FAIRBANKS - With only days left, Ana Richards hustled to finish creating authentic African costumes.
“I learned to sew as a little girl by hand, and now I’m learning by machine,” she said.
The manager of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity has been busy all week planning for the “A Night in Africa.” event.
It looks as if it will pay off.
Tonight at the Salisbury Theatre, a night of dramatized stories, poetry reading and dancing — including a special tribute to Haiti — will take place. With over 20 performers, the fliers promise the show will be “A Beautiful Evening for the Entire Family.”
As a group rehearsed earlier in the week, each woman put on a brightly hued, flowing skirt and draping top. They giggled about tying them up just so. Richards helped everyone with their head scarves, seeming to be the only one who knew how to tie it right. Choreographer and Afro-Cuban dance teacher Felix Bambury flipped on the music, and the women settled into practicing their Haiti tribute.
The wailing vocals and drum-heavy music helped the dancers depict a story of harvesting coffee. In Haiti, the coffee harvesting has traditionally been done by the slaves, so the dance is about the slaves going about their job with a sense of freedom and happiness.
“Harvests were like a party,” Richards translated from Bambury’s narration of the dance. Even though the slaves were often mistreated, when they were out harvesting, it was one place they could forget their hardships.
As they danced, the women waved their large skirts in synchronization, and sashayed around the imaginary plantation. The dancers carried large, basin-shaped baskets to fill with the berries. Bambury’s wiry body led the women in their dance.
Debra Pearson, dressed in deep blue, crowned with a royal turban, is ready to sit down and read to the audience on Friday. She will be surrounded by children as her deep voice fills the room.
Another group of Bambury’s dance students will be performing an Afro-Haitian celebration dance called GaGa. The group of eight, along with Bambury, will act as members from different villages coming together in a larger meeting place. Bambury’s translation assistant Allison Zusu-Cobb described the dance as “energetic,” and “fast-spirited.”
Although the fliers say otherwise, the group will not be taking donations at their performance. Instead, they will encourage viewers to donate to the charity of their choice.
The performance is also in honor of Black History month.
Contact News-Miner intern Reba Lean at 459-7572.
IF YOU GO:
What: A Night In Africa
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Salisbury Theatre
Information: UAF Office of Multicultural Affairs & Diversity 474-7300