Dance Africa’s Annual Festival to Honor ‘Baba’ Chuck Davis

Dance Africa celebrates 30 years with its annual festival in D.C. (Courtesy photo)
Dance Africa celebrates 30 years with its annual festival in D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Dance Africa D.C. is holding its 30th annual celebration of African heritage this week with a festival in Northeast infused with African drums and dance, as well as the principles of unity.

Hosted by Dance Place, this year’s weeklong celebration will also pay homage to “Baba” Chuck Davis, the late pioneer of African dance who founded the Dance Africa ensemble.

Mama Sylvia Soumah, a Dance Africa teacher, participant for over 33 years and former student of Baba Chuck, will assume the role of griot this year, in honor of her instructor, elaborating on his legacy and the joys of the festival.

“The drums, the spirit of the festival, the heritage, it’s all going to be very uplifting,” Soumah said. “The festival is going to be phenomenal and it’s going to be such a good sendoff to Baba Chuck. Every year Baba Chuck would serve as the griot with this bigger than life personality. He was tough, but a good dude and so it was such an honor for him to pass the torch as griot down to me.”

Participants can look forward to the African Marketplace, a large venue filled with vendors from all over the world selling items such as rare African artifacts, jewelry, clothing and specialty foods. and local dance performances inside and on the streets.

The event runs from May 30 to June 4, with daily events including master African Dance classes, free outdoor activities and a storytelling session by Mama Sylvia.

“If you like rap, if you like Jazz, if you like music, then you’re definitely going to like African music,” Soumah said. “African drumming and dance was the first organized music form since the beginning of time. Everybody copied Africa, so you don’t have to be from Africa to connect and have a good time.”

Additional companies that will be participating in the events include Soul in Motion, Coyaba Dance Theater, Dance Place Step Team, KanKouran West African Dance Co., Sankofa Dance Theater, Ezibu Muntu and Farafina Kan.

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Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.