We All Need to Dance: Especially Children


“There seems to be a human need to dance – to dance for joy, for sadness, to petition the gods and then to thank them. Children feel this need to dance acutely; often its just the opportunity, the invitation, they lack,” says Jacques d’Amboise, founder of the National Dance Institute.

NDI’s branch, the Trenton Education Dance Institute, has been working with some pretty lucky schoolchildren in Trenton this year, and their culminating performance is at Patriots Theater, War Memorial, in Trenton in Thursday,May 20, at 7 p.m. The performance is free, so that all may come but donations are encouraged.

Another wonderful opportunity to see youth dance is on Saturday, May 22, when the dancers from a preprofessional performing youth company, Usaama, accompany Karen Love’s professional troupe, the Umoja Dance Company,at the African Soiree, at the Carl A. Fields Center, starting at 6 p.m. The evening offers authentic African food, music, and entertainment, all to benefit the United Front Against Riverblindness. Tickets are $50. Call 609-924-2613 or email office@princetonumc.org.

Usaama means “precious” in Swahili. Pictured above, Usaama strives to give today’s youth a sense of pride, culture, and knowledge through dance. Love’s professional troupe is named after the word “unity” in Swahili. The New Jersey-based multi-cultural company was founded in 1993 to educate, preserve, and present dance as a communal and spiritual expression of life. With a BFA from Montclair State University and an MFA from New York University, Karen Love has studied in Guinea with M’Bemba Bangoura and in Senegal, and the Gambia of West Africa with Chuck Davis. “My fusion of contemporary modern and West African dance reflects the evolution of movement and spirit becoming one,” says Love.

But for the African Soiree, all of the dances are from Guinea, West Africa.

• Opening Village Scene
• Sumunku: a dance for healing (Usaama)
• Sorsone: An initiation dance from the Baga people. It assures protection of the youth. (Usaama)
• Macru: A celebration dance performed by the women after they have successfully found their mate. (Umoja)
• Drum solos
• Soli : An initiation dance that celebrates all ages. It is an opportunity for everyone to show their best movement. (Usaama and Umoja).
• Bantaba: “Dancing ground” (Audience participation)

Let the dancing begin! And if you have never danced to the music of African drummers, perhaps you have never danced.

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