DANCE ORIGIN: Congo
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: LaKiesha Golden
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014
Nlolo Kongo is a subgroup of the nonprofit organization Cultural Arts of GOLD, formed in 2008 by LaKiesha Golden to preserve traditional arts and culture of Central Africa, specifically the Congo and its Diaspora. The organization hosts the Congolese Dance and Drum Festival: Biamvu Bia Kongo (initiated in 2006), dance classes, guest workshops, lecture demonstrations, film screenings, etc. Nlolo Kongo means “News of the Congo, and we are here to give you the good news!”
DANCE ORIGIN: Congo
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AND CHOREOGRAPHER: LaKiesha Golden
COSTUME DESIGNER: Jumoke Blue
DANCERS: Shauna Badger, Vivienne Bassouamina, LaKiesha Golden, Felicia Harris, Rasheda Jones, Arnaud Loubayi, Makaya, Ngalifourou Matingou, Kai Nortey, Cheree Scarbrough
MUSICIANS: Bret Arnold Balekita (ngoma), Rocssy Mahainia (ngoma), Makaya (ngoma), Jean-Armel Mampouya (ngoma)
SALAKA! is a celebration of the union of man and woman. This performance of high-energy choreography and music from the Congolese tradition showcases two dances from the Republic of Congo.
The first dance, Dia Vula—pronounced Jom-Vuulah—means Eat the Rain. It’s from the Kongo people, of the majority Bantu group of the Congo. A story opens as a village talks excitedly about that day’s wedding, and a young girl notices the sky is getting dark. Musicians chant that rain is coming, the sky is getting dark, in the Congolese language, Lari, and with the powerful unison form of drum, dance, and song, the village invokes the spirits, asking the ancestors to stop the rain. Women from all stages of life dance together, as a wedding is an especially important event in a Congolese woman’s life—and also because the whole world loves a wedding.
The second dance, Elima, is an old, rarely-performed couples’ dance from several tribes in northern Congo. This piece continues to honor the ancestors, asking the spirits to show their presence, ensuring that the celebration takes place fruitfully. Elima means Spirit in the Lingala language.
Nlolo Kongo’s musicians merge two high-energy rhythms on ngoma drums to create an energetic and compelling prayer. Call and response songs repeat the two main invocations of “dia vula” and “elima”—calling on the spirits again and again. The dancers wear mpussu (hand-made/dyed raffia skirt), an authentic costume of the Congo that allows pelvis movements to be fully displayed. The red on the costumes symbolizes power. Dancers also wear the traditional face and body make-up called tukula. This body paint identifies a dancer’s ethnic group and/or region, as well as a specific dance, rhythm, or reason for celebration.
The piece was set in 2013. Artistic Director LaKiesha Golden learned the dances from Biza Sompa—Director of Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater and former dancer with National Ballet of the Congo—when she danced with his company. Other sources were elders and master teachers of Congolese Dance and culture, including Constant Massengo, and Sandor Diabankouezi.
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