Kusika and the Zambezi Marimba Band

Kusika, the Zambezi Marimba Band, & Sankofa

Passport – Dept Ensemble OR ’62 Dept. of Dance – your call!

Sandra L. Burton and Ernest D. Brown, directors

[WILLIAMSTOWN, MA, November 13th, 2009] – Williams College dance ensembles Kuskia (traditional African dance and percussion), Sankofa (Step), and the Zambezi Marimba Band join forces for a two-part concert series. For the fall production, the ensembles will perform a new work titled In the Spirit, celebrating the impact of African popular music, dance and storytelling in the lives of people world-wide. It is a spirit that endures hard times and celebrates the memory of loss as well as victory. Zambezi will remember music legends Fela Kuti and Michael Jackson and play the songs of contemporary marimba master Alport Mhlanga. In the Spirit is also a tribute by Sankofa and Kusika to New Orleans, the Crescent City through step, spoken word, African dance and percussion.

The performance will be November 20th at 8:00 PM and November 21st at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM on the ’62 Center MainStage, located at 1000 Main Street, in Williamstown, MA. Tickets are $3, free for children 10 years old or younger.

The Saturday performance is a family matinee – no “shushing” allowed.

Sankofa, Kusika, and Zambezi will develop these themes for presentation in second of the series on April 9th & 10th (Kusika and Zambezi) and April 23rd & 24th (Sankofa).

The Williams College Dance Program was founded in the 1970s, when women began attending the college. Joy Anne Dewey, the program’s first coordinator, established the program in the old second floor basketball court of the Lasell Gymnasium. In the tiny studio that was connected to the basketball courts, Ms. Dewey offered Williams students and community members a rich variety of experiences in dance.  Joy Anne Dewey founded the Williams College Dance Society and sponsored concerts and residencies featuring artists such as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Meredith Monk.

The Dance Society evolved into The Williams Dance Company, a group which primarily focused on modern dance. It is the oldest of the five performance ensembles  in the Dance Department. Students study modern and ballet technique as well as improvisation. Nurturing  choreography is central to work faculty and guest artists do with company members. Dance Company is directed by Erica Dankmeyer’91 and Janine Parker is the Ballet Mistress.

In 1989, Kusika: African Dance, Music & Storytelling Ensemble was founded by faculty Ernest Brown, Sandra Burton, and Gary Sojkowski in collaboration with the Music Department. Kusika continues to learn techniques from the African continent as well as the Diaspora and uses them to create new music and dance. This company is directed  by Sandra Burton and Bashir Shakur.

Ernest Brown, an ethnomusicologist, founded the Zambezi Marimba Band in 1992 to explore Zimbabwean and Ghanaian music especially  marimba, gyil and mbira playing techniques and compositions. Zambezi and Kusika often share residencies with guest artists and perform together every semester.

Sankofa, the Williams College Step Team, was founded in 1996 by five freshmen, Melina Evans’00, Mya Fisher’00, Dahra Jackson `00, Maxine Lyle’00 and Samantha Reed ’00. This companies work is rooted in the style of percussive dance developed on African American college campuses during the last century. An elected board of peers continues to shape the artistic voice of this company. In 2000, we welcomed Sankofa into the Dance Progam.

This year the Program became a department, beginning a new chapter in its history at Williams. The department’s purpose is to educate students in the physical disciplines, cultural traditions and expressive possibilities of dance. The department continues to annually present professional artists residencies, concerts, master classes and field trips in an effort to bring students and other community members together for unique cultural experiences. Our students perform throughout the academic year and maintain outreach that connects the department to the community.