By Chinwe Onuoha
The Department of African American and African Studies at Rutgers University in Newark hosted a concert of West African dance and music at the Bradley Hall Theatre in spirit of Black History Month.
Several dancers from the Umoja and Usaama dance companies captured the audience with their traditional and contemporary West African dance routines, their vibrant costumes, and the upbeat drum beats that played in the background.
“I hope that the audience will feel the passion that our dancers showed tonight and that they appreciate the West African culture,” said Karen L. Love, the Artistic Director of Umoja Dance Company.
Love has been the Artistic Director of the Umoja Dance Company since 1993 and she has obtained the same position for the junior division of the dance company (Usaama Dance Company) since 1995.
According to the company’s site, their mission is to “educate, preserve, and present dance as a communal and spiritual expression of life.”
The company also “creates a nurturing environment that encourages cross cultural exchange and celebrates their accessibility to the human spirit.”
Several members of the Umoja Dance Company agree, including the Assistant Directors of the Usaama Dance Company.
“In addition to the sisterhood that we all share, we’re able to provide something special for the audience,” said 24-year-old Titilayo Derricotte.
“I really love how family oriented we are.”
All of the dancers were full of life during the concert. They looked jovial during every dance performance and the dedication that they exuded lit up the room and the audience’s hearts.
“I most enjoyed seeing so many children there, both participating in the dances and in the audience,” said 21-year-old Rutgers-Newark student, Selorm Quist.
“I think it’s great to have kids in the U.S., particularly kids of the African diaspora, exposed to the arts and to the diversity of African culture at an early age. That was really heartwarming for me,” Quist said.
Quist, who is also a Sociology major, was not the only student at Rutgers-Newark who felt the same way about the event.
“I would love to see more events like that on campus. I really wish more people came out to see how amazingly talented that group was,” said 21-year-old Chemistry major, Faith Njoku.
The event was also co-sponsored by the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience and the Federated Department of History.