Dancers from Guinea to Headline African Dance Festival in Tallahassee, FL
By Mark Hinson • DEMOCRAT SENIOR WRITER • June 11, 2010
In 1958, the Republic of Guinea gained independence from the French. To celebrate, a troupe of Guinea dancers left West Africa to present a string of celebratory concerts in America and around the globe.
Suddenly, African dance was cool and hip everywhere they stopped.
“When most people think of African dance, what they’re probably thinking about is dance from Guinea,” dancer and choreographer Marcus Robinson said. “They were the first to get here and really introduce it to American audiences.”
“The Guinean style is the most saturated in this country,” added dance advocate Jevelle Robinson, who co-founded Tallahassee’s non-profit African Caribbean Dance Theatre Inc. (ACDT) along with husband Marcus.
Guinea will take center stage this weekend when the 13th Annual Florida African Dance Festival returns to the city for a weekend of workshops, classes, heart-health screenings, children’s activities and an African-themed marketplace.
The festival’s grand finale concert — featuring dancers and musicians from around the world — will raise the roof and the temperature on Saturday night at the Leon High School Performing Arts Theater.
In the past, the ACDT-sponsored festival has put the spotlight on countries such as the Congo and Senegal, but this year’s focus is squarely on Guinea.
“Guinea is popular because of the energy you get from the drums and the dance,” Marcus said. “It’s very energetic. There’s lots of variety. It’s just the resonance of the drums. It’s hot and spicy.”
This year’s visiting drummers include Laurent Camara, Mangue Sylla, Fode’ Camara, Ismael Bangoura and Mory Fofana.
“In Guinea, it’s all about the conversation with the drums,” Marcus said. “When they’re playing, there’s something different going on. And it’s different from any other style in Africa.”
“The dancers are always listening to that conversation,” Jevelle said. “When it’s on, you know it. And if it goes off, you know that, too. The dancers follow the drums. If they drums are hot, the dance is hot.”