As you drive or walk down 8th St NE you’re instantly drawn to the sound of music from the four corners of the African continent richly rooted there and blossoming on the block of Dance Place’s theater. A long strip of tents hold irresistible items for sale capturing your attention, delicious food trucks with savory bites and a mass of loving people enjoying the reunion of the returning festival.
It’s truly magical to watch a person get pulled into a moment of gazing at a simple trinket or fabric that inspires them– awakening an African sensibility or story waiting to be told. A family affair, there at the festival little ones are dressed in their African attire toddling around freely taken into the atmosphere of family and fun. As it is in Africa, their parents don’t need to be nearby because everyone looks out for each other, a whole tribe of people that know you by name or by face can equally show you love, correct you and keep you safe.
On Sunday, June 2nd, the festival celebrated 32 years of presence within the African Dance Community at Dance Place.
As a first timer, I got a taste of it all: the stage, the community, the education and the fun.
Griot Mama Sylvia Soumah of Coyaba Dance Theater, who addresses the crowd in a beautiful adornment of African design, color, sequin and beads with her long braid hair down, welcomes the audience to be free, have fun and dance along with the performers onstage. The performances ceremoniously commence with the remembrance ritual in a gesture that honors that Ancestors. It is custom to acknowledge those who came before us by pouring a libation, through intergenerational teaching on how to carry on such traditions that are sewn into the fabric of African culture today. A Libation pour is performed while calling out the names of Elders, Loved One’s, Teachers, Family Members and Friend who have passed on– having left this earth and bequeathed the traditions that remain apart of the African make-up today.
Midday performances, led by Mama Sylvia Soumah includes outstanding African dance companies, masterclass series, free outdoor performances and activities, and its signature African Marketplace featuring: local vendors, a gallery of some of Africa’s texture, color and uniquely pattern jewelry, clothing, handbags, accessories and more. DanceAfrica DC is known to inspire, invigorate, educate, and entertain and on that day…..it did.