Lula Washington Dance Theatre celebrates Kwanzaa

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West / California 4 Views

CRENSHAW — It was an evening of spirited African drumming and dancing as the Lula Washington Dance Theatre held its 2017 Kwanzaa celebration that elicited hand clapping, feet stomping and spontaneous shouts from a rapt audience.

Held on Dec. 29 and 30 at the Lula Washington facility on Crenshaw Boulevard and Coliseum Street, the dance company paid homage to the seven-day holiday which promotes the seven principles of Kwanzaa — Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility),Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

A cultural celebration of family and community through dance that is powerfully rooted in African traditions, the spirit of Kwanzaa was celebrated throughout the evening with high-energy performances of African, ballet, hip-hop, modern, and step as 10 drummers played percussion throughout the evening

‘’This is the time for us to remember where we came from and what our purpose is,’’ said Tamica Washington-Miller, who served as moderator for the event.

The program included poetry, singing and drumming as various male dancers recited quotes from Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King.

“African memories,’’ choreographed by Lula Washington, featured dancers that paid tribute to the Motherland while “Counter Love’’ featured graceful performers who blithely danced to the strains of Tchaikovsky’s ‘’Nutcracker Suite.”

Dancer/choreographer Christopher Frazier delivered a poignant moment when he tenderly performed with a chair while an audiotape of young black males depicted their thoughts of growing up as victims of racial profiling and police brutality.

“Crucian Serenade” was dedicated to all the Caribbean islands hit by the recent hurricanes and featured the Lula Washington Children’s Dance Ensemble, whose members swayed and swirled in colorful Caribbean dress as the audience applauded.

The second part of the celebration featured the ‘’Harambee Suite,” a series of dances that celebrated family and community. Dancers from children to adults twirled, swirled and leapt through the performances to the delight of the audience.

‘’Libation,’’ a stirring homage to African American ancestors and leaders, featured a traditional Kwanzaa table draped in African kente cloth and laden with a Kinara, dried corn, green, black and red candles, bowls of fruits and vegetables and African statues.

Draped in a regal blue robe, James Impu Kamut strolled on stage and paid homage to numerous activists and artists, including Erica Garner, Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey.

“We pay homage to those who have fought for us as well as to those who lost their lives in the Middle Passage and to police violence,” he declared.

A dance entitled the “Kicombe Cha Umoja,’’ or Unity Cup, featured a red goblet that was joyfully passed from one dancer to another.

‘’Everybody drinks from the cup to show oneness and unity, which is a Kwanzaa tradition,’’ Lula Washington said.

The evening concluded with the Dounba, where each member of the company danced in a circle and feverishly performed to the hypnotic beat of the drum.

One audience member rushed onto the stage to join the celebration and excitedly danced to the delight of the audience.

Jahanna Blunt, who teaches African dance at the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, said she was compelled to join the dancers in the celebration.

‘’When the drums are going, you are obligated to get up and dance,’’ Blunt said. ‘’It’s a spirit and a tradition. When you feel the spirit, you must move. I just had to do it.’’

As they filed out of the theater, audience members appeared enraptured by the performance.

‘’I used to take West African dance classes here several years ago,’’ said Dr. Amina Humphrey. “I love this place because it’s such a great resource in the community.’’

“I thought it was excellent, very inspiring,’’ said Judy Wherry. “It gave me a whole new perspective on Kwanzaa.’’

Lula Washington thanked her dancers and staff who had worked so hard to bring the Kwanzaa production to life.

“Locally, I wanted to create a (dance) tradition in our community to pass on from one generation to the next,” Washington said. “But we don’t just stay on Crenshaw. We go all over the world.’’

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