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Baltimore company passes the baton of culture through African dance

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dance recital

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A spirit of unity and warmth passed through Coppin State University's James Weldon Johnson auditiorium Saturday, July 5, 2014 as Keur Khaleyi (pronounced Keer Hah-lay-he) African Dance Company presented its fourth annual recital entitled 'Khaware'. The performances were the culmination of classes taken over the past year by adults, children and youth. The program was dedicated to Babacar N'Diaye, one of the group's mentors and instructors, from Senegal. N'Diaye is currently participating in a summer dance intensive with the Debbie Allen Dance Company in California.

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After an introduction by Mistress of Ceremony Tracie Jiggetts (along with baby Truth), the program began with a libation ceremony to demonstrate respect and honor for God and the ancestors who paved the way. Led by Yoruba Priestess Chief Osunremi Aduke, the ceremony provided the start for the highly energetic performance to follow. Next came the African drum call, which included drummers Shakai Von Hendricks (lead drummer), Felicia Flournoy and Ayende Von Hendricks along with visiting artists Amadou Faye and Konate Primus. The drum call, along with the audience members, provided the energy the dancers used to work the attendees into several frenzies.

The dancers were very focused and seemed to enjoy the Senegalese language and dances which they performed. Arrayed in fine and colorful African costumes, produced by SuQuan Diop of Diop Traditional and Karla Diouf, the dancers gyrated their way across the stage to the heartbeat of the drums. The dancers included both adults and children. The members of the adult company are Atiya Cannady, Kamiyah Carver, Sabrina Hudson (apprentice dancer), Morgan Solomon, and Tayamisha Thomas.

The teen group included Jadzia Floyd, Talia Floyd, Marama Sonko and Diarra Von Hendricks. The youth ensemble included Konyel Cottman, Sierra Green and Diallo S. Von Hendricks.

Virtually stealing the show were the children, the youngest of whom is four, who danced their way around in their beautiful African attire. The children were Amira Alston, Jordyn Alston, Dela-Eden Miles, Jasmine Green, and Makaela King.

The Community Class, which also performed, consisted of Akili Brogdon, Rachel Mayo, Nikia Williams, Karla Wynn Diouf and Mama Shakoorah.

Spoken word artist Robert Hardy gave the performance a different flavor as he recited original works to the beat of Master Ayende Von Hendricks.

The program was replete with visiting drummers from the New York area: Sing Sing Rhythm.

The name, Keur Khaleyi, is from the Senegalese language of Wolof and means house of the children or children. The company, founded by Artistic Director Jihan Von Hendricks, has been in existence since 2010 and continues to grow. According to Von Hendricks, the company "supports the community with children and adult classes in the West African dance tradition. Each year we have fundraisers. These fundraisers are to help with funds for our summer showcase that will premier some of Baltimore's talented African dancers and drummers." (Von Hendricks is assisted by her sister, Ayana, as artistic director and make-up artist.)

The group operates from Baltimore's Eubie Blake Cultural Center (www.eubieblake.org), 847 N. Howard Street, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Audience member Gloria Solomon said this was her second Keur Khaleyi concert and she loved it.

Keur Khaleyi's website is www.keurkhaleyi.org.

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