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DanceAfrica: DBDT celebrates 40 years with cultural performances

DENISHA MCKNIGHT | 11/13/2016, 7:34 p.m.
“Ashe. Ashe,” yelled the DanceAfrica Festival audience members.
Dr. "Baba" Chuck Davis, DanceAfrica founder, opens the show with a traditional performance focusing on peace, love and respect, Oct. 8. Niesha Lanae Graves

The Dallas Examiner

“Ashe. Ashe,” yelled the DanceAfrica Festival audience members.

Ashe is a Yoruba affirmation in which the creative power conceived by an artist makes something happen and produces change. This known Nigerian philosophical concept roared throughout Dallas City Performance Hall and subsequently set the stage for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s 40th anniversary celebration and 10th annual DanceAfrica evening performances on Oct. 8.

In the show’s traditional style, Charles “Chuck” Davis, founder of DanceAfrica, opened the festival performances up with three core values: Peace. Love. Respect for everybody. After instilling those values in the minds of audience members, DBDT’s Council of Elders took over the stage as they performed a memorial service for their ancestors.

As smoke and the sounds of African shakers covered the stage, one of the head elders sat on her throne with candles circled around her. Her voice carried throughout the venue as she shouted the names of her ancestors accompanied by the voices of audience members calling out the names of their own loved ones.

The ancestral homage was followed by a series of performances by various local dance groups such as the Dallas Black Dance Academy Ensembles, Booker T. Washington High School dance ensemble, DBDT: Encore!, and Forces of Nature.

The Booker T. Washington World Dance Ensemble kicked off the event in African Traditions Revealed/ Shared. The young ladies showcased great stamina and personality with each movement as they displayed traditional African-style dancing in a series of duet and quartet dance combos.

The show never kept the audience stuck in one particular mood. The music and performances fluctuated between slow and upbeat tempos, such as the jazzy performance from the DBDA junior ensemble in See the Rhythm ... Hear the Movement and the upbeat drum sounds from the World Dance group’s performance.

In the first half of the show, the dancers proved to be the greatest highlights of the show, not just due to their mixture of dance styles such as Capoeira and traditional African dancing, but also for their energy and determination.

During one of the performances, a teenaged dancer from the DBDA senior ensemble experienced a wardrobe malfunction in which her head wrap partially covered her eyes throughout most of her performance. The teen displayed persistence and strength as she still managed to perform with vitality and in sync with her other dance mates.

After intermission, the final half of the show began with a show-stopping theatrical performance from international dance group Force of Nature Dance Theatre Company in Terrestrial Wombs.

The performance was artistic and angelic yet powerful in its approach and interpretation of manifestation and creation of human life. Its water theme and portrayal of mythical legends and birth made it very captivating and possibly the performance of the night.

The story expressed great sensuality and essences of power and godliness within women, ending with the birth and evolution of man and woman into the world.

The highlight of the entire performance had to be the dance captain Daaimah Taalib-Din’s performance as she embodied Eahmuni (Moon Sea Waters) through her water goddess character. Taalib-Din took great control of the stage and managed to perform the set with no intermissions or appearances of losing breath with her rapid-fire dance movements and grace.

As the performances came to a close, Davis ended the show with an impactful poem, stating, “What should my soul sing when the drum stops?” followed by an incredible grand finale performance from all the dancers.

The audience members gave the entertainers a standing ovation before shouting out “Peace. Love. Respect for Everybody. Ashe.”

This year’s festival was nothing short of amazing and magical.