Campus News

Dance Diaspora Kicks Off 2014-15 Season

October 1, 2014
Amanda Nagy

Dance Diaspora, Oberlin’s semi-professional dance troupe performing traditional West African dance forms, kicks off its 2014-2015 season on Oct. 10-11 with a tribute to jazz legend Miles Davis.

“My Miles: My Lullaby in Retrospect” will feature students and alumni from the college and Conservatory of Music with a live selection of Davis’ music and black vernacular jazz dance. The presentation will focus on the music and its complexity, with dance and music as equal partners of expression.

Artistic Director Adenike Sharpley, Oberlin’s artist in residence in the departments of Africana studies and dance, describes the show as a retrospective of her experiences growing up to the soundtrack of jazz pioneers such as Horace Silver, Eric Dolphy, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis. “This show is a tribute to my childhood and my father,” she says. “My father was an avid jazz fan with an album collection that was well known on the east side of Cleveland. The record collection became the envy of someone, and at one point 75 percent of it was stolen, but the impression the music made on my life has lasted my whole life.”

Sharpley explains that classical music on the African continent is embodied in the different drum orchestras that represent different regions and ethnic groups. “From that perspective, I want to highlight jazz as an African classical music. As descendants from Africa, ‘New World’ Africans created and reworked traditionally western classical instruments into a translation of their experience and soul. Miles Davis’ music is a great example of this music.”

The show will feature students and alumni, including vocalist Che Gonzalez ’96 and noted trumpet player Kevin Louis ’99, a New Orleans native. After graduating from the conservatory, Louis went on to receive his MA from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York in 2001. He has released at least 10 recordings since 1997, with his most recent titled “Music is my Religion” (2011). He has toured the country and around the world and has appeared on several television networks as a performer.

The show’s student dancers include Dance Diaspora members Kendra Farrakhan ’15, Kara Mahon ’15, Donnay Edmund ’16, and Sophie Umazi Mvurya ’16, and guests Cassandra Brown ’17, and Rachael Pillot ’17. Musicians for the show include Dance Diaspora members Zaire Darden ’15 on drums, Caylen Bryant ’16 on cello, and Daniel Spearman ’16 on grand and electric piano, and student guests Lawrence Galloway ’15 on trombone, and Jordan McBride ’16 on bass. The show will also welcome to the stage community member Gordon Taylor on guitar. Francisca “Kika” Chaidez-Gutierrez ’05 is stage manager.

“My Miles” will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11, in Warner Main Space in Warner Center. Tickets are available for $5 at Central Ticket Service or $7 at the door.

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