Magazine article Dance Teacher

Asadata Dafora 1890-1965

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Asadata Dafora 1890-1965

Article excerpt

Asadata Dafora was a trailblazing dancer, musician and choreographer responsible for bringing West African cultural dances to the concert stage in the West from the 1930s to '50s. He presented black culture in a way that was authentic and respectful, a notion, which, during a time of blackface and segregation, was extremely novel.

Born Asadata Dafora Horton in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Dafora developed a passion for African tribal dances, following his graduation from high school. He traveled throughout West Africa learning the cultural dances and music of his countrymen. After studying opera at La Scala and a brief performing stint in Berlin, he came to the U.S. in 1929. Four years later, he founded a company of musicians and dancers called Shogola Oloba. Dafora's dance-drama Kykunkor (The Witch Woman) opened in May 1934 in New York City to glowing reviews and soldout performances, eventually moving to a bigger theater to accommodate growing crowds.

Aligning himself with the African Academy of Arts and Research, Dafora worked to promote West African dance throughout the U.S. over the next twc decades. His company toured and presented work alongside such luminaries as Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus-both of whom were greatly influenced by Dafora in their own anthropological and choreographic work. He was met with rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Dafora continued to create, perform and take his company on tour throughout the 1940s and '50s. In 1960, he moved back to Sierra Leone, returning to New York City two years later for his health. …

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