAfrica Portal is new to the festival this year. Enter a re-fitted shipping container situated in the public plaza of 300 Ashland Place and instantly connect, live, with the people of Kigali, Rwanda. The schedule includes a series of free curated sessions; RSVP here.

Late Night Dance Party with DJ YB (FREE)
Sat, May 25 at 10pm; Lepercq Space

The celebration moves from the Opera House and outdoor bazaar to the Lepercq Space for the Late Night Dance Party co-presented by OkayAfrica. Bring your best dance moves and get ready to sweat to beats mixed by DJ YB.

Connecting Generations and Continents: RadioBook Rwanda (FREE)
Sun, May 26 at 12pm; The Center for Fiction

Join us at The Center for Fiction for a moderated conversation and audience Q&A as we explore the work of three young Rwandan writers exploring the themes of relationships, resistance, and modern myths.

Photo: Greg Kessler

DanceAfrica Workshops and Master Class (TICKETS)
Mon, May 27 at 10am; Mark Morris Dance Center

Round out the festival on Memorial Day at Mark Morris Dance Center with a master class and dance workshops that are accessible for all ages and abilities!

Visit for more info, to RSVP and purchase tickets to events.

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