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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In Context: DanceAfrica 2014


America’s largest festival of African dance returns to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and beyond; the opening festivities took place this past weekend, and events resume from May 23 to 26. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.



On the Blog


DanceAfrica—Scouting Madagascar
BAM line producer Nick Schwartz-Hall relates his nationwide search for this year’s Malagasy DanceAfrica company.

DanceAfrica—Leadership Transition in 2016
Abdel R. Salaam will succeed Chuck Davis as artistic director of DanceAfrica in 2016.

The Troubadour of Madagascar
A look at the life and work of guitarist Madagascar Slim, who performed in the opening show.


Around the Web


Bakomanga Performs “Bodovola” (YouTube)
Mariette Rasoarinala leads her Malagasy dance and music company in a sunny number.

Mission to Madagascar (US Embassy)
Read more about Bakomanga’s journey to the US on the United States Embassy website.

Madagascar to Brooklyn with Groupe Bakomanga (Afropop.org)
“This will be my first time in New York. It’s a big thing for me,” says the group’s titular leader in this interview with Afropop radio.


Now your turn...


So how was your DanceAfrica experience? Tell us what you thought about the performance, what you bought at the bazaar, and anything else that might be on your mind in the comments below.

39 comments:

  1. unbelievable as always, gets better each and every year we see it.

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  2. I have been for many years but unfortunately I found this year disappointing as far as the show. It was just boring and was missing the DANCE for DANCE AFRICA, it was a shame. I know he probably worked hard to find that group from Madagascar but they just weren't as entertaining. Last year was soooo amazing and this yr was just ok. But on the bright side despite the rain I enjoyed the vendors and had some great finds

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    1. I agree with your view of what transpired, love Dance Africa for many years, have brought buses there but this year just not up to previous standard

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    2. I was disappointed that the restoration didn't perform Saturday at the matinée like brought young people. In the past the youth group always performed. Not just a little bit at the end. That was insulting.

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    3. My experience at DanceAfrica 2014 was soul stirring. Monday's experience indicated to me the importance of why DanceAfrica is so important to the American diaspora. It must continue for generations to come. It is about family and our ancestral knowledge when it come to telling our stories through dance.

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    4. I found the show to be great, however I also found last years show more energetic and entertaining. Madagascar was not as entertaining as 2013 Ghana. The other groups from Brooklyn and Buffalo was by far better in terms of energy and entertainment. Will never miss the show. Vendors were great, looking forward to 2015

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  3. This was my first year seeing the show. The overall experience was wonderful! I'm an African Drumming student so watching the drummers was very exciting and inspirational. The "host" was warm & loving & really made me feel as though I was at a huge family gathering! Loved it!

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  4. It was an amazing experience!! I live in New Jersey but am originally from Brooklyn. This was my first time at Dance Africa and it is now my family's annual tradition. The program was well done. I love the respect and recognition of elders! Baba Chuck Davis, You are the best!!

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  5. Always enjoy the Show. The energy of the Show and the venue is excellent.

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  6. Janice SlaughterMay 25, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    I took my adult son to Dance Africa to enjoy what I had been enjoying for years, but sorry to say I was very disappointed especially the group from Madagascar, they were boring and on the stage way to long, but Dance Africa was in Philly last year and perhaps there is no reason to travel that distance to be disappointed, Venders and food was still great.

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  7. It was very distracting to have a constant seating of late comers. There seemed to be no
    time limit to admit late comers.

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  8. Enjoyed my time at Dance Africa. Earlier this year I went to dance Africa in Philly and was told that the Brooklyn show would be even more extraordinary. While I found the Brooklyn show to be a positive experience, it paled in comparison to the Philadelphia show. While the Madagascar dancers were interesting, they were not as inspiring as other dance companies I have seen. Outside of that we had a wonderful time. The memorial was especially awesome! I hope next year's dance troupe will be easier to relate to from a cultural perspective.

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  9. I had not been for several years; took two teenage grand children this year. Was surprisingly entertained to see another side of African culture: Madagascar! Loved their spirit and contribution to Dance Africa. On the downside, there were four grown, loud and disruptive women behind us, who never shut up once and the rain interrupted our shopping spree! Always happy to be at BAM!!

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  10. I am a faithful Dance Africa fan and since the first time I experience it I have been returning every year and promoting the event through word of mouth. I must say that I was disappointed with this year's performance. It was mediocre. I am normally mesmerized by the artists but I kept waiting for the BAM!! It never came. Baba Chuck always does a spectacular job though....ALWAYS!!

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  11. I go every year. This wasn't the best performance, yet I was still looking forward to it.

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  12. I was very disappointed. The show had it's moments, but overall, I was bored. Did not meet the standards of previous years.

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  13. This was our first time attending a show at BAM. The performances were excellent and we enjoyed it. My only complaint is that there is a pole in front of seat E35 that made seating uncomfortable. We will return for other shows!!

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  14. Disappointing. It's time for the "elders" to stop taking up so much time to congratulate themselves. Between the speeches, the recitations of people who died (in some cases these people died over a decade ago -- 100% of people die; look it up), you took up 35 minutes of time with speeches and audience warm up. Ticket prices aren't cheap, and I found that a major abuse of the time. If you want to dress up and have a pep rally, don't charge me $45 for it. And also, this is Dance Africa -- not Dance Buffalo. Why is it that only one African country was represented here? Given all the fine fine work of the "elders" and the 37 year influence of DanceAfrica at BAM, why were you unable to attract other dance companies from other places in Africa? Lincoln Center seems to have much greater success, with far less self-congratulatory fanfare.

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  15. Have been to several performances over the years and have always found them to be extraordinary and exhilirating. Unfortunately, this year's performance did not meet that standard. Don't mind the tributes and audience warm up but need to see more dance for my money. Most of the groups were good. The Malagasy performers, however, although clearly talented, were a bit boring and their costumes so bland that they simply blended into the background. Perhaps they would be better received at a smaller more intimate venue. They are not "DanceAfrica at BAM" quality, particulary at $45pp. I look forward to a much better performance next year.

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  16. As much as I hate to say this - I was bored & left during intermission. BAM - why did you continue seating late-comers well after the start of the show? It was annoying and, I'm sure, disruptive for the performers. DITTO for the comment on self-congratulations of the 'elders' and memorials. Surely there can be another venue for such announcements.

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  17. I love going to the show, but the low key group should have performed first and then the real Dance Africa should have finished the show. This year was not that entertaining.

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  18. Dance Africa was disappointing. First of all, to continue seating late comers was disruptive and disrespectful to those of us that came on time. The opening act was awful. Everyone who has ever participated in theatre/dance knows you don't open a show with such a boring act. The dancers from buffalo couldn't hold a candle to the children from restoration dance. I would have preferred to see them. The group from Madagascar was just plain boring. If it took auditioning 14 groups to find them, then Chuck should have kept looking. Lastly, ditto on the elders comment above...lets be real...some of the elders are more scandalous than teens...its about time we shorten this aspect of the show. If you've ever been to Africa you'd see that half of the mess that was done on that stage Africans don't do or understand. Touching the ground is supposed to be a shortened form of prostrating (from nigeria), Ago! (from Ghana)...its a medley of incorrectly taught Zip African traditions exploited. Oh, and "dashing" was also explained incorrectly. It isn't called dashing because you are "running to the stage"; its called that because you are "giving." In Africa when someone dashes you they've given you something. They didn't run up to you...lol. Of note, Aase Yaa was the only group dashed... I came to see the best of the best dance, but that doesn't seem to be the case with dance Africa anymore.

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  19. Disappointing ....partly because of the following. First of all ...why are Infants allowed in the show. There was a baby crying in the balcony that took three (3) ushers to get the mother to leave. But what bothered me more that it took a white guest, who was sitting in front of the mother and baby to get up and get the ushers before anyone said anything to the mother and escorted her out. Also, Mr. Chuck use to tell you the history of the dances before they danced. He did not this time. I was not given any program, even though I asked for one...to tell me what the heck was the name of the Madagascar group. I did not know where they were from or what they were saying. And to say the least...they were Boring. Use to be more groups. It would be nice to see more African groups..the other NYC groups were Great!. So for next year....please don't allow infants into the show and tell the audience about the dances and what they mean. Great job with the vendors in the market!!!!

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  20. wonderful wonderful wonderful

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  21. I enjoyed the show, but was a bit disappointed by the group from Madagascar. I too found them boring (what was up with all the hand-dancing and shoulder-shrugging?). That was not the DanceAfrica performance I'd come to expect over the years. The group from Bed-Stuy however was EXCELLENT. Their non-stop explosive dance routines left me amazed! I will continue to patronize DanceAfrica, because gathering together to partake in the music and dance of the Motherland is an experience that speaks to our soul. Btw, I didn't mind the memoral session at the beginning, perhaps it could have been shortened a bit, but I love how it shows our young ones that our elders/ancestors are appreciated

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  22. My first time at Dance Africa, it was too dark to read the program so I was a bit lost with who was performing. The Madagascar group was interesting but at times boring. They were definitely there for a reason but should have had less appearances. I will attend more Dance Africa. The vendors were great.

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  23. Dance Africa @ BAM is the one show I look forward to as we approach the Summer. I enjoyed the show however, is was not as electrifying as the many performances in the years past.
    I'm excited to see next years performance, Inshallah!

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  24. This was the first time seeing Dance Africa. I thought it was great and full of energy. I went back to work and share the experience with my coworkers and suggested that they see it.

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  25. I am still surprised at the unprofessional way of letting people in during the performance it is disrespectful! I did see this last year and was amazed. I feel the Madagascar group was good but wish there was some type of information as to what they were doing in the program, I believe the audience would have received more out of the presentation. No it was not an exciting presentation throughout, but this is the artistic directors responsibility as well as knowing how to schedule different groups behind each other and there was a major moment when the group (stole the show) Asa took the stage and the audience gave a standing ovation the group from Madagascar began just to slow and laid back it was quite abrupt! Dance Africa should continue forever, just work on presentation and programming of groups.

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  26. Have attend Dance Africa for many years. This year was eh! missed seeing Restoration Group solo dance. Madagascar group, too long on stage. Seating should NOT BE DONE during performance. Need more groups. hope next year will be better.

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  27. As a long-time regular attendee of Dance Africa (traveling some distance from Connecticut) I enjoyed this performance very much. My only disappointment was that I had not planned in advance to see it twice. One year is too long to wait for the next one.

    I am sorry that a number of responders found the performance not up to their requirements. And Chuck Davis' rather lengthy rituals and the people in the audience coming late and people in the audience talking to their kids and each other are all part of the homey atmosphere.

    If the criticisms give rise to improvement, great. Whether they do or not, Dance Africa is a treasured experience that I wouldn't ever miss.

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    1. "Homey atmospheres" are different to everyone. The atmosphere should be professional, entertaining and enjoyable to all.

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  28. Couple comments: The dances should be introduced or information provided in the program. I was disappointed to hear the first group on Saturday sing the South African national anthem as a prelude to a dance from Guinea....was very confused. Please stay true to the culture as well as the art from. Don't charge me $55 for fashion African dance. There are always some learned, experienced spectators in the audience. Lastly, BAM, your ushers are rude, disrespectful and unfriendly. I found them as distracting, or more so, than the late comers. They blocked your view, shined light in your eyes, demanded to see tickets of people who were seated for over an hour...just plain awful. If this opinion does anything, I hope it changes the way BAM ushers treat patrons.

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  29. Overall ,I enjoyed being immersed in the spirit of Dance Africa ;however,I felt that the choreography fell short for the group from Madagascar.The focus seemed to have been on the singer rather than the dancers.The latter were not given the opportunity for fuller cultural expression.Their energy was restrained by the choreography.Yet,I remain supportive and look forward to next year's event.

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  30. It was truly "Exciting". My grand daughters loved it.

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  31. The show did not meet expections. The group from Buffalo was mediocre and those talented dancers from Restoration should have performed, most of the audience expects to see them. The seats are small and not enough leg room for someone 5ft tall, so imagine the dilemma for taller people. The guest performers are from a Island off of Africa, have some African influence but more Indonesian and Hispanic. To some of the comments above, THE ANCESTORS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED, WE STAND ON THEIR SHOULDERS AND THEY HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH DANCE AFRICA SOME OF THEM FROM THE INCEPTION.

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  32. We came to see the performers from Restoration not some group from Buffalo. Restoration always burns the stage. Show was dry and boring.

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  33. That band on Sunday, May 18, 2014 was horrible. The woman swinging and shaking her buttocks at the audience repeatedly was inappropriate and not for a Dance Africa show, may the booty club but not Dance Africa, then she stood and gestured to the audience with a attitude that they should applaud her. They were on the stage way to long. Bad choice and inappropriate for Dance Africa. Yes, the some of the ushers and staff are rude and disrespectful and treat people of color as if they cant stand to deal with "black folk" the days that "black folk" are at BAM. Due to the respect for African Cultural, tickets should be sold with a clause, if you are more than X amount of minutes late, policy is no admission until intermission.

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