To Whom It May Concern:
Dance forms of Pan African origins share roots of a common struggle between African ancestry and the present situation of African descendents all over the world. Discussions of what unites the black world aside from varying skin tones and western influence are now part of our everyday experience. But what if we found a way to showcase and explore movement in a way that is inclusive and encouraging of both that which makes us different and that which makes us the same.
Orisha Pan African Dance Troupe (formerly Dolé) is composed of Columbia University and Barnard students and alumni, blending dances and music of Pan African influence. By performing works influenced by West Africa, South America, the Caribbean, India and the Middle East, Orisha demonstrates that people from Africa and the African Diaspora are “dancing to the same beat”. Our mission is to create an African dance showcase for the Columbia community to enjoy through original choreography and traditional movement to be presented this April, 2009. This project would require a venue for presentation, technical staff, live music, and possible guest appearances from dancers outside of the Columbia community.
Our main concerns in implementing this project arise from the cost of a venue. Our goals are to introduce this community to the community around it through artistic movement. There has been nothing like what we are proposing yet presented to the Columbia campus, and through our initiative, we would like to invite Columbia to experience the strength, vibrancy, and beauty that African dance forms have to offer.
As a result of the African Diaspora, African dance is no longer one genre of creative movement. Although some dances in West Africa can still claim the title, so many of them have been lost to Post-Colonial western ideals and imposed customs of Eurocentric aesthetics. In addition, dances of the Caribbean and South America have become separate forms of dance, influenced by their African origins, but without claims of authenticity because of this imposed separation. African-American dance forms have suffered the most, as they are completely separate from this tradition as a result of the most brutal kind of cultural separation. Despite all of this, this dance form and those related to it are beginning to gain popularity and recognition thanks to those who have decided to reinvent and carry on this lost legacy. Community recognition would aid this pursuit of legitimizing classical and contemporary African art forms.
Although most of this project will be contingent on its’ funding, the ultimate goal is to provide adequate access to African dance to the community. In African cultures, dance is not just for the dancers. Everyone in the community is involved. Whether they are dancing, singing, playing music or watching, there is participation from the whole village. Through our on campus workshops, we have already begun to gather interest. We managed to organize two workshops during the fall of 2008 semester, with increasingly large turn out.
We are writing to ask that you consider the importance of this event and the continued success of our group. Donations will be the main source of funding for this project and your support would be greatly appreciated. In return for your patronage, we can offer free access to our dance workshops or even private sessions for you and your staff. Please consider this project as a sincere attempt to cultivate the presence of the arts—from all cultures and walks of life. I believe this would be something wholly original for the community to experience and I hope that you agree.
Ms. Chimdi O. Nwosu
Columbia College Class of 2009