Echoes of Africa

Nia Sorsonet.

Year: 2023-2024
DanceForce Member: D. Chase Angier
Artists: Jenise Anthony, Mohamed Diaby
Community Partner: Alfred University
Audience: 250
County: Allegany

Echoes of Africa is a collective of artists – dancers, choreographers, musicians – that bring arts within the African Diaspora to audiences in New York State and beyond. “Wonlande,” an evening of traditional and contemporary African drum and dance, was presented at the Miller Performing Arts Center on September 16th, 2023. This high energy, dynamic and musically enriching communal event took the audience on a cultural tour through the countries of the Caribbean and West Africa. The audience experienced songs, dances, rhythms and live percussion as they celebrated the life and culture of the African Diaspora.

Echoes of Africa was built on a relationship between artists Jenise Akilah Anthony and Mohamed Diaby, and the Allegany community over the last 5 years. Anthony and Diaby have been bringing the drumming and dancing of Africa/African Diaspora to the area of Western New York through classes and performances, and set an original work on Alfred University students. All performances have been free and open to the public.

Many elements supported this residency, including a weekly African dance class currently taught at Alfred University by Anthony and Diaby, in addition to their previous classes, performances and residencies over the past five years.

We sought a performance that would appeal to audiences of all ages – babies to senior audience members. That goal was met. We worked intentionally with the Education Department at Alfred University to reach out to all of the K-12 schools and studios in our area. This was a new partnership. We continued with our mission to bring artists from around the world to our region. Our community was exposed to the many countries represented by the performers and the art works in this collective. Wonlande was an uplifting opening to the Alfred University Miller Performing Arts season that serves a large area in Western New York.

Quotes from Community:
“The pieces are so moving to me and this was one of the first dance concerts I have watched that solely made me joyful. It was nice to experience something different than what Iโ€™m used to.”

“While watching the performance, I felt a community of culture and support. The more I allowed my ears to hear, the more the sound became familiar in the sense of my ears appreciating the different beats. I could feel the music moving through my body and feeling the music. The visual aspect of working together was eye-pleasing and visually attractive how the dancers connected.”

Quote from Colleen Wahl – AU Dance Faculty
“Pulling together Wonlande was a wonderful whirlwind. The one-day tech was exactly the metaphor for this show: the energy built quickly into a dynamic and fast-paced event, attended by 220+ audience members, that blasted the vibes of goodwill to those who witnessed it and ended with a send-off of vitality and total kinesthetic joy.”

Inspiring performances by incredible artists, joy, and exposure to other cultures are three themes that have repeatedly come up during the creative process, performance, and reflections.