Arts & Culture Music

Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble Welcomes New Artistic Director, Jenise Anthony

Jean-Claude Lessou and Cassandra Hines are guest artists for April concerts

 Brockport, NY—The College at Brockport’s Department of Dance will present the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble in performances that take place Thursday – Saturday, April 26 – 28, 2018, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 29, at 2 pm, in the Hartwell Dance Theater in Hartwell Hall, Kenyon Street, on the Brockport campus. Tickets are $17/General, $12/Senior Citizens, Brockport Alumni, Faculty and Staff, and $9/Students. They are available online at, by phone at (585) 395-2787, or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office, 180 Holley Street, Brockport.

 This year, the Sankofa concerts will honor the legacy of the late Baba Chuck Davis in a program entitled “Ni iranti ologbe baba wa Chuck Davis” (In memory of our father, Chuck Davis). Davis, who died last May, was acknowledged by no less than The New York Times as “America’s foremost master of African dance.” He founded the DanceAfrica Festival that has been in existence for more than 40 years, and also founded the African American Dance Ensemble, based in Durham, NC.

 The commemoration was the brainchild of Jenise Akilah Anthony, who joined the department as an assistant professor and artistic director of Sankofa this year. She explained that “the word ‘Sankofa,’ loosely translated, means that you cannot go forward without looking back. None of us would be able to go forward in the world of African dance, had it not been for Chuck Davis’ contributions.” Echoing Anthony’s sentiments is Sankofa’s musical director and master drummer, Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem.

 There will be two guest artists creating works for this year’s performances. Jean-Claude Lessou, a native of the Ivory Coast, West Africa, who has been teaching African dance in Austin, TX. Lessou has visited the campus several times in order to give workshops and teach classes, as well as to audition students on whom he could set a piece for these extremely popular concerts. His work, Ivory Coast, is a dance suite comprised of six sections that vary between harvest dances, contemporary African dances and dances that “offer respect to royalty or persons of importance…people like Baba Chuck Davis,” according to Anthony.

 Cassandra Hines’ “Guinea Dance Suite” has three distinct sections which will be accompanied by live music:

            Tiriba: a celebratory rhythm played after the initiation of girls into the Landuma ethnic group;

            Mendiani: a dance recreating a female rite of passage from the Malinke ethnic group;

            Balanta: a dance of resistance from the Balanta people in Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Gambia.

Hines is the founder and artistic director of the West African-based Bahdae Dance Company in Dallas.

 The finale for the concert, “Sinte,” is most fitting, as it was the way that Chuck Davis would close out many of the DanceAfrica/Dallas presentations. In Brockport, Anthony will be debuting a piece with new choreography that is her tribute to Davis.

 The Sankofa concerts often sell out prior to the first performance taking place. If that is not the case, any unsold tickets will be available for purchase at the Hartwell Box Office one hour prior to each performance.