Sankofa reveals new energy

Sankofa demonstrated an impressive new direction during their performances last weekend. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Chang
Sankofa demonstrated an impressive new direction during their performances last weekend. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Chang

Last Friday and Saturday in the ’62 Center, Sankofa displayed an engaging artistic journey in their show Prophecy. Choreographed, directed and performed by the Williams College Dance Department and Sankofa, the 16 dances were divided into seven sections and revolved around a central narrative that was introduced by Drill Sergeants Malkia Mouflet ’14 and Kenny Jean ’14 as a cautionary tale that described the power of unity. The performance was an opportune showcase of the power and energy of Sankofa.
The performance began in a jungle setting with the narration from Ben Hoyle ’15. Within the jungle, the dancers were in either one of two groups: the Eagles or the Bears. Together, they live peacefully and in harmony, under the guidance of the Red Fox (Len’l Russel ’14) who served as a prophet and a quasi-leader for the Eagle-Bear coalition. The glue that held the forest-dwellers together was the sacred Sankofa Bird. Naturally, conflict ensued when the unnatural Visitors meant to symbolize the destructive power of industry and “progress” –arrived to the forest and began to fight with one another, instead of their shared enemy. After the Red Fox once again reminded the Eagles and Bears of their past, they united to fight back and take control of their home.
On the outside, the story was a simple one, one that most people have heard or seen many times. Yet the stepping brought new life to the story, while at the same time, the story brought new life to the stepping. Unlike a typical Sankofa performance where each dance is separate, there was added meaning to each dance in Prophecy. Hoyle’s booming and deep narrative voice kept the audience up to speed with the performance, but sometimes it seemed superfluous as the dances spoke for themselves. There also existed a wide variety of dances such as “Synthesis” or “Cumulonimbus” that artistically demonstrated the natural phenomena of the forest, while dances such “Perfect Storm”, which sampled Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse”, resembled more traditional step. Overall, it was a very balanced performance that satisfied the desires of the audience. Often when groups decide to take a new artistic direction, they lose sense of their grounding in their previous work, but that was not the case here.
Specific steppers and choreographers earned the cheers of the raucous crowd. The dance “Prophecy” choreographed by Kenny Jean ’14 and Russell contained a solo by Russell that put on display his ability to possess complete control of his body through careful contortions. “Cumulonimbus,” choreographed by Michelle May-Curry ’15 and Michelle Almeida, Alumni Relations Coordinator, was a wonderfully executed reenactment of a thunderstorm with the well-timed crash of the dancers’ feet onto stage sounding like the bang of thunder.
High energy and social consciousness brought Prophecy to full fruition. The show held onto the enjoyment of a traditional step performance while also finding new potential for the art. This was an impressive step in a promising direction that signals an evolution in the dance group’s work in years to come.