The nation’s largest African dance festival and BAM’s longest running program celebrates Rwanda through traditional and contemporary lenses, featuring Inganzo Ngari on the Howard Gilman Opera House stage, May 24—27
The first DanceAfrica Portal connects New York and Kigali
Free, annual community events, including the Tribute to the Ancestors, Community Day, and DanceAfrica Bazaar, return with new programs including a Rwandan book event
DanceAfrica—BAM’s longest running program and one of its most beloved—returns for the 42nd year with a focus on Rwanda. The festival features one of Rwanda’s best internationally-known dance companies, Inganzo Ngari, and several related programs to illuminate a country that moved past a national humanitarian disaster with collective determination.
Twenty-five years after the Genocide, during which up to one million people—estimated to comprise 70% of the Tutsi population—were decimated, Rwanda has rebounded with a robust economy (annual GDP growth over 6% in the past five years) and a society determined to move towards reconciliation and renewal. “When we visited Rwanda,” DanceAfrica Artistic Director Abdel R. Salaam said, “everywhere we went, Rwandans no longer divided themselves as Hutus, Tutsis, or Twas. They are just Rwandans.” Inganzo Ngari is an example of it. Founded in 2006 with a focus on passing Rwandan folkloric dance and music to the next generation, the company has become an ambassador of Rwandan culture internationally and is making its US debut at BAM. They will perform some of the most recognizable Rwandan dances, including the warrior dance Intore, and collaborate with BAM/Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble on stage.
To reflect the contemporary Rwanda, several new elements have been created. They include spoken words performed by actor and poet Malaika Uwamahoro as part of the Opera House show, an interactive “DanceAfrica Portal” to Kigali, and a RadioBook Rwanda reading and discussion. A visual art exhibition and FilmAfrica with several contemporary Rwandan films round out DanceAfrica once again. More information below.
Many long-held traditions return, including the Tribute to Ancestors, the Community Day, the Outdoor Bazaar, and the late night dance party, all free to the public.
DanceAfrica Community events A Tribute to the Ancestors ceremony will be held at 10am on Sat May 18 at the Weeksville Heritage Center (158 Buffalo Ave). This traditional ceremony, which includes dancing and music by participating artists, is an integral part of DanceAfrica that honors elders who have passed. The event is free and open to the public.
It will be followed by the DanceAfrica Community Day at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza (1368 Fulton St) at 1pm to kick off the annual festival. It features performances by students from RestorationART.
The 2019 recipients of the Samuel H. Scripps BAM Scholarship for post-secondary education will be awarded on the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House stage on May 24. Inspired by the spirit of DanceAfrica, BAM Trustee Richard Feldman launched the Samuel H. Scripps BAM Scholarship Fund in 2008 in memory of former BAM Trustee and arts patron Samuel Scripps. The scholarships exclusively benefit students who have participated in BAM’s arts education programs.
Jeffery Page, the fourth Chuck Davis Emerging Choreographer Fellow, will also be feted at the May 24 performance. Created to honor Baba Chuck Davis, founder of DanceAfrica, this unique Fellowship offers dance practitioners the chance to travel to Africa and study with masters of African dance.
Last year’s fellow Jade Charon will present her study on the Kony and N’Dep dance styles of Senegal and Burkina Faso in a workshop (BAM Fisher Hillman Studio, May 18 at 3pm) and a Showing, followed by a talk-back (BAM Fisher Fishman Space, May 19 at 7pm). Both are free with RSVP.