HARAMBEE YOUTH Dances will display culture and clothing

Numerous African dances will be on tap.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Dancers from the Harambee Youth Organization will present a free concert at Stambaugh Auditorium at 10 a.m. Friday. The program for Youngstown City Schools is open to the public.
The group will present a number of different traditional dances from West Africa, and other regions. Each dance has symbolic meaning and in its native country, is used as part of a life ritual.
"Funga" is a West African dance that means "welcome." "It is a fast moving dance with lots of movements and gyrations," says Lynnette Miller, coordinator of Harambee. "When we first started performing for the schools, we were told to tone down our dancing. But the girls must dance hard. You have to loosen up to dance the funga." The costumes for this dance are traditional African fabric.
Although some dances use regular fabric, others use traditional fabric which comes from Nigeria. "It is either wax print or tie dye, and you can't tell front from back," says Miller. "The traditional African costumes are wrapped. Monjoni is one of the dances that uses just regular fabric. The dancers wear full skirts, but there are headpieces and other touches to "Africanize" the costumes."
Monjoni uses male and female dancers, and means rites of passage into womanhood and manhood. In a traditional African setting, the young men and women would learn and grow, and this dance was part of their growth period. When the initiation period was completed, the dance was called "domba."
For women only
One dance for females only is the "frekoba" or "fertility dance." "This dance uses regular fabric in solid colors of green, white and orange," says Miller. "The costumes are wrapped. It is a celebration of life, and emphasizes the movements of reproduction."
Another dance for just the women is "Alunje," the dance of womanhood, and is slow, demonstrating beauty and grace. "Koteba" means "big dance" and uses arm movements reaching up to the sky.
For the men
A men's dance is the "boot dance." It originated in South Africa in the early 20th century as a protest against apartheid. The Black African miners were worked like slaves, from sun up to sun down, with very low wages compared to white workers. They wore knee-high rubber boots to do their work and would march, dance and chant to and from work in protest and defiance. They slapped their boots and did energetic stomping movements that meant "even though you have worked us like slaves, you can't take away our spirit and energy."
"Bamba," an African/Caribbean dance that uses full, colorful skirts, is for females only. It is the "dance of the butterfly," a mix of slow and fast movement, a show of beauty and grace.
All dances are accompanied by drums and other percussion. Rhonda Taylor is the choreographer.
XFor more information about the Harambee performance, call Karen Wilson at the Arts Council, sponsor of the event, at (330) 746-2787.

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