In February of 2015, the Panoramic Dance Project performed with the Justice Theatre Project (a local theatre company who “uses the performing arts as a way to call to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed”) at the North Carolina Museum of History. This performance was an extended version of Operation Breadbasket, which was originally developed and produced by Assistant Director of the Dance Program, Tara Mullins, for the Panoramic Dance Project in 2014. One of the guest artists and performers for the Justice Theatre Project was Dr. Chuck Davis, founder and director of the world renowned African American Dance Ensemble based in Durham (http://www.africanamericandanceensemble.org/). While working with the Panoramic Dance Project dancers, Dr. Davis was immediately drawn to the diverse nature of their repertory, their respect for his legacy and their consistent desire to absorb information both intellectually and artistically. This collaborative performance, which was attended by over 700 audience members from NC State University and the triangle community, initiated a relationship between Dr. Davis and the dance company.
During the fall semester, Dr. Davis is choreographing the dance piece, BI-NKA-BI, that explores the coming of age of young women in Africa through traditional West African dance choreography. He is teaching the dancers the chants and drumming rhythms that accompany the dance. The students are also learning the significance of this dance and of the ritual coming of age practices. For the piece, the company is divided into four groups – the young sisters or initiates, the big sisters, the elders and the men. The piece outlines the time when the initiates enter back into the village after spending eight months in the bush. BI-NKA-BI embraces all of the groups coming together to support the initiates and show solidarity as the young women discard their pasts and move on as adults.
As a part of the fall residency, Brenda Hayes, the costumer for the African American Dance Ensemble, is working with the students to create appropriate attire (due to the authentic nature of the dance, Ms. Hayes and Dr. Davis encourage the dancers to use the word attire, not costume) for the piece. She is designing and building the attire, but is teaching the students how to attach traditional embellishments on the clothing, so they are contributing to creating their unique pieces.
On November 11th and 12th at 8pm, the piece will be performed during the Dance Program’s Fall Concert in the newly renovated Stewart Theatre. The piece will also be presented in the Panoramic Dance Project Concert, March 16th and 17th, 2016.