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Susan Leigh Foster

Senegalese dancer and choreographer was born in Benin the daughter of a Senegalese colonial civil servant and the granddaughter of a Yoruba priestess When she was ten years old her family moved to Dakar Senegal From an early age Acogny showed exceptional talent for and love of dancing After pursuing a degree in physical education she went to France in the early 1960s where she studied ballet and modern dance Upon returning to Senegal she began teaching dance classes in the courtyard of her home and in the lycée where she was hired to be in charge of physical education In these classes she began to develop a codification of what she calls African dance Establishing an inventory of positions and steps as well as a spatial stability to each position s appearance she developed a dance technique based on an aesthetic of groundedness a sense of dynamism moving up ...



Richard Watts

The two principal types of biguine—biguine classique, ballroom dance music in the French Caribbean islands, and biguine vidé, heard mostly at Carnival there—reflect their African heritage in the emphasis on the call and response between the soloist and chorus, the prominence of rhythm over melody, and the vital importance of percussion. Biguine classique of the 1940s is more directly related to American big band and New Orleans music, from the nature of the rhythm (carried by guitar and drums) to the use of wind instruments for the melody. Jazz also influenced later biguine classique, most notably in trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone improvisation heard in many compositions.

In the mid-1950s biguine integrated components from more local musical forms. Elements of Cuban guaguancó or rumba became part of the biguine vernacular through the introduction of the tumbadora drum rhythmic figure and the addition of the piano The borrowing ...


Bob Ramdhanie

Term used by African and Caribbean dancers to refer to dance forms utilizing vocabularies, rituals, and symbols from traditional African and Caribbean forms, combining music, movement, storytelling, and theatre. Adopted from North America, the term came into popular usage in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.

1.Phase 1 1946 ...



Jace Clayton

In Haiti in the 1940s, the pioneering sound of popular music was that of merengue and “voodoo-jazz.” There is a lengthy history of heated debate between Dominicans and Haitians regarding which group originated the merengue—the primary difference between the two country's merengue forms is that the Haitian version favors a slower tempo and the guitar rather than accordion. Voodoo-jazz, which was born during the period of U.S. occupation (1915–1934), flavored the Afro-Haitian rhythms of Vodou ritual music with American swing Jazz. Bandleader and saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Nemours unveiled a new dance in 1955 that would revolutionize Haitian music. Based on merengue, Nemours's adaptations slowed the dance's tempo and simplified its melodies. Nemour's guitarist termed the music compas direct (also spelled kompa-dirék), meaning “straight-ahead beat.” Bass drums and hi-hat snares, cowbells, and emphatic guitars gave compas a distinct feel from merengue.

As Nemours rose in popularity his house ...


Paulette Brockington

was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her family moved to Boston early in her childhood. They wanted her to be a minister, but her heart was fixed on being on the stage. She made it to New York as soon as she was old enough to strike out on her own. By 1955 she’d gotten a grant from the State of New York to teach square dancing to young people. She decided that was not such a great idea for a 127th Street venue in Harlem. She got to work teaching jazz dance instead.

From the turn of the twentieth century through most of the 1940s if you wanted to “make it” it usually had to be on the stage in front of an audience.

Louise Parks started working at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem a mecca for swing dancers as a hat check girl She was lucky enough to ...


Leyla Keough

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judith Jamison started dancing at the age of six at the Judimar School of Dance. At seventeen, she left to study psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After three semesters, she returned to Philadelphia to continue her dance training at the Philadelphia Dance Company (now University of Arts).

After a 1964 appearance with Agnes de Mille's dance troupe in New York, Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) in 1965. Because of this company's financial difficulties, she danced with the Harkness Ballet for the 1966 season. But in 1967 she returned to AAADT to become its premier dancer. With this company she toured the world, dancing in Cry (1971), her signature dance, which Ailey choreographed to honor the strength and dignity of African American women. For her performances, she won an award from Dance Magazine in 1972 ...


Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...


Jay Straker

Guinean choreographer and statesman, was born in the Maninka (Malinké) town of Siguiri in northeastern French Guinea (today’s Republic of Guinea) in 1921. His father was an educated merchant. His mother was of the Diabaté jeli (or griot, praise singer) lineage. Acquainted with reputable local artists from an early age, including a griot that performed at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, Keita quickly excelled in both music and French schooling, learning the banjo and gaining entry into colonial Guinea’s most prestigious school—the École Primaire Supérieure located in the capital city of Conakry. While earning high academic marks in Conakry (1937–1940), Keita also led a band whose songs incorporated diverse global influences. This youthful demonstration of leadership and comprehensive artistic vision foretold of Keita’s eventual career as one of Africa’s greatest, most influential choreographers.

Like many of the brightest young men who came of age in French West Africa over ...


Cuban ethnomusicologist Fernando Ortiz wrote that the word bamba means “a lucky move,” and “success obtained without working,” tracing its origins to a similar word— mbamba—from the Congo, meaning “play”. Bamba has also been traced to the Gabonese word bumbua, which means “to do something with improvisation, without preparing to do it.” African elements were introduced into the dance by enslaved Africans who worked the haciendas (large estates) in Mexico. African influence was particularly high in the urban areas, such as Mexico City, Puebla, and the port city of Veracruz, where Afro-Mexicans taught music and dancing, and where the dance reportedly originated.

“La Bamba” is also the name of a popular song, performed in a traditional Mexican musical genre called huapango—a complex mix of Spanish melodic influences that integrates Amerindian and African cross-rhythms. As for its etymological origins, huapango may have derived from a ...


Paulette Brockington

was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Rosella Moore and Alton Lee. She started performing at the tender age of four showing off her singing and dancing talents through high school. By the time she was nine she was performing with a big band in popular clubs around town. At twelve she was performing at The Top Hat, the first Black-owned nightclub in Georgia. She headed for New York City with her mother in tow when she graduated from high school.

On 18 August 1940 Lee auditioned for the Apollo Theater She sang danced flipped and did the splits Without an agent she couldn t be booked as a soloist Advised to get work in a chorus line she went to an open call of three hundred girls for Harlem s West End Theater Once cast she got to work with choreographers Charlie Davis and Leonard Reed creator of the ...


Amber Karlins

was born Jennie Bell Ligon on the South Side of Chicago to Hector and Harriet Ligon. Her name was later changed from Ligon to LeGon as a result of a typo in a gossip column. LeGon started dancing at six years old while spending time with other neighborhood children who liked to perform on street corners, playing kazoos and harmonicas and washtub drums.

Seven years later LeGon began her performance career when she took a job as a chorus girl at thirteen years old. Because she had a very straight figure, none of the girl’s clothes fit her, so she suggested they allow her to wear pants. Doing so allowed her to develop a style that was similar to the one held by boys during that period, which featured acrobatic moves, flying splits, and mule kicks.

In 1931 LeGon began touring with a vaudeville dance troupe, and in 1935 ...



James Sellman

According to musicologist John Storm Roberts, mambo was “a truly American-Latin hybrid.” While reflecting Cuban rhythmic innovations and a performance style shaped by the nightclubs of New York City's vibrant Latino community, it incorporated the ensemble format of swing-era Jazz bands. Mambo's origins lie in Cuba's African-derived religious traditions, and the term itself most likely derives from the peoples of the present-day Republic of the Congo or Angola. It is not known who first adapted this Afro-Cuban religious music as vernacular dance music, although scholars credit four Cuban musicians with particularly important roles in developing and popularizing mambo: tres player and bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez, bandleader Dámaso Pérez Prado, bassist Israel “Cachao” López, and his brother the cellist Orestes López.

In Cuba, mambo was played by such small ensembles as flutist Antonio Arcaño s band Arcaño y sus Maravillas Arcaño and the ...


The first samba school to be created was Deixa Falar, which was established in Rio de Janeiro's Estácio de Sá neighborhood in 1926. But Mangueira is one of the oldest Samba Schools that still remains active. Samba composer Cartola and several friends established Mangueira on April 28 ...


Inge Mariëtte Ruigrok

Angolan dancer, choreographer, and pioneer of African contemporary dance, was born on 2 November 1962 in the Angolan capital of Luanda. She grew up in an artistic-intellectual milieu. Angola’s most famous writers, actors, and revolutionaries were friends of her parents or, like the sculptor José Rodriques, direct relatives, and often visited the family house.

In 1970, when she was eight years old, Marques started to take classical ballet lessons at the Dance Academy of Luanda. Following independence from Portugal in 1975, however, the school’s dance teachers, who were primarily Portuguese, left the country, leaving the school without staff, and thus forced to close. A few years later, Marques was asked to assume leadership of the dance school, because she had completed the first level of dance teacher training in 1978 She thus became the director of the only dance training facility left in the country even though ...


Ben Penglase

Manuel dos Reis Machado was born in Bahia. He initially called the martial art that he taught “luta regional” (or regional fighting), and this style has since come to be known as capoeira regional. Mestre Bimba was one of the Capoeiramestres or masters who was influential in ...


Vicente Ferreira Pastinha is said to have learned Capoeira as a young boy from an African-born Brazilian named Benedito. He opened his capoeira academy in 1941 in Salvador, Bahia, and worked to preserve the traditional form of capoeira, which he termed capoeira Angola Pastinha was a ...


Jeffrey Green

Musical and humorous entertainment style popular from about 1850 to 1970. The entertainers blacked up, a grotesque parody of black Americans in the Southern slave states. When African‐descent entertainers participated, they too wore burnt‐cork make‐up. Minstrel shows were musical, vibrant, amusing, and capable of swiftly adapting to new circumstances.

Most societies have entertainers who use masks and gaudy clothes, speak with false accents, dance in exaggerated ways, and play musical instruments with visible enthusiasm. The minstrel show did all these. A minstrel show was a self‐contained entertainment.

Minstrelsy originated in the United States, where it once showed both the evils of slavery and the allegedly happy plantation slave. The best‐selling anti‐slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin added dramatic elements; then Negro spirituals, brought to England by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1871 added songs including Go Down Moses and Steal Away to Jesus Costumes ranged from ragged hand me ...


James Sellman

For more than four decades, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas has sought to preserve and strengthen traditional Afro-Cuban song and dance. Founded in 1952 as Guanguanco Matancero, the group adopted its current name—which in English means “The Little Dolls of Matanzas”—a year later, after recording a hit song by that name. The group's music is highly percussive, with layers of complex rhythms played on congas, maracas, wooden box drums, and cylindrical wooden claves. Over the percussion, vocalists perform call-and-response choruses that alternate with the lead singer's improvisations. Beyond drawing attention to Cuba's rich legacy of folk music and dance, the troupe was also an important influence on the rise of Salsa Music in the 1960s. With the growing popularity of world music during the 1980s and 1990s, the troupe has gained a much larger, international following.

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas is a family based musical troupe and many of its members ...


Paul Schauert

Ghanaian choreographer, dancer, artist, and educator, was born on 13 November 1915 into a royal family of the Akan in central Ghana. His father, Nana Mawere Opoku, was the Okyeame (linguist) of the Asantehene (head chief of the Asante). His mother, Yaa Bemponmaalias Abena Kobina, was a renowned storyteller and the sister of the Asantehene’s chief linguist, Akyeamehene Kwasi Numah. Albert Mawere Opoku was thus in line to become an Okyeame himself and was the heir of the Gyasehene royal house. In addition to the special training in traditional lore and etiquette he acquired from his association with the royal house of the Asante, Opoku received his primary and secondary education at the Kumasi Government School (1921–1930).

After graduation, in 1931, he entered Achimota College (located near Accra, Ghana), where he studied for three years. Following a brief hiatus, he enrolled in 1939 in the Art ...


Jorge Arce

Bomba music is a generic term that refers to a variety of rhythms and kinds of dances, such as calinda, sica, grasima, lero, cuembe, holande, yuba, bambulae, and seis bombeao. By some accounts bomba music and dance arrived in Puerto Rico in the sixteenth century, brought by the Asantes, who had come from the African region of Ghana. While its precise origins are unclear, the bomba and its many variants continued to evolve, particularly among slaves on the Sugar plantations. These slaves would hold bomba dances on Sundays and holidays in places outside the plantations themselves. Many slave rebellions were planned during these gatherings.

The instruments used to accompany bomba music are two drums, cua two sticks and maracas a Native American instrument originally used by the Taíno Indians The drums essentially are barrels with heads of goatskin ...