Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble has commissioned renowned Senegalese choreographer Marie Basse-Wiles to create two all-new dances based on Senegalese dance and music traditions. Both dances will make their world-premiere as part of Kulu Mele’s annual home performance season at the Painted Bride Art Center in Old City Philadelphia, during Thanksgiving weekend, 2015.
Performances of “Celebrating Senegal” are scheduled for Saturday, November 28, 2015, at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The family-friendly shows will run approximately one hour without intermission, and include a pre-show African Bazaar with an African American Santa. Tickets are $30 for adults; $15 for children 12 and younger. Tickets are on sale now at www.paintedbride.org/events/celebratingsenegal or (215) 925-9914.
The newly commissioned dances by Marie Basse-Wiles are “Balanta” and “Sabar.” “Balanta” celebrates the Balanta people, an ethnic group of approximately 500,000 people found in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia, whose name means “those who resist.” “Sabar” is a traditional Senegalese drum that is usually played with one hand and one stick. Able to be heard up to distances of 15 kilometers, the sabar was originally used to communicate between villages. Today, Sabar also describes the style of music played when using the drum. “Balanta” and “Sabar” will be performed along with other dances from Kulu Mele’s extensive repertoire, which includes West African, Afro Cuban, Afro Caribbean and hip hop dance and music.
Inspired by the voices of its ancestors, Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble preserves and presents the traditional dance and music of Africa and the African Diaspora, and celebrates contemporary African American culture. Kulu Mele’s performances attract highly diverse audiences. For African Americans, Kulu Mele provides an opportunity to connect to their cultures of origins. For others, Kulu Mele is a cross-cultural exploration. For all, Kulu Mele provides rich, entertaining and enlightening experiences at the highest levels of artistic excellence. Kulu Mele’s performances are family-friendly and appropriate for all ages.
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kulu Mele has been a highly regarded cultural institution for nearly 50 years. Kulu Mele performs year-round throughout Philadelphia and tours nationally and internationally. Kulu Mele’s extensive arts education program, Omo Kulu Mele, serves thousands of economically disadvantaged school children in Philadephia annually.
Founded in 1969 by Baba Robert Crowder, Kulu Mele has been led by artistic director Dorothy Wilkie for more than 25 years. Kulu Mele has performed across the United States and internationally, including West Africa and Cuba. In May, 2015, Kulu Mele performed at the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. In June, 2015, Kulu Mele was the opening act for the Inside/Out Series at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival; and in September, 2015, Kulu Mele performed during the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF).
Marie Basse-Wiles is a highly accomplished dancer/choreographer. Originally from Dakar, Senegal, Basse-Wiles now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She is a former dancer with Le Ballet National du Senegal.
“Celebrating Senegal” is presented in association with the Senegalese Association of Philadelphia, which promotes socio-cultural, economic and health initiatives in support of a high quality of life for more than 1,000 Philadelphians of Senegalese origin. For more information about the Senegalese Association of Philadelphia, please visit www.senegal-phila.org.
For tickets and more information about “Celebrating Senegal,” visit www.paintedbride.org/events/celebratingsenegal, or call 215-925-9914.
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