Sankofa Danzafro, “Accommodating Lie” promo
Sankofa Danzafro, “Behind the South: Dances for Manuel” promo
2022/2023 Tour Dates
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“The evening’s revelation was Sankofa’s ‘La Ciudad de los Otros’ (‘The City of Others’), an episodic work about urban struggle and resilience combining elements of hip-hop and Afro-Colombian dance.”
-Siobhan Burke, The New York Times
“Director Rafael Palacios’ “La Ciudad de los Otros” (“The City of Others”) was judicious in form, resonant with meaning, and delivered in dance languages that ran the gamut from diasporic African to Latinised hip-hop”
-Apollinaire Scherr, Financial Times
Sankofa Danzafro hails from Colombia, the country with the second largest Afro-descent population found in Latin America. The company’s “The City of Others”, is a work showcasing powerful Afro-Colombian and Afro-contemporary dance performed by 12 dancers & musicians with live drumming and singing.
The city in “The City of Others” is populated by people with diverse backgrounds from different places with varying cultures, and different ways to understand the world. These dissimilar people coexist in a limited space, and despite the forward march of progress, the city at times can become a place of discrimination, resulting in hostility and solitude for Afro-Colombians.
“The City of Others” denounces the lack of opportunities for minority communities and other marginalized populations who, for generations, have suffered social inequity. “The City of Others” demands the city be a place of coexistence; a place for everybody, not only the few.
One hour in length, Accommodating Lie showcases 7 dancers with live music performed by 3 musicians (drums, native flute, marimba, and voice). A powerful work examining what it means to be of African descent, Accommodating Lie denounces the clichés and falsehoods around the Black body. It looks to dismantle stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated. In a series of emotional solos, duets, and group dances, the company embodies decades of slavery and overt racism while claiming ownership to their identity. I know this all sounds super intense, and I can promise you, Sankofa’s performances are ultimately a celebratory experience from the lens of the African diaspora.
Through their performances, Rafael Palacios’ dances for Sankofa Danzafro reaffirm the need for self-representation of Afro-descendant communities, rewriting history from the perspective of colonized Colombians. In Accommodating Lie, he utilizes a catwalk to exhibit a parade of black bodies on display. The staging includes an interactive auction with the musicians and the audience – a direct reference to slavery and human trafficking. The set design includes a wall hung of straw ropes hung upstage – the kind of ropes used in the straw skirts worn by Afro-Colombian dancers in (racist) dance displays. The Sankofa dancers emerge from within this wall, and they too wear straw skirts in parts of the dance.
Behind the South: Dances for Manuel (Detras del Sur: Danzas para Manuel), is a tribute to the distinguished Colombian writer Manuel Zapata Olivella’s most acclaimed work: “Changó, el Gran Putas,” (Chango, the big badass) in which Zapata combines his creative genius and meticulous writing documenting the Afro-descendent diaspora in the South American continent.
Behind the South: Dances for Manuel is composed of five acts, following the structure of Zapata’s novel. Through choreography and dramaturgy, the performance references reckless omens, miraculous births, and libertarian rebellion; expressing the pain of losing connection with the motherland and the nostalgia of no return. Vicissitudes of enslaved men and women intertwine with the presence of their ancestors, their dead, and the orishas Yemayá, Elegba, and Changó, forgers of their destinies. Behind the South: Dances for Manuel celebrates the vital force of the muntu (the African people) and their use of the dancing body and music as ritual to invoke Changó, the son of Yemaja and the mother goddess, protector of birth in the Yoruba tradition and religion.
Behind the South: Dances for Manuel (60 minutes) was premiered in May, 2021 as a co-production with the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo in Bogotá. It tours with a total of 18 people: 12 dancers; 3 musicians; and 3 staff/crew.
Sankofa Danzafro’s mission is “to dance to be heard, rather than to be seen”.
Artistic Director Rafael Palacios’ motivation has been to rewrite the history of black communities through the eyes of the ones directly involved, the Afro-descendants, in Colombia and elsewhere. Palacios’ point of inspiration is that history has always been written by the oppressor, while the oppressed were denied having a voice. Utilizing the voices of the Sankofa dancers and musicians, he has been creating dances for over 20 years focusing on retelling history from a point of view that has been ignored for centuries.
“Sankofa”, meaning, “to return to the root”, is more than a word, it’s an African philosophy that proposes that the past is a keyhole through which to view the present, and to be able to consider the future. This thought has guided the Afro-Colombian Sankofa Danzafro, founded by Rafael Palacios in 1997, as a space dedicated to training and creation in dance.
Through various pedagogical projects and creative works, the Sankofa Danzafro has sought to build a bridge between Afro-Colombian peoples and the African continent. The company uses Afro-Colombian’s ancestral roots in the creation of works, which results in work that begin with the root of African dance yet develop through the framework of the daily, traditional, and contemporary. Sankofa’s works are a combination of poetic dance built on the ideas of social bonding, personal growth and the positioning of local cultures in the national dynamics.
The company has performed in Brazil, France, Peru, Spain, Jamaica, Burkina Faso, Canada, Uruguay, China and the United States and has been awarded with the 2008 National Dance Award by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia for the work “San Pacho…Blessed!”. The company also received mention from United Nations for its “Good practice of Afro-descendant social inclusion in Latin America 2010”, for the company’s project “Steps in the Earth.” “Steps in the Earth” was developed with the dance communities in the Pacific regions of Chocó, Urabá, and San Andrés and Providencia islands, in agreement with the 2008-2016 of the Ministry of Culture programs “Training for Trainers” and “Danza Viva”.
Choreographer and Colombian dancer dedicated to the exploration of Afro-traditional, contemporary and urban dance languages. His experience as a dancer in Africa and Europe has been the basis for the foundation of the Sankofa Company, with which he has created a wide repertoire of works that have been presented in Colombia and other countries such as Jamaica, France, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Burkina Faso. He has developed training processes aimed at teachers and dancers as well as seedlings of young people and children. National Councilor of Dance and Counselor of Black Communities (2009-2011). Master teacher of the Training Program for Trainers of the Ministry of Culture in the Pacific region 2007- 2013. Palacios received the National Dance Award of the Ministry of Culture 2008, with the work San Pacho … Blessed !; In 2009, he held an internship with the Company in Burkina Faso, Africa. Director of the project Steps in the Earth that in 2010 receives the recognition of the UN as Good Practice of Afrodescendent Social Inclusion in Latin America. He is invited as artistic director for the Colombian dance show held in the framework of the Summit of the Americas Cartagena 2012. Choreographer for the production of the 2013 Cali World Games.