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Coyoba Dance Theater

Haragani??               Kwanzaa!!      Habaragani??         Kwanzaa!!
What's the news??    Kwanzaa!!     What's the news??  Kwanzaa!!

It's all about the celebration of Kwanzaa with Coyoba Dance Theater at Dance Place in Washington, DC. Have you heard?

Kwanzaa is a Nationally recognized holiday that celebrates the Culture, History and Contribution of African, Pan-African and Black Heritage which implemented in the 1960's by Dr. Maulana Karenga and Friends. It acknowledges the depth, the girth, the soul and heart Seven Days a candle is lit upon a Kinara in acknowledgement of the Seven Swahili principles: Ujoma, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujàama, Nia, Kuumba, Imani~ Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. It can be celebrated by all races, ethnicities and cultures of people. 

All of the Elders gathered, the grandparents and great-grandparent, their children the parents, the aunts and uncles....and their children--the grandchildren and great-grand on this evening where the Cafritz Foundation Theater became a village where all of the peoples from young to old came together to celebrate in song, dance, storytelling and drumming. Coyoba Dance Theater was in fact celebrating 20 years of service to the community, dancing, developing, teaching and becoming all that it is today. Founder and Director Sylvia Soumah says, "when one experiences Coyoba Dance they get a feel of family, community like being in your living room in home." The audience could certainly feel that warms welcome- clapping and dancing along in their seats as Coyoba gave us their heart and soul on stage.

The dancing is that of Contemporary West African Culture dances consisting of hand gestures, syncopated movement of the feet, back undulations, head thrashes *surrendering their bodies to the sound of the music and allowing the Spirit to take over completely*. Each generation took turns "Honoring the Sacred Ground" by offering their best dance. There were the babies Ages 6-12 dressed in Handmade Traditional African two pieces, a halter and pants combination in colors of Green symbolizing Fertility and Yellow symbolizing the Sun, and the Intelligence of the People. Their coordination and commitment to each dance move was impressive and uplifting to the children in the audience bearing witness.

There was one young boy in particular, he played alongside The Big Boys on the drums--with confidence, power, energy and in the Spirit of all that was going on around him. The men, young men and boys are traditionally known as the Protectors, the Leaders, the Hunters and Village Keepers. Each time their hand hits a part of the drum, it is a call to the Universe, a statement, a command even that the dancers then respond to in their bodies. They keep the journey going with sound of the drums, which represents the ongoing heartbeat of humanity in synch with one another with the occasional "breaks" which is when the sound of a speciality drum whether is be the Djembe, the Dunun, the Bourgarabou, or the Talking Drum is featured one at a time to change the course in which the dance is going or signify the they phrase is coming to an end.

The teenagers were dressed in variations of color Red, Yellow or Black performing in a group of about seven dancers with occasional solo moments with one drummer at time. By this stage the dancers have developed a sense of maturity and understanding in the movement and express more freedom as the heart searches for ways to give more in the dance. They also perform a favorite of Coyoba's repertoire where the dancers themselves beat the drum while moving.

All the while the happenings of this Kwanzaa Celebration of Life, Family and Community through dancing, the Elders remain present on the side line of stage to receive each generation as they finish their segment. This signifies the tradition of Rite of Passage, where as one grows they welcomed home by their people as a means of saying, "Job Well Done" acknowledging the hardships that one may have faced along the journey. One Elder in particular who is known as, Baba Melvin was their to lead us, teach us and see us through the reverential practices of Kwanzaa. The term "Baba" or  "Abba" means Father. We are grateful for his service, works and dedication to the Washington DC Community as the Founding Director of the African Heritage of the Dancers and Drummers.


And finally the precession of dancing ends with the Professional Company Members, the Adults. These sage dancers moving with knowingness, freedom and a confidence that allows to them to play with the movement more and to express through their faces the joy and the enjoyment of it all. There costumes were that of a variety of colors and patterns; their hair in fros, locs, curls, short cuts, braids and twist reflecting the dynamic culture of Africanism.

The evening finished with bows and the acknowledgement of each generation of dancer, drummer, instructor, and contributor to the Coyoba Dance Theater Family.

In the way in which the Twi People say it: "Ago" Are you listening? "Ame" I am, listening.

Thank you for taking the time to relive the experience of this Kwanzaa Celebration through performance of Coyoba Dance Theatre at Dance Place Washington, DC!

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