My night with Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble (AADE) could be one of the single most satisfying experiences I have encountered as a college student. Last night's dance concert in Page Auditorium turned itself into a cultural journey that had me thirsting for more...

The dancing…

Being in the presence of such strong dancers and stage presenters took the audience members for a thrilling ride. The night started out with a great remembrance of AADE’s family members and other famous choreographers. The first actual dance movement that I noticed resembled a rowing boat motion, and something about this activity kept me intrigued. As I continued to watch all of the energetic pieces unfold, I realized with more drumming comes even more excitement, undulations, jumping, contracting and pulsing. When the dancers gathered around in a semi-circle, and groups commanded the center to “show off” their moves, I could not even blink, because I was afraid I might neglect some of the action. One particular guy wearing a black and white ensemble grabbed the audience with his hilarious and perfectly executed “butt scooting” across the stage into tumbling. I have been to and participated in many dance concerts in my time, but I am willing to say that this dance concert had the best audience reaction and interaction. At one point in the show, I actually pried my eyes off the exquisite bodies moving together on stage and was drawn to the reaction of a woman across from me. She was lifting her hands up and looking to the heavens, as if thanking the spirit above for allowing her to be a part of this.

Chuck Davis...

There cannot be enough words to describe this man. He walked on stage with his blue and white caftan and commanded the concentration of every audience member. Even though I was hundreds of feet away from him, I felt warm inside because of his loving personality. Mr. Davis engaged the audience in some greetings: “Amay” and another “Lean with it, rock with it” chant. He had us laughing, smiling and simply loving him because of his immense love for his craft.

Stafford C. Berry Jr….

Before intermission, and in many pieces, Stafford did a superb job, but it was not until “Impinyuza” that the audience fell in love with this man. Three women behind me kept shouting “Mmm…get it,” and oohing and ahhing over his beautiful presence and body of motion (yes, I did say body). However, I am definitely partial because I (ladies, don’t get too jealous) actually got to take a master class with him this past year and witness his physical prowess close up. Let’s just say that I fell into even deeper love with his dancing when he strutted on stage and flipped his hair in every which way. All the audience members, especially the women, can testify that even if he just stood on stage and looked at us, our attention would be his.

Making a new friend…

As my fellow intern Sarah, her friend and I walked back to our vehicle afterward, we were approached by a man dressed in a beige, traditional African caftan and slacks. He introduced himself as Anthony and discoursed on the details of critiquing African dance and how it is false to write about the dancers on stage because in African dance, a spirit actually embodies them on stage. I became fascinated with his love for dance and hunger for life. He stopped at my car and asked my name, and when I told him that Anthony is actually the name of one of my best friends, he reached into his pocket and let me choose from two cards. The card I received was original hand painted artwork autographed by him. I cannot help but think I met Anthony for a reason and maybe even found a new spiritual leader. My hands were a little shaky but my mind and spirit were reenergized thanks to my new friend.

According to Baba Chuck…

“Art, music and dance are all about ‘in-reach,’ not outreach: the community coming together to help each other.” After watching Davis’ beautiful dancers on stage, I definitely took away a new outlook: Every one of us is a cultural being who thirsts for art and motivation. Stafford’s grace, Chuck’s love, the dancers’ hearts and Anthony’s honesty taught me that life is short, so dive in passionately and help your neighbor!

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