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Bandan Koro: A Kaleidoscope of African Dance and Music

By Marina Jokic

Coming to the fore in 2009, Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble has made great strides in popularizing the diverse African heritage through dance and drum classes, educational programs, performances, and cultural happenings.

Tony Browne, founder and director of the ensemble, is at the helm of education, outreach, and entertainment at the center. Cultivating a relationship with various stakeholders is critical in furthering Bandan Koro's mission.

If you are new to African dance and music, you have to keep in mind that it is made up of incredibly diverse regions and traditions. Whether it's Southern or Northern Africa, each region is home to a unique variety of ethnic groups and each group similarly has its own distinct variety of performance art.

A lot can be gleaned from the dance and music of a culture such as its value system and beliefs, the things it most fears and loves. Bandan Koro strives to embody all of that and more in its performances and classes.

"Rhythm and dance are integral components of African culture," Browne said. "In African culture, the rhythms and dances accompany significant events such as harvest periods, rites of passage, [wars], healing ceremonies, and celebration[s]."

Weekend classes at Bandan Koro include a light improvisational warm-up, a community circle, a brief lecture and demonstration, and finally, performance of fundamental movements on the floor as part of a community dance circle or Bantaba. The dance class is organized around the West African tradition and is open to all students regardless of prior experience.

"We embrace the community with the spirit of connection, bonding, building relationships, and creating positive experiences," Browne said. "My inspiration came from being introduced to similar uplifting and inspiring experiences as a participant in African drum and dance communities."

Browne enjoyed it so much that he travelled to West Africa to continue his studies and bring back authentic instruments and methods to the U.S. Thanks to his efforts, Bandan Koro's professional portfolio has expanded to include full stage performances, arts and education programs, private dance workshops, and even residencies. The ensemble can be hired to perform at community events, corporate functions, weddings, retirements, and birthdays among others.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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