The rhythm and flow of Senegal takes center stage in Brooklyn this week.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual DanceAfrica festival will feature two companies from the West African nation: WAATO SiiTA, a troupe of dancers and percussionists, and Tenane, a contemporary dance company that blends krumping, popping and other contemporary styles with traditional Senegalese dance.
Acclaimed choreographer Abdel R. Salaam is serving as artistic director of the festival, now in its 39th year, for the first time. The Harlem native’s DanceAfrica roots run deep, though: He performed at the very first festival in 1977, and his New York dance company Forces of Nature began participating in the mid-1980s.
A blend of traditional and contemporary dance is a key theme to this year’s DanceAfrica, says Salaam, who went to Senegal to assemble the festival’s acts.
“As I began to travel, I began to see that there was this constant bridge and tension between the contemporary world and the traditional world,” he says. “For me, because my background came from both, I always look for, how do I bridge this? How do I do something which is traditional and honor that and keep that to the greatest degree of authenticity?”
The answer to Salaam’s questions is represented by the two featured Senegalese dance companies, WAATO SiiTA and Tenane. The headliners will be joined by an array of performers, including Germaine Acogny, who is considered “the mother of contemporary African dance,” the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble, Reverend Nafisa Sharriff and Dyane Harvey-Salaam.
In addition to dance, BAM is hosting FilmAfrica (starting Wednesday) and the DanceAfrica Bazaar (starting Saturday) as part of the broader DanceAfrica festivities.