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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 ...

Article

Aaron Myers

During the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States and nationalist movements in Africa, Afro-Brazilians experienced a surge in black pride. This heightened black consciousness was also prompted by denouncements of racism and praises to “Mother Africa” heard in Jamaican Reggae, increasingly popular in Brazil during the 1970s. As a result, black Brazilians, especially those in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador, reaffirmed their connection with Africa and became more vocal about problems facing their community, particularly racial discrimination. This process was accelerated by the abertura (opening)—the gradual return to democratic rule that began in 1979 and loosened restrictions on free speech. In Salvador, this newfound black pride reinvigorated the old and waning afoxés and gave birth to a new type of black Carnival organization, the bloco Afro.

Afoxés emerged in the late ...

Article

Balé Folclórico da Bahia was founded by Walson Botelho and Ninho Reis in 1987 in the city of Salvador, in the northern state of Bahia. Material for the dance compositions draws from the cultural fabric of the state, which was first colonized in 1530 by the Portuguese. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, enslaved Africans were brought over to the colony to work on sugar plantations. The distinct socio-historical events that coalesced in this region are represented in the population, over 60 percent of which can claim African, indigenous, and Portuguese ancestry. This mixture is not restricted to biology but includes cultural traits, evident in the Brazilian religion Candomblé, which consists of Roman Catholicism brought by the Europeans, traditional beliefs of the indigenous peoples, and elements from the Yoruba of southern Nigeria.

Combining these elements the troupe creates and interprets Yoruba based rites of the Candomblé religion ...

Article

Bob Ramdhanie

Black dance company, which presented its first season at the Twentieth Century Theatre in London on 30 April 1946 under their artistic director and choreographer Berto Pasuka. Pasuka, a Jamaican of mixed parentage, arrived in England in 1939. He obtained small parts in the films Rain of the Pacifica and Men of Two Worlds, the latter providing the resources to establish Les Ballets Nègres. With Pasuka's close friend Richie Riley, this company laid the foundation for Caribbean and African theatrical dance in Britain.

A culturally diverse company of approximately 25 members (dancers, musicians, and other support staff), performers came from Jamaica, Liverpool, Ghana, Nigeria, England, and Trinidad. They presented four full‐length ballets—De Prophet, They Came, Aggrey, and Market Day generally receiving positive reviews They toured extensively in the United Kingdom and Europe and though they were very popular in post war ...

Article

Biguine  

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Clare J. Washington

pilot, who made aviation history when she became the first African American woman to fly for a major passenger airline in the United States, the first to be admitted to the U.S. Navy's flight school, and the first in U.S. military history to qualify as a pilot.

Brown was born in Millersville, Maryland. Her family had taken up aviation as a hobby, and she learned to fly small planes with her parents—Gilbert Brown, who was a former U.S. Air Force instrument mechanic and also owned a building construction business, and Elaine Brown, an art resource teacher in the Baltimore public schools—when she was seventeen years old. For her eighteenth birthday, she received a Cherokee 180D airplane. In 1967 Brown flew her first solo flight in a Piper J 3 Cub She had always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot but her mother advised her otherwise and ...

Article

Peter Gammond

A 19th-century African-American dance. It originated among plantation slaves (c.1850 reputedly to parody the promenades that opened the plantation owners formal balls In the 1890s it became commercial entertainment and it was used for social dancing at the turn of the 20th century The music is a ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Capoeira combines various elements, including dance, combat, music, and song. It is performed to live music, with two capoeiristas taking turns at the center of a roda, or circle, formed by the players, musicians, and spectators. At the head of the roda is an ensemble of percussion instruments called the bateria. The bateria usually includes three berimbaus (bow-shaped instruments), an atabaque (a long, cylindrical drum), one or two pandeiros (tambourine-like instruments), an agogô (a double-headed bell), and a reco-reco (a small instrument with a corrugated surface). The bateria's rhythm and pace dictate the style and speed of the play in the circle, and the songs sung by the musicians often comment upon, criticize, or encourage the physical play.

Article

The festivals known as Carnival are public celebrations of European origin that have been profoundly transformed by diverse New World African cultures throughout the Americas. Although Carnival is celebrated in many Latin American and Caribbean cities, this description will focus on four different Carnivals: two in Brazil, one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in Salvador, Bahia; one in the Caribbean, in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and one in the United States, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Article

Compas  

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 ...

Article

Cumbia  

Nina Friedemann

The term cumbia is of Bantu origin and likely derives from nkumbi, which in the Kikongo language indicates a type of drum used to accompany a ritual performed at the tomb of a great hunter. Other possible origins include the Mandingo place-name cumba and the Kumba near Calabar in Nigeria. Cumba was also a kingdom in what is now the Republic of the Congo. Among the Congolese, the word means “clamorous shouting, rejoicing.”

The origins of cumbia reach back to colonial times and to slave dances that took place at a bonfire and was accompanied by drums and later around a tree held to be sacred As time went on slave workers began to participate in Spanish religious festivals and their dancing around groups of drummers replaced the sacred dimensions of these rites with secular overtones In the cumbia the woman dances in short steps never lifting ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

Fulani scholar and Muslim cleric Osman dan Fodio was one of the leaders who emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when West Africa had seen a series of revolutions which consolidated Islam in West Africa. Born in 1754 to Fulani parents in Gobir, Osman dan Fodio led a movement for reform caused by political, economic, and social grievances, but voiced through a powerful religious revolution in the Hausa States. It culminated in the creation of the one of the largest Muslim polities, the Sokoto Caliphate, in eighteenth-century Africa.

As a young man, Osman received a Muslim education and studied under a number of famous and reformist teachers who affected his outlook on life and religion. When Jibril b. Umar the last of his teachers fled Agades after an unsuccessful jihad among the Tuareg the twenty year old dan Fodio returned to Hausaland to begin life as a teacher ...

Article

Because it is non-verbal, dance has often been perceived by Western observers as a relatively insignificant cultural medium, capable of communicating only abstract thought or emotion. In the African diaspora, however, bodily movement can be a form of prayer, or of protest. Sometimes it is both. In some cases, the brutal repression of verbal expressions of religious or political beliefs has necessitated this other, more discreet means of communication. Meaningful motion is an important and continuous aspect of diasporic culture, which assumes no necessary division between the mind and the body.

The worship of African deities in the Caribbean and Latin America continues to be performed through dance, and the choreographies of these religious ceremonies bear an uncanny resemblance to those of West African ceremonies. Vodou in Haiti, Santería in Cuba, and Candomblé in Brazil are all African diasporic religions in which dance is used to invoke ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

African dances are as varied and changing as the communities that create them. Although many types of African dance incorporate spirited, vigorous movement, there are others that are more reserved or stylized. African dances vary widely by region and ethnic community. In addition, there are numerous dances within a given community. African communities traditionally use dance for a variety of social purposes. Dances play a role in religious rituals; they mark rites of passage, including initiations to adulthood and weddings; they form a part of communal ceremonies, including harvest celebrations, funerals, and coronations; and they offer entertainment and recreation in the forms of masquerades, acrobatic dances, and social club dances.

Article

Leyla Keough

Katherine Dunham helped shape modern dance as both a dancer and a choreographer, a designer of dance pieces. Trained in anthropology, the study of cultures, she researched the African roots of Afro-Caribbean dances and incorporated African-based dance moves, traditions, and meanings into modern American dance.

Dunham was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Fanny June Taylor, who was French Canadian and Native American, and Albert Dunham. She attended school in Chicago and began to dance at a young age. After a short time at Joliet Junior College, she attended the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. degree in cultural anthropology. To help finance her education, she worked as a librarian and taught dance. Dunham eventually opened a dance school and established a black dance troupe later called the Chicago Negro School of Ballet.

Dunham obtained a Guggenheim Award from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation for travel to ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born in Havana on 5 August 1900. Her full family background is unknown, but she was born to parents Nicolás and Francisca in Pueblo Nuevo, a largely black neighborhood of Havana. She was raised in a housing complex named El Africa, surrounded not only by the heavy presence of Afro-Cuban religion, but by negros de nación (African-born blacks who had been brought to Cuba as slaves; Cuba imported slaves up until the 1860s and did not formally abolish the practice until 1886). It was due to her upbringing, immersed in African-derived music, dance, and religion, that Fresneda would eventually serve as a principal informant to folklorists and scholars, including preeminent anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, seeking to document and preserve these cultural practices.

Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution there were very few professional Afro Cuban folkloric musicians and dancers and Fresneda worked in various service occupations for many ...

Article

Marilyn L. Geary

performing arts educator, was born in the Fort McPherson Army Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of an air force serviceman, George Gaston, and a U.S. Post Office worker, Roberta Lofton. Roberta Lofton Gaston later married and became Roberta Lofton Hayes. The same day Gaston was born, Rosa Parks made history in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to let a white bus rider take her seat. Parks's refusal and subsequent arrest made a crack in the wall of segregation that ultimately caused the inequality barriers to crumble, yet segregation was still very strong in the South when Gaston was a child.

Gaston's parents separated when she was a year old, and she and her mother lived with her grandmother, Estelle Lofton, in Marietta, Georgia. Her mother worked long hours at the U.S. Post Office, and Grandmother Estelle became Gaston's primary caregiver.

In her grandmother s care ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

dancer, choreographer, and university professor, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sally Yancey and Joshua Milton. He was their only child. After Arthur's mother and father separated, Sally Yancey raised him with the help of her mother, Emma Yancey, and then moved to Washington, D.C., where she married her second husband, Patrick Hall. Arthur eventually took Hall's surname and joined the family in D.C. In 1950, Hall made his dancing debut in The Ordering of Moses, a production sponsored by the National Negro Opera Company.

The following year, 1951, Hall and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he continued studying and performing as a dancer at the Judimar School, which had been founded in 1948 by Marion Cuyjet Hall studied modern dance at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Malvina Tase Some of his mentors and instructors included Cuyjet a ...

Article

Christopher Dunn

Dissatisfied by the options available to Afro-Brazilians during Carnival, a group of young black petroleum workers from the working-class neighborhood of Curuzu-Liberdade organized Ilê Aiyê (Yoruba for “House of Life”) for the 1975 Carnival. The group's founder and president, Antônio Carlos dos Santos Vovô, cited three principal sources of inspiration: local Afro-Brazilian culture rooted in the Candomblé religion; the North American Black Power and soul movements and their Brazilian spinoffs; and the liberation of former Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique.

As a parallel response to some of the elite Carnival groups who informally excluded people of color, Ilê Aiyê established a blacks-only membership policy, which it still maintains. Although Ilê Aiyê was criticized in the local press for “introducing racial politics” into the Bahian Carnival, it soon received moral support from established pop stars such as Gilberto Gil who recorded a pop ...