Dance Africa Graces Atlanta with Entertainment, Culture, and a History Lesson

The 20th anniversary celebration of Giwayen Mata, an award-winning, soul-stirring, all-sistah, dance, percussion, and vocal ensemble, will take place in Atlanta on June 13 through 16  showcasing an array of experiences that embrace songs, rhythms, instruments, and dances celebrating the beauty and richness of African cultures.  DanceAfrica Atlanta, hosted by Giwayen Mata [which means Elephant Women] in collaboration with the Atlanta University Center Consortium, is a weekend of festival events that includes workshops, symposia, concerts, presentations, the African Marketplace, topped off with the Elephant Leaders Awards Gala honoring some of the masters of dance.

A children’s lecture-demonstration will be presented 10:30 a.m., June 13, at Morehouse College’s King Chapel featuring Dr. Chuck Davis of the African American Dance Ensemble and Brother Assane Konte of KanKouran West African Dance Company. Young artists from metropolitan Atlanta ranging in age from 5-15, who are pursuing the dance/drumming-track for African dance education, will participate in the “At the Feet of the Masters” program where they will learn choreography and shadow these master teachers during their stay in Atlanta. 

The highlight of DanceAfrica Atlanta will be concerts at Morehouse’s King Chapel on Friday and Saturday evenings, June 14 & 15.  Festivities open on Friday with a tribute to Baba Atu Murray, longstanding griot and drummer recognized both nationally and internationally. The concert line-up offers the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble, DC-based KanKouran West African Dance Company, Soweto Street Beat, Uhuru Dancers, Manga Dance Company, Giwayen Mata, and many others.  A full day of dance and drum workshops will be held, June 15, in Read Hall at Spelman College. On Saturday night, following the concert, artists and guests will enjoy a “Midnight Class” taught by Dr. Davis and party to the sounds of DJ Kemit at Dance 411 Studios on Moreland Avenue.

Martin Luther King III is the honorary chair of DanceAfrica Atlanta.  “I am grateful that you would honor me to serve in this position.  As the largest cultural arts event in our city celebrating the African Diaspora, this weekend of events will bring together a diverse mix of artists locally and nationally.” said King.  “I am inspired and impressed with your determination and commitment to such a worthy undertaking. Your preservation of arts and culture is needed here in Atlanta and around the world!”  added King.

The culminating events of DanceAfrica Atlanta will take place at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, on June 16.   The Africa Marketplace takes place from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. with vendors providing goods and services.  A symposium featuring dance educators, historians, pioneering artistic directors, including lunch, is scheduled for 10 a.m.  On Sunday evening, the Elephant Leaders Awards Gala offers a salute to several masters of dance and its culture. The honorees include Baba Chuck Davis, founder/artistic director of Dance Africa USA, and the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble; and Baba Assane Konte, founder/artistic director of the KanKouran West African Dance Company.   Dr. Richard Long, cultural historian and former professor at Atlanta University;  Baba Kwame Kshangi, cultural ambassador, dancer, percussionist, and choreographer; and Dr. Pearl Primus, dancer, choreographer and cultural anthropologist, will be honored posthumously. Entertainment for the evening includes a performance by the Nimbaya percussionist’s ensemble with all-female dancers from Guinea.

Through the years DanceAfrica USA has spread its wings throughout other cities including Chicago; Washington, DC; Los Angeles;  Miami;  Minneapolis; Dallas; Denver; Philadelphia; and now Atlanta.  Founded in 1977 by Dr. Chuck Davis, the festival has grown into the country’s largest annual celebration of African and African American dance.  It was the Chuck Davis Dance Company that performed in a constructed African village at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM); and because of the success of the engagement, DanceAfrica debuted the following spring with a day-long African bazaar. Arthur Hall, Charles Moore, Dr. Davis, Dinizulu, and the International Afrikan American Ballet participated in the festival, which offered five performances in the BAM Playhouse and culminated with all five companies—approximately 70 performers— on the Opera House stage. In the 1980’s, master classes in African movement and music were added to the production.    DanceAfrica has shown that "traditional" African dance is not fixed in time and remains tremendously inclusive and diverse, and that even the most cutting-edge choreography can contain African influences.

 “To say that we are excited to bring this historic event to Atlanta is an overwhelming understatement. We feel privileged to share the stage with renowned artists and musicians alike.  But more importantly, we trust that exhibitions of African and African American culture will bring a new day to Atlanta where our art and our culture will be given the respect and appreciation which we so much deserve,” exclaims Omelika Kuumba, artistic director of Giwayen Mata.

For more details and information, and to purchase tickets online, visit the festival website

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Dance Africa Graces Atlanta with Entertainment, Culture, and a History Lesson


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