The College at Brockport Department of Dance will present the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. on April 26-28 and 2 p.m. on April 29 in the Hartwell Dance Theater at Hartwell Hall on Kenyon Street in Brockport.
This year, the Sankofa concerts will honor the legacy of the late Chuck Davis in a program titled “Ni iranti ologbe baba wa Chuck Davis,” or “In memory of our father, Chuck Davis.” Davis, who died in May 2017, founded the DanceAfrica Festival over 40 years ago, as well as the African American Dance Ensemble based in Durham, North Carolina.
The commemoration was the brainchild of Jenise Akilah Anthony, who joined the department as an assistant professor and artistic director of Sankofa this year.
“The word ‘Sankofa,’ loosely translated, means that you cannot go forward without looking back,” Anthony said. “None of us would be able to go forward in the world of African dance, had it not been for Chuck Davis’ contributions.”
Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem serves as Sankofa’s musical director and master drummer. Two guest artists created works for this year’s performances.
Jean Claude Lessou, a native of Ivory Coast, West Africa, teaches African dance in Austin, Texas. Lessou visited the campus several times to give workshops, teach classes and audition students on whom he could set a piece for these concerts. “Ivory Coast” is a dance suite comprised of six sections that vary among harvest dances, contemporary African dances and dances that “offer respect to royalty or persons of importance … people like Baba Chuck Davis,” according to Anthony.
“Guinea Dance Suite” by Cassandra Hines has three sections accompanied by live music: Tiriba, a celebratory rhythm played after the initiation of girls into the Landuma ethnic group; Mendiani, a dance recreating a female rite of passage from the Malinke ethnic group; and Balanta, a dance of resistance from the Balanta people in Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Gambia. Hines is the founder and artistic director of the West African-based Bahdae Dance Co. in Dallas.
The finale for the concert, “Sinte,” is the way Davis would close out many of the DanceAfrica/Dallas presentations. In Brockport, Anthony will debut a piece with new choreography that is her tribute to Davis.
The Sankofa concerts often sell out before the first performance. Unsold tickets will be available at Hartwell Box Office one hour before each performance.
Tickets cost $17 for general admission; $12 for senior citizens, Brockport alumni, faculty and staff; and $9 for students. Call (585) 395-2787, visit bit.ly/2gT4BTp or stop by Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office, 180 Holley St., Brockport, for information.