Why live music – it all started with a berimbau, mbira, bongos and a surdo

When I first started teaching in the style I’ve evolved with over the past several decades, I inherited a class from Kristi Rudolph at Physical Culture that featured live drumming every Sunday. As this beloved class slowly became my own, I was discovering instruments from all over the diaspora of African percussion and was curious about creating something more cross-cultural and improvisational in lieu of interpreting traditional rhythms and songs. It was an amazingly foundational, bountiful time for me in terms of exposure to music from Africa both on the radio (KCMU with John Kertzer and WonLdy Paye) and in local bye gone clubs.  I was studying dance with wonderful teachers from Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Brazil. It was the late 1980’s early 1990’s in Seattle.  I wanted to honor them and do something different in what I could contribute to Seattle’s percussion and dance communities.

Every Sunday for many years, musicians and I collaborated for these dance classes. Who all has come to play deserves its own story as some of the best in Seattle are a part of it.

While I dearly love curating recorded music mixes and broadening folks’ exposure to some of the depth and breadth and wide ranging expressions of Africa and the diaspora, I’ve always felt the live music collaborations to be the keystone of my dance work. I set the space and musicians ahead of time. From there, based on who comes to dance and which directions the enegies of the sound and movement go, the rest of my movement guidance and where the musicians go is all improvised. It’s hard to describe how edifying it is to be in a room of willing participants making that magic happen in real time.

Our last live music session was in February 2020. Covid closures hit hard. After things started to open up, available spaces that meet the basic needs of accommodating the sound volume of live percussion, a large enough space with a good enough floor at desirable times have been much harder to find. And, frankly I’ve been working weekends at the job that supports my teaching life because that’s how I have guaranteed income.

I’ve been waiting for some kind of ground swell or sign to start back up in whatever iteration might be conjured now.

Recently I was presented with a really rare opportunity to have two hours on a Saturday at Balance Studio, where I’ve been happily teaching for almost ten years with my schedules set around the days and times the owners themselves need. I jumped on it and then realized MAYBE the musicians who had been the rock steady base before Covid might be available?
They said yes. And we’re on.
I can’t wait to be with them and the dancers who show up to contribute their beautiful attunement to the mix. Click here for joining us January 27, 2024

 

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