Sankofa: A Year of Celebration and Remembrance

Dance - Sankofa - 2015

By Daniel Reichert

This year, Sankofa will be a special celebration commemorating the life and work of Clyde Alafiju Morgan, who will be retiring this year, and Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem.  Many guest choreographers have come to Brockport to set work on the members of Sankofa, including Molly Christie González, Michelle Whitt and Kelly Johnson, who are all former members of Sankofa and Brockport Alumni.  Also coming in as guest choreographers are Sherone Price and Yesutor Kotoka.  There will be performances choreographed by Marcia Vanderlee, Eliana Slurzberg, Dr. Juanita Suarez, Khalid Saleem, Caitlin Mahon and of course, the show will finish with the Ijexa choreographed by Clyde Morgan.

With so many guest artists and returning alumni, the show has a very different feel from years past.  There will be several traditional African pieces, along with contemporary African influenced dances, a drummer’s piece, and numbers celebrating Sankofa’s rich tradition of inclusion.

Michelle Whitt, a Sankofa alum since 1992, choreographed a Guinean celebratory dance titled “Mendiani Kuku.”  Mendiani is an initiation dance where young girls compete to be the menjani, or best dancer in the village, which was combined with Kuku—a celebration dance which fit the theme of this year’s Sankofa show.

Kelly Johnson is resetting a dance, “Dig, Sift and Bury” which was originally performed at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  This piece was created to teach young dancers about the roots of the things they see and hear in hip hop by setting a traditional West African and Jamaican movement vocabulary to music put together by a contemporary  hip-hop DJ.  The dance feels cyclical and speaks of digging up roots and sifting new things, burying your contribution for someone else to reap later, referring again to the theme of Sankofa.

Yesutor Kotoka, created the piece “Aza-Fafa,” meaning Festival of Peace.  It celebrates the power of the drum and is dedicated to the world we live in.  It speaks of the troubles of Africa, both past and present and acts as a prayer for peace.

These celebrations of movement and music, along with many more will be shown this Thursday through Sunday at The College at Brockport in Hartwell Theatre. This year is a celebration and a remembrance—there will be people coming from across the globe to be with us this week.  Get your tickets early, as Sankofa may sell out!


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