Members of the Rene Thompson Afro-Cuban Dance Company. Photos by Rohan Preston.
Choreographer, band-leader and curator Kenna-Camara Cottman took an expansive and inclusive approach to both performing arts and the definition of African culture over the weekend. "Africans in the Snow," the sold-out multi-genre show that she put together at Patrick's Cabaret over the weekend, featured dance, spoken word, music and African folktales delivered by renowned storyteller Beverly Cottman, who also happens to be the host's mother.
The atmosphere at the sold-out venue was steamy. Children romped onstage and audience members moved about between acts. Host Cottman encouraged that sense of informality as part of her inclusive welcome.
Still, the easy-going nature of the event belied the level of artistry onstage.
Company members of Rene Thompson Afro-Cuban Dance, for example (pictured above), did a fierce piece selection based in historical Cuba. The performers, four females and one male, bore shiny faux machetes as the worked their way to freedom.
The evening included a troupe of traditional Colombia dancers (above). In a trivia portion of the show, host Cottman asked where the majority of enslaved Africans were taken in the Western hemisphere. The answer: South America and the Caribbean.
"Africans in the Snow" had a celebratory vibe. Cottman has assembled a loose, and very soulful, band of musicians. They are versatile jammers, including Ayanna Muata and Leah Nelson (left), flutist Renee Copeland, and Cottman singing (right). Cottman's daughter and son are on percussion.
The title of the evening came from a poem by Louis Alemayehu (below, right). He explained that a photograph inspired him to write, both literally and metaphorically, about transplantation and transition from a place known for its heat to another place known for its ice.