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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Context: DanceAfrica 2015

America’s largest festival of African dance returns to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and beyond this weekend from May 22–25. 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 attended an event, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below and by posting on social media using #DanceAfrica. Ago? Amée!!

Program Notes

DanceAfrica 2015 (PDF)

Related Events

FilmAfrica (May 22–25)

DanceAfrica 2015 Bazaar (May 23–25)

JUMP N FUNK with Rich Medina and The Marksmen (Sat, May 23 at 10 PM)


DanceAfrica Spotlight: Balé Folclórico da Bahia (BAM blog)
Founded in 1988, Brazil's only professional folk dance company performs a unique blend of dance theater drawing from Bahian folkloric traditions, including Carnival celebrations, samba, capoiera, and slave dances.

1977: The Origins of DanceAfrica (BAM blog)
Learn more about the genesis of this remarkable 38-year-old tradition.

Young members of the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble share fond DanceAfrica memories and sound advice for future generations of artists.

Relive highlights from last year's festival with a fabulous collection of fashions and faces snapped by some of our favorite Instagrammers.

Transition in Leadership for BAM’s DanceAfrica (The New York Times)
DanceAfrica's beloved Artistic Director Baba Chuck Davis steps down in 2016. He will be succeeded by Abdel R. Salaam.

A Burst of Brazilian Energy (Washington Post)
"Balé Folclórico da Bahia...performed with a level of energy, enthusiasm and abandon not often seen in North American dance, folk or otherwise."

Look & Listen

DanceAfrica 2015 (Spotify)
A carefully curated selection of Afro-Brazilian beats to get your blood pumping and your booty shaking.

Balé Folclórico da Bahia (YouTube)
This year’s featured DanceAfrica company performs in Itabuna, Bahia, in 2013.

Dança dos Orixas (YouTube)
Another fantastic performance from Balé Folclórico da Bahia in Aneho, Togo, from 2014.

Essential Knowledge

"Ago?" "Amée!!" If you've ever attended a DanceAfrica performance, you've definitely heard that call-and-response echo through the room. The words come from Ghana, and they mean "Can I have your attention?" and "You have my attention," respectively. So when Artistic Director Baba Chuck Davis bellows his booming "Ago?" at the crowd this weekend, be sure to holler back and let him know you're listening.

Now your turn...

Which event(s) did you attend? How did you enjoy yourself? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #DanceAfrica.


  1. I had enjoyed past danceafricas with subtle references to idolatry. This performance was vile at best and sought to desensitize the audience from demon and satanic worship performed under the guise of arts and yoruba religion. Jesus is still the Lord of lords!

  2. The performance was on Brazilian folklore--I would take this artistry with a grain of salt and not interpret it as an attempt to relay subtle messages to the audience. It was a great performance by both the BAM/Restoration ensemble and Bale Folclorico da Bahia with amazing energy and spirit!

  3. We greatly enjoyed the show on the evening of May 23rd. The show was very energetic and enthralling from beginning to end. All the dancers are very talented, athletic, and dynamic. I also enjoyed seeing the young children dancing. My only 'negative opinions' are (1) I wish I knew what the singers were singing; perhaps the backdrop could display the words in English. I believe understanding the lyrics would enhance the audience’s ability to follow the storyline; and (2) I understand the 'artistic intent' however I wished the topless ladies at least wore 'nipple covers or nipple ornaments'. Bravo overall!

  4. Attended May 23 evening show. Very enjoyable, very colorful, very energetic. A narrative would have aided understanding of the Brazillian troupe's performance. Breasts are a normal part of human anatomy and were not sexualized or inappropriately portrayed. Costuming was entirely appropriate and wonderful. Fantastic acrobatics by Brazillian troupe.

  5. I have attended Dance Africa every year since it started in 1977. I am NOT new to African culture or African dance. I'm providing this personal context for my commentary. The first part of the show before the intermission was an excellent representation of traditional dance, music, choreography, and artistry from some of the cultures in West Africa. Everyone from the dancers to the drummers, were outstanding. They kept the best of the Dance Africa tradition here in NYC alive and should be commended for their efforts and expertise. The second part of the show was a HORRIBLE embarrassment of how to bastardize African spritual tradition and dance culture. The nudity was totally unnecessary and repulsive. The whole show was amateuristic, indecent, did NOT represent ANYTHING done in West Africaa and demonstrated the monumental ignorance not only of the performers but of Abdel Salaam the program Director. BAM should either replace Mr Salaam with another African American or African dance artist or discontinue Dance Africa now that Chuck Davis has retired

  6. UPDATE: The current Dance Africa show was conceived and directed by Chuck Davis. My apology to Mr Salaam. Question: Chuck as your final show you couldn't find anything better than that ridiculous group from Brazil who disrespected their own culture and by extension African traditional and dance culture. You should be ashamed of yourself, but probably aren't. Mr Salaam, PLEASE DON'T follow in Chuck's footsteps.

  7. I have been attending Dance Africa for over twenty years and I have not been disappointed .. until now. I enjoyed the first half of the show, however the second half left me feeling like I had just fallen into a deep pit. I tried to follow the story line but the essence of the dances was lost in my inability to translate the meanings with the movements. The energy that Chuck Davis brought to the many shows seemed to be put on hold until next year. I wish him well and a better future for Dance Africa.

  8. I attended. The may 24th show..i had such a wonderful time I miss Chuck Davis this year his energy was missed...second half of the show I couldn't quite follow the story but otherwise it was a great show

  9. I attended Sunday''s performance and appreciated and enjoyed the tributes to the ancestors. The genertational intergration of the young Restoration Dancers and the elders was magnificient. The drummers were amazing and kudos to all of the dancers and their breathtaking performances.

  10. Yes the 1st half was jumping! I was prepared for partial top nudity as this group was from Brazil and it did not bother me. The audience however was quite rude, talking through performance, leaving and returning while performance is in progress, eating in the theatre. I am still unsure as to why BAM let's the audience enter while the concert is happening at ANY TIME in the program?!

  11. I would like to comment on this weekend performances at BAM. Both the 1st Act(Restoration Dance Africa Ensemble) and 2nd(Bale' Folclorico Da Bahia) were special in their own right. The people who criticize, were not able to appreciate the "true art" displayed in the 2nd Act. For those that didn't understand, the programs summarized each dance. Now to destroy the 2nd Act because under artistic direction women were showing their breasts... is Absurd! In fact their performance was exciting and energetic! That is to say all the other artists on stage(singers, drummers, solo act with the stringed instrument, and the male dancers did not do a good job... while instead, they all did an excellent job! The 2nd act started slow, finished strong! It took courage to travel to the USA and perform in front of an audience with different cultures and views. Bale' Folclorico Da Bahia brought their culture to this performance. If you missed it, you missed something special. In fact, you probably have to fly to Brazil to see it ! :-) To put it on stage is Brilliant ! I loved both performances. True, they were different but were equally important. Kudos to Baba Chuck Davis and his staff ! We will miss you Chuck but will never forget what you have done for Brooklyn over the years. Peace Love, and Blessings for the Future.

  12. This is the fourth year that my teenage granddaughter and I have attended Dance Africa. We attended Sunday's performance and although the young children did an outstanding job, the segment was much too long and also did not understand why there were men break-dancing when there could have been a better way to represent Brazilian culture. The previous shows were also more diversified which held our interest but midway through this show we were getting bored. I understand that partial nudity is part of art, but there should have been some type of rating included in the brochure to alert adults who wanted to bring children but may not have wanted them exposed to nudity so early. I also missed Baba Chuck as emcee and wish him well. I hope next year's Dance Africa will be like the previous years.

    1. No one was breakdancing, it is Capoeira, which Brazil is known for. After all there is nothing wrong with breakdancing. We too enjoyed the little children. It was noted online that there would be nudity.

    2. No one was breakdancing, it is Capoeira, which Brazil is known for. After all there is nothing wrong with breakdancing. We too enjoyed the little children. It was noted online that there would be nudity.

  13. I attended DanceAfrica on the last performance on Monday. I was excited to hear Baba Chuck's voice on the loudspeaker as I was aware he had not attended the previous performance because of illness. The first half was the usual super-charged energetic performance that typifies DanceAfrica. The Afro-Brazilian troupe in the second half presented a challenge in the unfamiliarity with the concepts and language. I did keep sneaking a peek at the program to 'get' where we were. Also to American audiences (myself included) the action moved very slowly so I found myself getting sleepy. It picked up though, and the acrobatic, ensemble dancing and choreography were unusual and a special treat; I came especially because of this opportunity to view Brazilian (Bahian) folkloric culture. I enjoyed the featured musicians and the samba music. The female nudity did not offend me and I think the posters here need to get over it or expose themselves to a wider world...I enjoyed the tribute to Baba Chuck, but I was disappointed that the video did not work, and I'm looking forward to an opportunity to see it ...YouTube? Overall DanceAfrica is still exciting and foot-tapping! Congratulations to the new director, Abdel Saliim. Baba Chuck, we love and will miss you!

  14. It was our second year attending. We enjoyed every bit of it, especially the children dancing, the samba dancing, and my three sons really enjoyed the capoeira. Brazil is one country on our list to visit besides Nigeria. It is now a family tradition to go to Dance Africa yearly.

  15. It was our second year attending. We enjoyed every bit of it, especially the children dancing, the samba dancing, and my three sons really enjoyed the capoeira. Brazil is one country on our list to visit besides Nigeria. It is now a family tradition to go to Dance Africa yearly.

  16. I loved the show. I went to all four shows. Friday's show, May 21st, was the best. The first group was good; I liked the stilt walker. I love the Bale Folclorico da Bahia. I've seem them perform 15 times and the dancing is always excellence and fresh. The first time I saw them opened my eyes to Bahian culture and has made me open minded about other cultures.

    I was not offended by topless dancers; it looked natural not vulgar. I wished that they performed maculele, martial arts danced with two swords or axes. The dancer who danced Ogum, god of war was very good. Those who walked out during the performance of the Bale Folclorico missed the aftershow when the audience followed the dancers,musicians and singers outside. We danced a lot. Well done Bahia; I will see you again when I go back to Bahia, Brazil.

    I hope Dance Africa will invite a dance troupe from Haiti or Trinidad to introduce those cultures to New York.