Dancers of the Diamano Coura West African Dance Company. Photo Courtesy of Diamano Coura.
The beat of drums and high-energy dancers of men and women in colorful decor took the stage at the Malonga Casquelourd Theater in Oakland. The dance drama, Sama Diabar (My Wife), presented by Diamano Coura Africa Rising celebrated the West African Dance organization’s 25th anniversary.
Performances featured the dance and choreography of Danielle Delane, Nikka Maynard, Latashia Bell. Through six dance scenes the performance included digital media, theater and comedy.
Under the direction of Dr. Zak Diouf and Artistic Director Naomi Washington, the organization has operated as a culture keeper implementing workshops, performances and youth programs. The dance company also features touring engagements, lecture demonstrations, community outreach, and creative partnership programs with renowned artists and performing companies.
“Diamano Coura, in the Senegalese Wolof language, means “those who bring the message” and we strive to portray West African music and dance beyond entertainment or exhibition, but also as a way to educate, communicate, organize and preserve our ancestral roots,” said Washington.
While the directors are from Liberia and Senegal, Diamano Coura embodies a variety of dancers, actors, singers, acrobats, musicians, stilt walkers, and visual artists from Mali, Senegal, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Gambia and the United States. Through their junior company, Diamano Coura has 15 members and does outreach to over 500 youth within the San Francisco Bay Area as part of Diamano Coura’s Youth and Arts-In-Education Program. The company has also continued its reach with the Los Angeles School District Young Audience Project and the San Diego School District Artist-In-Residence Project.
Diamano Coura performs extensively in major theater houses and universities in the US Canada, Europe and West Africa. In 1993 Director Zak Diouf and Artistic Director Naomi Washington created “Lambarena”, a collaboration of West African dance and European style ballet to the music of Johan Bach and traditional music of Gabon for the San Francisco Ballet’s Val Carniporili.
With the success of the creative collaborative project, Washington and Diouf were invited to consult and choreograph for the Singapore Ballet in 1998 and in South Africa in 1999. Diamano Coura also produced the independent film, Follow Me Home, and regularly present at Epcot Disney World in Florida, the Black Dance Experience, the Ethnic Dance Festival in San Francisco, the Bay Area Dance Series, the Houston Arts Festival, the Atlanta Black Dance Festival, the Olympic Cultural Festival and Collage de la Cutures Africaines in Oakland.
“Through Collage de la Cutures Africaines, we host a collaborative effort that brings together artists, performing companies, and businesses from the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world to celebrate music, dance, history, artwork, and cultures from countries of the African Diaspora,” said Washington.
For more information, visit www.DiamanoCoura.org