Dimensions Dance Theater presents
Celebration at 40
in association with YBCA
Sat, Oct 5, 8 PM
General: $25 in Advance / $30 at the Door
“Celebration at 40 affirms Dimensions’ vital legacy as one of the most long-lived and fruitful products of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s,” says Deborah Vaughan, founder of Dimensions Dance Theater. “We look forward to our next phase of artistic creativity and activism.”
Over the course of its rich history, Dimensions Dance Theater has premiered more than 50 evening-length works, many created by company co-founder and artistic director Deborah Vaughan, and others by distinguished guest choreographers. For its 40th anniversary celebration Dimensions Dance Theater will showcase some of the range of its production including excerpts from My People (1973), choreographed by co-founder Elendar Barnes; Yesterday/ Yesternow (1983), choreographed by Garth Fagan; Isicathulo and Amatshe/(Can and Boot) (1988), choreographed by Dingani Lelokoane; Resilience (2000); a collaboration, Between Shores, with Omar Sosa, Zimbabwean mbira artist Stella Chiweshe, and Cuban choreographer Isais Rojas; Spirits Uplifted (2005), choreographed by Deborah Vaughan; a collaboration with Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir; Rooted In Ritual (2006), a collaboration with Haitian dance maker Peniel Guerrier; and Catalyst: One by One (2011), a multidisciplinary work featuring a commissioned score by the late composer and musician Khalil Shaheed.
The highlight of the evening’s celebration is devoted to the world premiere of all four parts of Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line. Rhythms of Life is one of the company’s most ambitious works to date, tracing the evolution of traditional Congolese dance forms from their birthplace onward to Brazil, the Caribbean, and finally New Orleans. Vaughan invited four dance makers with roots at various points along the Congolese diaspora to choreograph one section each: Hervé Makaya (Congo), Isaura Oliveira (Brazil), Jose “Cheo” Rojas (Cuba), and Latanya Tigner (New Orleans). Although portions of the work premiered in 2012, Dimensions Dance Theater’s 40th anniversary celebration is the first time all four sections will be performed together.
All told, Dimension’s 40th anniversary celebration will involve more than 30 artists—dancers, vocalists, and instrumentalists, including MJ’s Brass Boppers (Hurrican Katrina Survivors), Kiazi Malonga, and Brazilian, Cuban, and Congolese drum batteries. Members of the audience have an opportunity to participate in the program—whether by taking part in the opening processional, by making offerings at an altar modeled on sacred elements from the African diaspora, or by dancing at the program’s conclusion.
Dimensions Dance Theater (DDT) was founded in 1972 by Deborah B. Vaughan, MA, Elendar Barnes, MA, and Shirley Brown, MA, while attending Mills College. Under the artistic leadership of co-founder Deborah Vaughan for 40 years, Dimensions Dance Theater has become widely recognized for its collaborations and presentations of both traditional dances and contemporary choreography drawn from African, Jazz, and Modern dance idioms. DDT has garnered national and international acclaim, performing throughout the U.S. and traveling to perform in Nigeria, Jordan, Germany, Zimbabwe, The Congo (Brazzaville), and Cuba. DDT has advanced African American dance as an art form through a series of interdisciplinary collaborations with composers, musicians, and singers working in a wide variety of African and African American traditions with: Hugh Masekela, Stanley Jordan, Nikki Giovanni, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Street Sounds, Cab Calloway, Chanticleer, Omar Sosa, John Santos, Oakland InterFaith Gospel Choir, Linda Tlllery, Anthony Brown and Fifth Stream Productions, Khalil Shaheed, and The Mo’Rockin Project.
Deborah Vaughn (Artistic Director) is strongly committed to artistic collaboration, and has worked with an eclectic mix of internationally recognized performing and creative artists. Her contributions to dance and to the community have been commended by numerous commissions and awards. She has received choreography fellowships from NEA, Izzies awards, a Channel 7/KGO Jefferson Award for Community Leadership in The Arts and was inducted into the Womens’ Hall of Fame for Arts and Culture by Alameda Health Foundation. She has traveled and researched dance culture in West Africa, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Brazil, Trinidad and Congo-Brazzaville. She is dedicated to tracing connections among African Diaspora cultures and using dance as a medium for social transformation as well as community healing.
As a collective we began working with thirteen dancers from the company in June to develop the concepts and select the components of DDT’s repertoire. The 24-week rehearsal period will include the mounting of excerpts from repertoire, and experimentation with choreography to devise a cohesive structural format for the various works that Celebration will include. The amount of preparation, staging, and rehearsal time required to develop and shape these pieces is quite substantial; the result, though, will be an evening that showcases Dimensions’ best work, while pointing out the progression of its themes, styles, and artistic vision over time.
Isaura Oliveira is a dancer, actress, dance teacher, and choreographer. She holds a BFA in dance performance from the School of Dance of the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil, where she worked for 15 years as a performer, researcher, educator, and choreographer. Oliveira was born in Salvador-Bahia, the cradle of African Brazilian culture, where the African traditions and the arts are constantly maintained and nourished. She is the founder and artistic director of the Compania de Danca Negra da Bahia (Company of Black Dance of Bahia). She appeared in a PBS/BBC documentary, Dancing #5: New Worlds, New Forms (1993), representing Brazilian dance through her classes and interviews.
Latanya d. Tigner has been with Dimensions Dance Theater since 1986, studying and performing traditional West and South African, modern, contemporary, jazz, Haitian, Cuban, and Congolese dance. She has traveled to Cuba, Guinea, Brazil, Jordan, Germany, and throughout the U.S. Tigner was selected as one of three emerging artists for the first annual Black Choreographers Here and Now Festival in 2005. For summers she participated in Urban Bush Women’s acclaimed Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans, where she worked with dancers and other social activists to serve the New Orleans community. She also completed a residency with Shaka Zulu to study the traditions of mask dance in New Orleans.
Kiazi Malonga is one of the next generation’s most skilled and talented Ngoma players. With over 20 years of drum training and experience, his awesome skill and performance style has inspired many. His parents, Malonga Casquelourd and Jeanie Ishman, were instrumental in establishing the presence of Congolese culture in America. A graduate of Stanford University, Kiazi was formerly lead drummer of Ballet Kizingu Youth Ensemble and currently serves as musical director of Fua Dia Congo. He is featured on several Congolese percussion CDs, including Massengo and Life After.
MJ’s Brass Boppers is a New Orleans-style singing and swinging brass-line ready to second-line at the drop of a dime! They play to the tunes of traditional New Orleans melodies as well as modern songs put to a second-line feel. The band is directed by Michael “Humble Drummer” Jones, who has played with John B, Ras/Roots Raggae Band, and Right Now Funk. He is joined by Harold “Home Boy” Wilson, his uncle, who is a grand marshal from Treme. Harold Wilson has played with many major bands in New Orleans including Rebirth Brass Band. They both honor the call of Big Chief, Ray Blazio of The Wild Apache Indians, as well as their musical family based in New Orleans. Together they have formed the MJ’s Brass Boppers which performs every first Friday at Disco Volante in Oakland. Visit MJ’s Brass Boppers on facebook, facebook.com/mjsbrassboppers. Their new CD is Roarin N The Loin.
Jose “Cheo” Rojas was born in Guantánamo, Cuba. Jose “Cheo” Rojas began to dance at a young age at the changüicera parties next to his father and at the Cuban-Haitian parties next to his grandfather. He graduated as a dance instructor from the Escuela Profesional de Arte de Cuba in 1988, as professor and choreographer from the Instituto Superior de Arte de Cuba in 1990, and as a folklore specialist from the Escuela Nacional de Arte in 1996. He began his career as a professional dancer and choreographer with Danza Libre in 1989 and co-founded and co-directed the internationally renowned Cuban company Banrará in 1994. Having participated in several national and international festivals, he won a Best Choreographer award in Cuba in 1998. In 1999, he traveled to the U.S. to participate in a production of West Side Story in the Bay Area, where he now resides and teaches. He specializes in rumba, one of the most popular rhythms and dance forms in Cuba, and Afro-Cuban folklore, a combination of rhythms of African and Franco-Haitian influence, which include both religious dances, such as those of the Orishas, and secular dances, such as Nagó, Gagá, Tumba Francesa, Tajona, and Caravalí. A talented teacher, with a particular eye for dance technique, Cheo also brings to his classes a wealth of historical and personal knowledge, making them a rich cultural experience.
Herve “Kayos” Makaya is a choreographer, musician, and dancer trained in both traditional Congolese and contemporary dance. Born and raised in Republic of Congo, Makaya was initiated and ritually trained in the art of Congolese music and dance. His training spans over two decades and he has traveled the world and earned numerous honors and accolades for his artistic excellence. He traveled to San Francisco in 2007 with Compagnie Li-Sangha to participate in the San Francisco International Arts Festival, and decided to stay in the Bay Area to escape the civil war that was plaguing his home country. He is the artistic director of Tata Kaya Art, a Congolese dance and drum ensemble.