El Saniyyah Love is excited about connecting with the culture of her forefathers through an African arts “camp,” where she spent part of the summer studying dance and drumming. Love and 12 other young women participated in the second annual summer program at the Helfaer Theatre on the Marquette University campus.
“You learn a culture that most of our people missed out on,” Love said, referring to Americans of African descent.
Yaya Kambaye, founder and musical director, and Roxy Kess, artistic director and choreographer, of Xalaat Africa Drum and Dance For Life, Ltd., taught the five-week dance intensive. The summer program culminated in a performance on July 29.
In addition to traditional African dance and drumming and contemporary African and modern dance, the students also learned songs and phrases in the Manding language. Manding is one of the languages spoken in Senegal, Kambaye’s native country.
Kambaye moved to the U.S. in 2003 but he and Kess visit Senegal from time to time to research dance and keep up with current dance trends there. Spending time in Senegal replenishes Kess, she said, enabling her to give more to her students.
Kess is on the faculty at Marquette University and the two also teach at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.
Kambaye wants the students to be exposed to a culture different from their own and he likes to work with kids “to keep to them out of trouble,” he said.
The summer program is funded by the Milwaukee Recreation’s Partnership for the Arts and Humanities and Marquette University.