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Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society unveils Black History Month programming

‘African Connections 2021’ to include online dance, music, stories and more
Crimson Coast Dance Society’s African Connections 2021 kicks off on Feb. 6 with a discussion and film screening with Kenyan dancer and choreographer Fernando Anuang’a. (Photo courtesy Ronan Liétar)

Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society is marking Black History Month with a series of presentations of African dance, music and folk tales, as well as stories relating to the immigrant experience.

Crimson Coast is presenting its African Connections 2021 programming each Saturday in February. Curating the month’s events, which are happening online due to COVID-19, is Tania Amaral, a dancer originally from Mozambique who now lives in Nanaimo. She was part of Crimson Coast’s African Connections last year, when she performed and taught her “Afro-fusion belly dance.”

“There is a challenge for this year because we are doing everything in Zoom but I also believe that it’s important to do certain activities and certain dates are important and we should not let them just pass by because of the situation that we are living in right now,” Amaral said.

When choosing events for this year’s edition of African Connections, Amaral said she asked people from Nanaimo’s African community what they would want to see and then set out to put together a program that responded to that demand.

“I didn’t want to just create something and then at the end of the day people of the African community here will be like, ‘But this type of event didn’t tell me anything,’” Amaral said.

The festivities start on Feb. 6 with a conversation and dance film screening with Kenyan dancer and choreographer Fernando Anuang’a, and later that day Amaral will give a talk on the representation of African dance culture.

The following week Kaslo-based performance artist Shayna Jones will present African folk stories for children, local musician Nicole Utulinde from Rwanda and fitness instructor Andiswa Crouch from South Africa will discuss their cultures and what it was like to immigrate to Canada, and Amaral will teach a beginner dance class.

On Feb. 20 Nanaimo resident Lethy Makwenge from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will read African children’s stories and Crouch will lead a beginner “Afro-Zumba” class.

On the final Saturday, African Connections 2021 concludes with a performance by Utulinde on the ngoma drums and dance by Amaral. Amaral said there is value to exposing people to the cultures of Africa through both discussion and demonstration.

“Sometimes people have so many misconceptions … but I think when we talk, when we share, then people will see, ‘Oh, this is how you guys do it, it’s just a different culture, different way of seeing, different perspectives,’” she said. “And that sharing will bring more awareness of the cultures and we will grow from that.”

WHAT’S ON … Crimson Coast Dance Society presents African Connections 2021 online via Zoom each Saturday in February. Times and registration fees vary. For a full schedule of events and to register, click here.

RELATED: Crimson Coast Dance Society salutes African dance during Black History Month

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