African Dance Interview Project Videos Now Available

By Jan Schmidt
March 18, 2015
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is pleased to announce that the five interviews documented with the Mertz Gilmore Foundation grant to record African dancers and choreographers working and teaching in New York are now online at The New York Public Library’s website.

Project Director Carolyn Webb oversaw the production of these interviews. All five interviews were recorded onsite at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts with François Bernadi serving as the videographer for the project. Here is a short excerpt reel of all five interviews. 

The full interviews are available on the Library's website through Digital Collections. Click on the call numbers below for the individual interviews.

  • Maguette Camara interviewed by Ife Felix (*MGZIDF 4093) August 6, 2014
  • Marie Basse Wiles interviewed by Carolyn Webb (*MGZIDF 4094) August 26, 2014
  • Mouminatou Camara interviewed by Malaika Adero (*MGZIDF 4095) August 27, 2014
  • Youssouf Koumbassa interviewed by Dionne Kamara (*MGZIDF 4096) August 28, 2014
  • N'Deye Gueye interviewed by Malaika Adero (*MGZIDF 4097) September 18, 2014 
Maguette Camara interviewed by Ife Felix

Maguette Camara interviewed by Ife Felix

Maguette Camara learned his cultural dances growing up in his native Senegal, West Africa and performed with Ballet Bougarabou Dance Company as a young adult. He is a widely recognized choreographer, teacher and performer whose specialties include Kutiro, Djembe, and Sabar. Maguette currently teaches at a number of New York City locations including The Alvin Ailey Dance School, and Barnard University. Maguette is founder and director of Mane Kadang West African Dance Company in New York City.

Ife Felix is a fiber and mixed media artist and writer. Her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Ife has been an active member of the New York City African dance community for the last thirty years. A founding member of Harlem Girls Productions, she has produced three West African dance videos.

Marie Basse Wiles interviewed by Carolyn Webb

Marie Basse Wiles interviewed by Carolyn Webb

Marie Basse Wiles is a native of Senegal with family ties in Mali. Her grandmother taught her the traditional culture, dances and songs of the Bambara people. Marie's international touring experience includes performing with The Ballet National of Senegal where she learned the dances of many other ethnic groups of Senegal and began her teaching career. She has lived in New York City for over 30 years and is one of the African Dance communities most beloved icons. She is devoted to preserving and sharing the dances of her homeland. She has maintained her dance company,  Maimouna Keita, in New York City for over 30 years.

Carolyn Webb,  Project Director for this program, is a dancer/choreographer/musician who has performed internationally with some of the foremost dance companies and musicians of the African Diaspora, including Papa Ladji Camara West African Dance and Drum Ensemble, the Jean Leon Destine Afro-Haitian Dance Company, La Troupe Makandal, Roots of Brazil, Eddie Torres, Tito Puente, and Retumba, a women’s Afro-Caribbean music and dance ensemble. She currently works with Feet of Rhythm, a Haitian roots Dance Company.  Professor Webb has an MFA in Dance from The University of Michigan. She serves on the dance faculties of New York University (Steinhardt School of Education), Queens College, and The Fashion Institute of Technology. Carolyn Webb is a native of Detroit, Michigan.

Tanisha Jones, Malaika Adero, Mouminatou Camara, Carolyn Webb

Tanisha Jones, Malaika Adero, Mouminatou Camara, Carolyn Webb

Mouminatou Camara is from Guinea, West Africa. Moumi states that she started dancing in her Mother's womb. Since that time she has become internationally recognized as a brilliant performer and principal dancer with Les Ballet African and Les Ballet Djoliba. She brought her dynamic dance style to New York City in the 1990s. Moumi has worked consistently and generously as a teacher to share her skills, passion, and cultural knowledge pertaining to the dances. She founded Seewe African Dance Company in 2005.

Malaika Adero is a seasoned publishing professional with more than 25 years of experience in Corporate Publishing.  She is an accomplished author who considers her most important book to date, Up South: Stories, Studies and Letters of this Century's African American Migrations  (The New Press 1992/93. Malaika is Executive Producer of the Up South International Book Festival and recently held the position of Vice President and Senior Editor at Atria Books, Simon & Schuster.

François Bernadi, Dionne Kamara, Youssouf Koumbassa, Tanisha Jones, Carolyn Webb

François Bernadi, Dionne Kamara, Youssouf Koumbassa, Tanisha Jones, Carolyn Webb

Youssouf Koumbassa,  from Guinea, West Africa began dancing before age 6 by emulating both community and professional dancers. He later toured the world with The National Ballet of Guinea, and Ballet Djoliba and earned his reputation as a phenomenal dancer and musician. Youssouf relocated to New York City in the 1990s and established a dance company, Les Ballets Bagata. He is a much beloved teacher and ambassador of cultural dance here. Youssouf brings energy and excitement as well as cultural information.  He continues to be in high demand internationally as master dance teacher and choreographer.

Dionne Kamara started learning traditional Kumina dances as a little girl in Jamaica under her great-grandmother's guidance. After moving to the United States she graduated from Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts and received the Helen Tamaris Award for excellence in dance from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center where she was a merit scholarship student. Her professional career includes work with the world renowned Urban Bush Women with whom she has toured internationally.

N'Deye Gueye interviewed by Malaika Adero

N'Deye Gueye interviewed by Malaika Adero

Ndeye Gueye was born in Senegal, West Africa. She is a charismatic, dynamic and highly sought after performer and teacher.  Ndeye's expertise is Senegalese Sabar dance, and she brings incredible spice and grace to each movement. She has performed for former president Abdou Diouf of Senegal and at the United Nations Peace Conference. Her choreographic merits include the First Place Award at San Francisco's Ethnic Dance Festival. Ndeye, who founded her company Chosaanu African Dance, is committed to sharing her culture and raising the self-esteem of women and children through the arts. Although she travels nationally and internationally, she currently lives in New York City where she is a beloved teacher in the African Dance community.

Malaika Adero bio is above.

These first five videotaped interviews of African choreographers and teachers in New York City is just the beginning. As the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image started in 1965 with a gift from Jerome Robbins of five films and has now grown to nearly 25,000 titles, we hope that this project can continue and more interviews of these important dancers, teachers, and choreographers can be added to the body of work available for the world's scholars to study.