Get on your feet
Racines Black Dance Festival brings African Dance to the forefront
For the second consecutive year, the Racines Black Dance Festival will bring African dance to the forefront in Boston. Founded by local artists Marianne Harkless Diabate, Baindu Conte-Coomber and Mckersin Previlus, the festival, which runs Oct. 19-21, provides workshops and performances illustrating how different traditional African dances have affected contemporary culture.
Diabate says, “What makes it different from other festivals is that it ties these different cultures and styles together and educates about the connections between them. We have more in common than we think.”
The festival will open with a performance Oct. 19 on the Roxbury Community College mainstage. Previlus says the performance comes first this year so that audience members can identify which areas of dance interest them and then take the appropriate workshops over the rest of the weekend. Workshops are held October 20-21 at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Classes require no experience, and focus on fun and community-building as much as dance. “Anyone can come to these classes and start dancing right away,” says Diabate.
This year, several new local and national dance specialists will join the festival. Junious “House” Brickhouse, a dedicated scholar of the Piedmont Blues music and dance style, will teach a workshop on the history and culture of the dance genre. Yesenia Fernandez-Selier will teach a high-energy Cuban rumba class, exploring how movements from rumba also appear in salsa, mambo, timba, reggaeton, hip-hop and other styles.
Akili Jamal Haynes, who will be performing in an Afro-Brazilian workshop based in Orisha dance, says, “In terms of empowering the community, coming together and sharing ideas is important, especially with all the negative images of black life going around right now.”
Ticket options include the Friday night performance only at $25 ($10 for children, $20 for seniors). Workshop tickets are sold per number of workshops, ranging from one workshop at $18 to all-inclusive workshops plus performance tickets for $160. There are also options for five workshops and 10 workshops. Diabate says they are also working on scholarship tickets for attendees with special circumstances. As the festival continues to grow, with the help of volunteers and community donations, Diabate and Previlus hope it can become a full week for maximum dance education.
Though this is only the second year of the festival, clearly it fills a void in Boston’s art scene. “Calling it ‘Black Dance Festival’ in Boston was a bold move,” says Previlus. “Seeing all the different people come through the door was amazing.”