African Masters Conference

Yousouf Koumbassa
Yousouf Koumbassa

Year: 2011-2012
DanceForce Member: Elena Mosley
Artists: Donna Barrett, Yousouf Koumbassa, Aszmara Sherry, Manque Sylla
Community Partners: Columbia County Department of Tourism; Hudson Opera House; Taconic Hills High School
Audience: 2,160
County: Columbia

Kuumba Dance and Drum presented a 3 day African Masters Residency Program, examining the contemporary expression of today’s African artists, African American artists and other artists considered outside the African diaspora, with related dance and music styles. The conference presented patrons with a variety of choices, with both direct and indirect African influences, connecting traditional and contemporary expression.

The conference opened on October 8, with playwright/photographer Thalia Cunningham’s African photo exhibit, seen by over 900 people through October 30th, 2011 at the Hudson Opera House. Workshops were taught by extraordinary music and dance artists: Youssouf Koumbassa, former artist of Ballet Djoliba, the National Ballet of Guinea; Manque Sylla; the Kon Koura Dance Company Guinea, Harambe Dance Company, Aszmara representing the Middle East and Sonal Bhatt with traditional dance from India. Theater Motus from Montréal performed a “Baobab”, a West African fairytale incorporating dance, music, and puppetry for 730 students and faculty and a community evening performance at Taconic Hills School District. Len Cabral shared African Americans stories immediately after, dances of the Congo workshop with Diata Diata. It was an interesting process to watch people entranced by Diata Diata drumming and beauty of the dance participants, then the shift to a younger set settling in for the storyteller. Aszmara Sherry’s workshop was stopped only because she needed a break for her performance; dancers immediately asked for her to return. AMC Concert I was very exciting with Aszmara and Kon Koura Guinea. This AMC energy carried over to the outdoor AMC Concert II with Harambee Dance Company along the beautiful Hudson River. Hudson Opera House, one of our partners, held a weekend of activities on and around a floating Barge and AMC Concert II was a huge part of the event. On October 22nd, Sonal Bhatt’s Indian dance workshop drew a surprisingly family audience and most attending Kuumba events for the first time. The Highlight of AM Concert III was the visual and auditory connection of African music and dance with Sonal Bhatt, Wild Roses Belly Dance Troupe, Kuumba and Middle Eastern dancer Lila. The audience was engaged and participated in each aspect of the concert. This was a unique experience for both audience members and artists.