BRATTLEBORO -- African Dance Vermont and the Arts Council of Windham County present the ninth annual Abene African Dance and Drum Festival, from Aug. 23 -25 at the (air-conditioned) Brattleboro Stone Church, 210 Main St.
Caro Diallo, Senegalese choreographer and lead dancer of the dance troupe Black Soofa, returns as the primary teacher and inspiration for the festival, which was named for his village in southern Senegal, West Africa: "Abene" means "place where good is encountered."
Diallo has performed and taught throughout West Africa, the U.S., and Europe. During the festival, he will teach African dance classes for all levels. Those who would like to come and watch the dance classes are welcome to do so without charge.
Pape N’Diaye of Senegal and Cambridge, Mass., will return this year as a special guest teacher. N’Diaye is a singer, dancer, percussionist and choreographer who performs and teaches traditional and contemporary African music and dance.
The dance classes will be accompanied by the live drumming of Namory Keita, Jay Stanley and friends. Keita will teach West African drumming on Saturday and Sunday. Keita is an accomplished Guinean musician who has performed and taught worldwide. Djembe drums will be provided for those students who need them.
Festivities Saturday evening will feature, starting at 6 p.m., a Malian meal by Dienba Macalou (of Brattleboro Farmers’ Market fame); at 7 p.m. a documentary film, "Sahel Calling," about human rights, music and hope, raising the voice of the silenced in Mali, West Africa; followed at 8 p.m., by African-inspired music with Derrik Jordan, Julian Gerstin and Tony Vacca; and a performance of West African music and dance featuring Diallo, N’Diaye, Keita and other festival dancers and drummers.
Throughout the Abene festival, African wares will be for sale.
Beyond the festival this year, dancers will have an opportunity to study with Diallo as he teaches dance classes on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. through Sept. 4 at The Brattleboro Stone Church, and Fridays at 7 p.m. through Sept. 6 (except for Aug. 23) at the Putney Community Center. The classes are two hours, and the cost is $15 per class. Keita will continue to hold his 6 to 7 p.m., Wednesday drum classes at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St. The drum class is $10 and there are extra drums available. Also, Diallo is a certified Zumba teacher and he will offer Zumba classes at the Supreme Fitness & Gym on Putney Road on Mondays at 7 p.m., through Sept. 2. Members can take the class for free; it’s $10 for a day pass for non-members.
For the full schedule and fees for festival dance classes, as well as other workshops that Diallo gives, visit www.africandancevt.com or find African Dance Vermont on Facebook, e-mail africandancevt @gmail.com or call 802-258-6475.