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    Virtual premiere of Annual Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble
    Sankofa African Dance performance. (Photo Credit:

    By Ellen Paddock / News Editor

    The Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble premiered its annual concert on Sunday, May 1. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Dance at SUNY Brockport did not hold the concert in person as in previous years.  

    Sankofa’s artistic director, Jenise Anthony, addressed the new format of the show. Several aspects such as rehearsal, costumes and the venue were impacted by COVID-19 safety protocols.  

    “As you see I’m in a different space in a different place. Anyone who has come to one of the many years of Sankofa knows we are generally in a beautiful theater,” Anthony said.  “This year is a little different. However, it’s not different in terms of the energy and in terms of the artistic pieces that we are bringing to you.” 

    These challenges strengthened the Sankofa ensemble. Anthony said they found deeper meanings to community, support and unity. Additionally, the virtual format allowed Sankofa to extend its borders. This year’s concert is titled ‘Guinea Fare.’ It celebrates the traditions and practices of Guinea, West Africa and includes a guest performance that takes place in Guinea.  

    Some people have used the pandemic as a time to withdraw, but we are maximizing the opportunity to extend our reach to international borders,” Anthony said. “The guest performance is offered to us in its rawest, most authentic form with the recording having taken place in Guinea. You can almost imagine yourself being there in person.” 

    The guest performance features artists from Ballet Merveilles, one of the first private performance groups in Guinea founded by the decorated choreographeMohamed Kemoko Sano in 1986. Sano has directed prestigious music and dance groups and trains some of the best Guinean artists.  

    Ballet Merveilles consists of more than 80 artists from various backgrounds. Through vibrant sound and dancethe ensemble celebrates Guinean culture and art. Their performances contribute to the economic and socio-cultural development of Guinea through their international and national tours.  

    Sano described their work as“… a living library, helping make our national folklore shine all over the world.”

    The Sankofa African ensemble is the first segment in the virtual production. The stream then moves to Guinea where Belle Merveilles performs the second segment and closes the production.  

    Anthony showcases a new dance called Soko. She will not be able to invite the audience on stage during the finale this year but is confident the joy, excitement and vibrancy of the Afro-Caribbean rhythms will transcend the screen.  

    “You’re going to want to get up and shake your bones,” Anthony said. “You’re going to want to get up and clap.”  

    The Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble will be available through May 22. Tickets can be purchased online for $10 general admission and $5 for students. Upon purchase a link is sent that gives access to the production. 

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