Cultural roots in dance

People walked into the dance studio, immediately nodding their heads to the rhythm of the drums.

Live percussionists drummed a variety of African beats as the dancers wrapped their skirts around their waist to prepare for routine warm ups.

Tiffany Thompson is a dancer at the African Caribbean Dance Theatre, Inc., and has been for five years along with her children under the ages of nine.

Her inspiration for the company started after she observed her daughter’s African dance classes and could not resist joining the dancers.

However, all African Dance is not the same. ACDT practices Guinean West African Dance, which is well-known for its high energy and spirit. Thompson believes practicing these movements releases a dynamic feeling.

“I really feel like it encompasses so much. It’s much more than exercise. It’s more than learning about the culture… it’s a connection,” said Thompson. “It’s a brilliant marriage of things all at one time its feels like church. It feels like I’m in a sister organization”

ACDT was founded in 1993 and, it is the only one of its kind that serves youths and adults in the north Florida region according to Executive Director Jevelle Robinson.

Also, the non-profit organization was specifically created for the community and families. They have performed numerous times throughout the Big Bend area.

This unique form of dance uses all body parts. All of the dancers smiled and laughed with their partners each time they were finished with their routines.

Students from different age groups were in the same room. Depending on the student’s level of experience, the instructor would change the movements for the dancers. Toward the very end of the routines, the dancers would touch the floor with their hand as a tradition.

“Touching the floor at the end of the movement in each line represents the dancer recognizing the end of the break. It signifies when it’s time to start, change or end a movement or combination,” said Robinson. It also shows appreciation to the percussionists.

There were a total of six live drummers, each drumbeat signaling to the dancers that it is time to move. The drummers face the dancers to communicate. This allows the main lead djembre player to know if there will be a change or end a movement.

“You have to have a different rhythm for each dance. Once you incorporate all of those things, there’s a connectedness not only to the culture but to the dance itself. There is a beautiful melody of the music which accompanies the dance,” said Marcus Robinson, president and artistic director for ADCT.

ACDT offers dance classes three times a week for an hour and a half, which includes a live percussion ensemble. Everyone warms up and the instructor introduces the day’s routines. Also, classes are on Tuesday and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m and Saturdays 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Classes are $20 per month or $5 per class for participation. The fee for the drum classes are $5 per class. They are located at 221 East Third Avenue and will soon be relocating to 451 West Gaines St. starting Oct. 2.