World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

BITEZO BIA KONGO

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: Congo, Central Africa
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Arnaud Loubayi
First appearance in SF EDF: 2017
Website: facebook.com/BITEZO-BIA-KONGO

BITEZO BIA KONGO Dance Company, created in 2014 by Arnaud Loubayi and Arnold Balekita, spreads awareness of Congolese culture through drumming and dance around the US anD beyond. Loubayi began dancing professionally in Brazzaville in 2003 with Ballet National of Congo and Ngoma za Kongo Dance Company. He studied with Congolese, Burkinabe, and French choreographers and toured the world with Ngoma za Kongo and independent choreographers, and created choreography for Ballet National du Congo, Ngoma za Kongo, and others. BITEZO BIA KONGO believes that dance connects people from different backgrounds, fostering peace and understanding; the company aims to bring Africa to America, one dancer at a time.

2017 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Congo, Central Africa
GENRE: Traditional
TITLE: Ntela—Tell Me
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Arnaud Loubayi
DANCERS: Yashmeen Abdusami, Miayuku Boukaka, Arnaud Loubayi, Lungusu Malonga, Valerie Catacora Phipps, Ayana Wicker
MUSICIANS: Tommy Agarwal (ngoma), Arnold Balekita (ngoma), Rocssy Mahania (ngoma), Armel Mampouya (ngoma)

When I dance, I am not a body anymore.
Dance is prayer, I am the dance, dance
is my blood, my energy, my emotion.
—Arnaud Loubayi


Ntela,“Tell Me” in Congolese Lari language, is a spiritual journey and awakening from northern Republic of Congo: from Kongo culture, where drum is dance is voice. The dancers assemble for a wedding, sweep the space clean, gather around a calabash, and place a chair for the women who are cooking. As the dance begins, steps and song intertwine inseparably with rhythms of ngoma drums, rising in powerful, unified voice.

The first piece, Zebola, is a traditional drum rhythm from Likuala in northern Congo-Brazzaville, a high-energy dance for joyful celebrations. The dancers’ bitezo jumps and the tina na mibambu steps with bamboo send prayers into the universe. Red tsamina candles represent spiritual power, and the red soutane robe shows transformation. A whistle and bamboo sticks lead dancers into trance and they soar out of bodily expression, attaining spiritual awakening, becoming mediums of light and healing. Called by the drums, Artistic Director Arnaud Loubayi steps to the forefront. He dances with an everyday object—a simple stool—teaching us that everything that surrounds us connects our spirits to those of each other and those of our ancestors.

The second piece, Ngoundza, danced with brooms, is a healing prayer from Brazzaville. In Ngoundza, it’s acknowledged that each person prays differently according to the light in their spirit, and together, everyone is transformed by the rhythm, blessed, and healed. Loubayi says, “The dance was revealed to our ancestors in our spiritual system, as in Africa we believe everything is spiritual to begin with, before it materializes in the physical world. Ngoundza
is a prayer, part of the healing process of a society. Anytime there was a birth, a disease, a problem, our ancestors used Ngoundza to ask Tata Nzambi (God) to heal, guide, and protect them.”

The ngoma drum is the principal musical instrument of the Kongo people. The song Eeee Mwana Munu speaks of the power parents have to invoke blessings for their children, for the achievement of dreams.

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