DanceAfrica is BAM's longest running program and America's largest celebration of African dance, music, and culture representing the African diaspora. Founded in 1977 by Chuck Davis with the aim of heightening awareness of African culture, the festival has evolved into a beloved annual Memorial Day weekend event that brings together the entire community. Over the years, DanceAfrica has expanded with performances in several major cities, through the leadership of Chuck Davis and the DanceAfrica Council of Elders.
The Council of Elders are an instrumental part of the evolution of DanceAfrica. With over 40 artists, producers, musicians, healers, designers, and activists involved, the Council of Elders provide support on every level to the production of DanceAfrica. From choreography to garment making, artistry and interpretation, the Council of Elders continue to preserve the history of African culture each year at DanceAfrica.
In 2015, Chuck Davis stepped into his new role as Artistic Director Emeritus and graciously passed the Artistic Director baton to Abdel R. Salaam. Baba Chuck passed away in 2017, and we continue to honor his legacy.
Every year DanceAfrica continues to welcome artists across the African diaspora to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. The performances include traditional and contemporary dance companies, students of BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble, and live music. The weekend-long festival also features master classes, community events, film screenings, an art exhibition, and the celebrated DanceAfrica bazaar. This global marketplace of African, African-American, and Caribbean arts, crafts, and food features over 200 vendors and attracts up to 30,000 visitors per year.