“FORCES OF NATURE DANCE THEATRE
40 Years In the Art of Life!
26th Year Forces of Nature Dance Theatre Anniversary:
Click here to see Force of Nature’s 26th anniversary video!
Dyane Harvey-Salaam is the Assistant to the Artistic Director, The Founding Company Member and was the First Principal Soloist of Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. She has performed with numerous companies including Tony Award Winning George Faison’s Universal Dance Experience, Dunham dancer Walter Nicks’ Dance Theatre, Otis Sallid’s New Art Ensemble, Nanette Bearden’s Contemporary Chamber Dance Company, Joan Miller’s Dance Players, internationally recognized Dance Brazil and the Trinidad/Tobago Repertory Dance Theatre. She was hailed a “New York City Dance Diva” by Dr. Glory Van Scott in her series of tributes to Black female dancers at the Schomberg Center for Research Library.
She has choreographed the following for the theatre community: “Love’s Fire” for The Acting Company, “Yerma” and “The African Company Presents Richard the Third” (director Reggie Montgomery) for NYU’s Graduate Acting Program and Ramapo College, “Lavender Lizards, Lilac Landmines, Layla’s Dream” for the University of Florida at Gainesville and at the Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (writer Ntozake Shange- director Dr. Mikell Pinkney), “Harriet Returns” for The Acting Company (director Shona Tucker), “Iced Out Shackled and Chained, Still in Search of the North Star”, (for National Black Theatre and Blackberry Productions at the National Black Theatre Festival) and numerous others.
Her theater, film and television credits include: “Free to Dance” (PBS Special), “The Wiz” (Broadway and film), and “Timbuktu!” “Spell #7”, “Ailey Celebrates Ellington”(CBS Special). She also appeared in the Paris Company of “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God” at the Mogador Theatre. For the McCarter Theatre’s Education Department, she served as choreographer for the audience interactive musical play based on the life of Sundjata Kamaleyna, the true lion king of Mali (written and directed by Chris Parker)
She was Director of the Dance Department at Stephen’s College during the mandatory Summer Dance Institute, offering eclectic programming and unusual dance exposure. As professor at both Princeton and Hofstra Universities she also choreographs and has introduced two courses, one a Pilates Lab which supports the physical and mental connections that people (and specifically dancers) need reinforced to handle daily challenges; and the other, “The American Experience and Africanist Dance Practices” which examines the contribution of Africanist movement principles to American culture with overwhelming student popularity. In both of these institutions she has served beyond the call of duty, often serving as the faculty advisor to students on independent study projects, junior and senior practicums, as well as providing dance-theatre experiences outside of the institution, which in some instances have lead some to their ideal career choices and professions.
Dyane’s studies of the Pilates system of exercise began in the early 1970’s with Judith Covan-Newfeld as therapy for a knee injury. As the healing ensued, Dyane realized the true value of this system and began teaching what she learned to friends and colleagues. In 2000 she earned her teaching certification from Romana Krysanowska, of the Pilates Institute. One of the most enjoyable aspects of her life is the sharing of this wonderful storehouse of knowledge through community classes as well as private apparatus sessions under her creation, “Ma’at Pilates”, a Pilates system designed for injury prevention, strength and flexibility maintenance for the dancer, non-dancer and serious athlete .
Harvey earned the Dance for Life Award (from Better Family Life, a cultural, financial and social empowerment organization based in St. Louis, Missouri), the AUDELCO Award for best actress in a musical (Dunbar) and choreography (The Great Men of Gospel), the Monarch Merit Award, The Ira Aldridge Black Theatre Award for contributions to the theatre community, the Goddesses and Gurus Award, and “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” an award given by the Hempstead African American Museum.
Olabamidele (Dele) Hart-Husbands:
Dele holds degrees from Hampton University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Calabar West Africa and continues expanding her educational pursuits as a PH.D candidate in African American Studies at Temple University and as the Chief Operating Officer and Program Director of Say Yes! To Life Educational Services in Los Angeles.
She has performed with Weusi Kuumba African Dance Ensemble, the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, Chuck Davis Dance Company, the University of Calabar Dancers of Nigeria and The Forces of Nature. ‘Dele has directed and managed numerous dance and theatre companies in addition to serving as the Assistant Director of Theatre at Grambling State University, LA; Director/Manager of the Mojo Players Theater Group, Bowling Green Ohio; Business Manager/Technical Director of the Department of Performing Arts, University of Calabar, Nigeria; Lecturer/Arts Fellow at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria; and Associate Professor of African and Caribbean Literature at Hunter College. ’Dele was recently the Chief Operating Officer and Program Director of Say Yes! To Life Educational Services in Los Angeles and also served as the Program Director of the Rheedlen Foundation Parents Help Center in Harlem, NY and continues to provide cultural programming as a Consultant to the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Ms. Husbands is a former member of the dance faculties at the Alvin Ailey School and the Ruth Williams Dance Foundation and served as a teaching artist for Community Works, the Caribbean Cultural Center where she also served as the Educational Coordinator; Project Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. She is the first recipient of the Harlem Dance Legends Award in Arts in Education, Harlem NY; featured in the Community Works “Living Legends” photo exhibit that has toured the country and continues to conduct master classes and workshops in West African and African American dance, history and culture both nationally and internationally. Ms. Husbands is also a certified Vinyasa Yoga Instructor and is the founder of “Kemetic Flow Dance and Sacred Movement Arts” which is based in the history and language of Ancient Egypt (Kemet).
Dele holds degrees from Hampton University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Calabar West Africa and continues expanding her educational pursuits as a PH.D candidate in African American Studies at Temple University.
Dina Wright Joseph:
Dina Wright Joseph is the proud recipient of the FON Artistic Achievement Award and has graced the cover of Heart and Soul magazine, and Instyle magazine’s featured article entitled Dina Wright: A Force of Nature. Dina’s television credits include PBS’ “Free to Dance,” VH1’s “Divas Live” with Aretha Franklin and as co-choreographer of VH1’s “Hip Hop Honors” tribute to Afrika Bambattaa and the Smithsonian Museum’s multi-media instillation “Black Dance in the 20th Century.”
Along with being a founding member of Purelements: An Evolution in Dance, Dina also performs with Forces of Nature and Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater. As a dance educator, Dina serves as guest lecturer for Lehman College’s City and Humanities Dept and served two years as a lead teacher for NYCDOE’s Summer Arts Intensive hosted by Stuyvesant High School.
Daaimah Taa Lib-dim:
Daaimah’s personal and spiritual relationship to her artistry has made her a most sought out-after performer, teacher and choreographer in the United States and abroad. In 2017 her gifts have earned her the distinction of being the first person to win a Bessie Award (the highest dance award that a dancer can achieve in New York City for outstanding performer) for African based dance. Her music video credits include Black Coffee’s ‘’Come with me’’, in which she was the lead choreographer, and Styles P’s “Never Fight an African’’, in which she performed her own solo choreography. She also filmed for the Hollywood production Step it up 3D. Daaimah is probably best known for her work in live dance and musical theater, having performed at such internationally renewed venues as the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Apollo Theater, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall and Black Dance USA.
Natiya Kezevadze started her training in Classical Ballet at V. Chabukiani State Ballet School in Tbilisi, Georgia. At age thirteen, she was afforded the privilege of being accepted to the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet on full scholarship and moved to St-Petersburg, Russia. While at the Academy, Natiya performed on the celebrated Mariinsky Stage in ballets such as Swan Lake, La Bayadere, La Sylphide, Chopiniana, Nutcracker, Giselle, and Legend of Love to name a few. Ms. Kezevadze graduated from professor T. Udalenkova receiving a BFA and was invited to join Boris Eifman Dance Company. In 2004, Natiya moved to NYC to further pursue her performing career and in 2005 Natiya joined Forces of Nature Dance Theater Company, under the direction of Abdel Salaam. Additionally, Ms. Kezevadze became a member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet (CCB) in 2007 and had the amazing opportunity to tour worldwide performing widely acclaimed works by Dwight Rhoden, Desmond Richardson, Igal Perry, Jae Man Joo and Nathan Trice.In 2012, Natiya and her husband, Ilia, welcomed the birth of their daughter Vivi. Ms. Kezevadze left life on the road with Complexions to focus on motherhood. She then found time to embrace her love for teaching both classical and contemporary ballet. Ms. Kezevadze has the pleasure of teaching for the Complexions Intensive and Pre Pro Programs, the Joffrey Experience and Joffrey Intensive Program in NYC to name few.
Today, Natiya is honored to continue performing with Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an Artist in Residence and to further explore her passion to teach and share her knowledge with new generation of talented and inspiring dancers.
Click here for Natiya’s Steps on Broadway page.
Dr. Charmian Wells:
Charmian Wells received her PhD in dance studies from Temple University, as a Presidential Fellow. Her work examines articulations of queerness and diaspora in Black Arts Movement concert dance in New York City. Her writing has been published in Dance Research Journal, Critical Correspondence/Movement Research, and The Brooklyn Rail. This research stems from her performance career as a dancer with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre since 2005. She is on faculty at Sarah Lawrence and Lehman Colleges.
Charmian Wells is a cultural historian, working at the intersection of dance studies, performance studies, black cultural studies, diaspora studies, and queer theory. She received her PhD in dance studies from Temple University, as a Presidential Fellow and a recipient of the Edrie Ferdun Scholarly Achievement Award. Her research is focused on articulations of queerness and diaspora in Black Arts Movement concert dance in New York City. This stems from her performance background as a dancer with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre since 2005. Her writing has been published in Dance Research Journal, Movement Research/Critical Correspondence, and The Brooklyn Rail. Charmian has taught in the dance departments of Sarah Lawrence College, Swarthmore College, Lehman College, Marymount Manhattan College, Hollins University, and Temple University.
Jeffrey Page has long considered his creative home to be Forces of Nature Dance Theatre of New York. Jeffrey is an Emmy Award-nominated director and choreographer, he spearheaded the 2015 and 2018 Tokyo productions of the musical Memphis, which received four Yomiuri Award nominations, including Best Musical. The first African American to be named the Marcus Institute Fellow for Opera Directing at The Juilliard School. Mr. Page won an MTV Video Music Award for his work with Beyoncé, whose creative team have included him for more than 12 years. His work was featured on Beyoncé’s “The Formation World Tour”, in her historic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival performance, and in two of her HBO specials. Mr. Page was the associate creative director for Mariah Carey’s “Sweet, Sweet Fantasy European Tour”, and has been a featured choreographer on Fox Television’s “So You Think You Can Dance”. He currently is the creative director for singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, most recently working with her on the 2020 BET Soul Train Music Awards. Mr. Page was in the original, award-winning Broadway cast of Fela!. He worked alongside Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori to choreograph the hit Broadway musical Violet starring Sutton Foster (Roundabout Theatre Company). Page was acknowledge by the Berkshire Theatre Awards for his work at Barrington Stage Company’s Company and Broadway Bounty Hunter. In 2016, he established Movin’ Legacy as an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the ethnology and documentation of contemporary and traditional dance from Africa and the African diaspora. Jeffrey holds a MFA degree, with a concentration in Theatre Directing from Columbia University in New York City, and serves as a lecturer at Harvard University and The Juilliard School. In 2019 he was awarded the Chuck Davis Emerging Choreographer Fellowship from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Currently, as co-director and choreographer, he is working with Diane Paulus and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University to mount the Broadway revival of 1776.
Click here for Jeffrey’s professional website.
Dr. Angela Fatou Gittens:
Dr. Angela Fatou Gittens is a dance historian, educator, linguist, arts advocate, and performer. Gittens has been recognized for her research, creative work, and advocacy work with artists of African descent across New York City. She is the co-founder of the Brooklyn Cultural Arts Coalition, a collective of arts organizations and art makers of African descent aiming to increase their self-advocacy towards maintaining funding, technical support, and a cultural presence representative of the diverse communities throughout Brooklyn. She is also the creator of Alkebulan Institute of Language & Diaspora Studies, a cultural institute for researchers, for educators and for language learners of all ages. With a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a focus on Francophone dance history from New York University, Gittens is fluent in 6 languages and is also a graduate of Yale University and Oberlin College. Gittens served as a lecturing professor in Dance History at Barnard College at Columbia University and is the former Executive Artistic Director of Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy. One aspect of Gittens’ doctoral dissertation focuses on the Black female dancing body in diaspora and includes three case studies of African diaspora-based choreographers, Abdel R. Salaam (Forces of Nature), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women), and Ron K. Brown (Evidence). Gittens has won awards for her writing & research on the Senegambia region, South Africa, France, and Mexico, and she is especially known for curating the Brooklyn Arts Council’s Black Brooklyn Renaissance 2010, a year-long series of artist exhibitions, symposia, and performances funded by the Met Life Foundation. In June 2013, Gittens was awarded the “Juneteenth African Diaspora Scholar Award” by Kowteff West African Dance Company for her research & consultant work with artists throughout NYC. She is an alumna company member with Forces of Nature Dance Theater and currently a committee member of the NYC Bessie Dance Awards. A Gullah Sea Islands descendant from Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Gittens resides with her husband and two sons in Brooklyn, NY while teaching and doing equity work across NYC and nationally.
Fritz Lyn Hector:
Fritzlyn “Fritz” Hector is an educator, choreographer, dancer, and a performing artist, seasoned with a professional multi-dimensional artistic career of over 25 years and counting. A Brooklyn native of African-Haitian descent, Fritzlyn credits her knowledge and expertise to the notable dance scholars, choreographers, master dancers, and musicians from America, Haiti, western, central and southern Africa that she trained and toured worldwide with for over 20 years.
Fritzlyn is a 20 year veteran cast member, and cast trainer of the Off Broadway show STOMP. Fritzlyn is featured on the STOMP playbill cover, national billboards, commercials, social media, and taught workshops for broadway.com and Theatre Direct. Also of note are Fritzlyn’s most recent positions and accomplishments as an actress, and rehearsal director. Fritzlyn is featured on Julie Andrews’ Greenroom on Netflix, PBS “ Free to Dance ”, Late Night w/Jimmy Fallon, Paul Simon, and The Roots, Dance Monster (Japan) DVD, Harry Connick Jr. Show, Good Morning America, VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, ShowTime at the Apollo Theater, USA Swimming Olympic Golden Goggles Awards and recently taught and performed in Australia for the Adelaide Festival. Fritzlyn is currently featured as one of the lead roles on a national Google/Google Maps commercial.
Fritzlyn is a principal dancer, and rehearsal director of the 2017 Bessie Award winning Forces of Nature Dance Theater Company (FONDT). Fritzlyn has performed in Aruba, London and tours nationally with FONDT. The Fritzation Experience, Fritzlyn’s dance company, premiered two productions “Ancestral Conduit” and “Kinetic Potion” at Symphony Space in 2017. She premiered her dance work Ancestral Conduit at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Fritzation Experience was also the featured company at the Hostos Community College Kwanzaa Festival in 2019. Fritzlyn has taught diverse students from various backgrounds, and different levels of training at Lehman College, New York University, Princeton University and Hofstra University.
Fritzlyn provides innovative, fun and appropriate teaching methods to accommodate curricula and students. She also recently taught for Earl Mosley Institute EMIA. Fritzlyn is currently a dance professor, Director of Dance at Long Island University Post. As director, she just directed her first dance film “Dance The Change” this fall 2020.
Click here for Fritzlyn’s reel.
From Washington, DC, Catherine received her training from the DC Youth Ensemble (DCYE), Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA) and at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. She was a finalist and 2nd place winner in the National Arts Recognition, in Miami, Fla. and a recipient of the Astaire Award for Best Broadway Female Ensemble. She has worked with and performed the works of noted choreographers including Kevin “Iega” Jeff, Donald Bryd, Hinton Battle. The Fred Benjamin Dance Company (artistic director Fred Benja¬min), Forces of Nature (artistic director, Abdel Salaam), Darrel Grand Moultrie, and Camille A. Brown and dancers ( artistic director, Camille Brown). Catherine made her Broadway debut in the original cast of the hit musical FELA! produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith in 2009 and went on to tour internationally with the production until 2011. Catherine has performed throughout North America as far as Central and South America, Europe, and Africa. She has been an assistant choreographer for the Broadway production “Once on This Island” and other Off-Broadway productions as well. Catherine is soon to be seen in the Netflix film “Ma Raineys Black Bottom” with Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Catherine Foster gives thanks to all of her ancestors and loved ones for her success and guidance.
Nicole Chantal de Weever:
Nicole Chantal de Weever is the Founder/Coordinator/President of the Art Saves Lives Foundation
Cultural Ambassador of the island St. Maarten N.A, graduate of New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Fairfax Ballet and Motiance.
Ms. de Weever is a recipient of the Fred and Adele Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer on Broadway and the ACCA Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus for the Musical Fela!
Ms. de Weever performed at The View, Stephen Colbert Report, 64th Annual Tony Awards, The BET Honor’s Awards, Obbie Awards, Broadway on Broadway, Broadway in Bryant Park, Afro Pop Hall of Fame Awards, AUDELCO Awards, Black Film Festival, Dance Africa, West Side Story World Tour, FELA! Off-Broadway, FELA! on Broadway and FELA! World Tour.
Ms. de Weever has had the privilege to work for world renowned choreographers in the industry such as Katherine Dunham, Bill T. Jones, Joey McKneely, George Faison, Rob Ashford, Frank Gatson, Luam Keflezgy, Fatima Robinson, Tanisha Scott, Maria Torres and Abdel Salaam.
Nicole Chantal de Weever has had the privilege to work with The American Library of Congress on the documentary and DVD on the life and technique of Katherine Dunham. Ms. de Weever appeared as an actress on American Gangster directed by Ridley Scott, interviewed by Fox News Primetime Special with John Stossel “What’s Great About America”. Nicole has appeared on The Today’s Show with Ann Curry, interviewed by Leeann Trotter NBC and ABC with Tamala Edwards. Ms. de Weever has appeared as a Principal actress on multiple commercials for the Oxygen channel, and featured as a dancer on the PBS special “Dancing with Life”: Katherine Dunham.
Ms. de Weever was the assistant to VMA Award winning choreographer Jeffrey Page for Beyonce’s video “Girls Run the World”, “Grown Women”, Beyonce’s The Billboard Award, Beyonce’s Chime for Change founded by Gucci and Beyonce’s Oprah Winfrey Tribute. Nicole Chantal de Weever has serve as an assistant to choreographer Shakira Marshall for Ms. Lauryn Hill for BET’s Black Girls Rock. She has also worked with recording artist Angelique Kidjo for the BET Honors Awards. Ms. de Weever has performed with such companies as Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Creative Outlet of Brooklyn, Prophecy Dance Works, Seventh Principles and featured as a performer for Cirque du Soleil televised first Thanksgiving Macy’s Day Special.
Ms. de Weever was a featured model for Vote #44 for Victory President Barack Obama campaign. Nicole was also one of the featured dancers in the screen projection of the Alicia Keys World Tour “Set the World on Fire Tour” and also a featured dancer in the screen projection for Beyonce’s “Mrs. Carter World Tour” and Beyonce’s Chime for Change performance.
Most recently Nicole Chantal de Weever’s biography was published in the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography an Oxford Reference book as a part of a course offered at Harvard, John Hopkins and Yale University. This book is a textbook used in classes taught by Mr. Henry Louis Gates Jr an American literary critic, teacher, historian, filmmaker and public intellectual who currently serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Jae Ponder, a Brooklyn girl, with no prior dance training until her college years at Hofstra University under Dyane Harvey-Salaam. Here, she embarked and added on an enticingly new career path for the arts. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations/Marketing, Jae has since made full use of her freshly discovered talents by performing with Beyonce, Chris Brown, Kanye West, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Paul, and Ne-Yo just to name a few after signing with BLOC Talent Agency. Soon after, Jae was acting on HBO’s hit series “Boardwalk Empire”, “Vinyl”, and Cinemax’s “The Knick”. In addition, Jae works commercially with major brands such as Nike, DKNY, MAC Cosmetics, Adidas, Microsoft, and PUMA. This then lead to Jae being signed to top acting agency, Innovative Artists which brings Jae’s latest filmic debut from the Netflix Original Movie “First Match”, “STRIVE”, and Apple+ TV’s new series “The Helpsters”. Jae has also joined with Forces of Nature Dance Company under Abdel R. Salaam, gracing various stages, from Brooklyn Academy of Music to Johannesburg’s Soweto Theatre, pushing the envelope to do all things possible, as dancer, choreographer, actor, and all around creator, constantly making her dreams a reality.
Called “The first Grenadian woman on Broadway…” Oneika Phillips’ credits include the Tony award winning productions Spongebob Squarepants and FELA! The Musical. Other Broadway credits include Amazing Grace, and as assistant to the choreographer on the critically acclaimed, Violet. Prior, Oneika found her voice as Anita in the 50th Anniversary International Tour of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story, nominated for The West End’s Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, winning the Theatergoer’s Choice Award in the same category. She was also a cast member of the First and Second National/International tours of FELA!
Oneika is a former featured member of Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, where roots were laid for a professional career in Music Theatre. Other favorite theatre credits include Christopher Gattelli’s In Your Arms, a dance-based play, Tusk, a concert-theater experience that combines elements of film, puppetry, live music and theater, Jamaican writer Jermaine Rowe’s Children of the Blue Mountain and Leonora, directed by Antonio Minino, a Caribbean interpretation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
Oneika’s newest onstage adventure is the revival of 1776, a musical that explores the founding of America, the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the flaws, contradictions and consequences of the document. The unconventional casting pushes the envelope of what diversity in casting can look like. A virtual workshop was completed early in the pandemic, the first of its kind for a Broadway bound production.
Oneika considers herself an ambassador to her country and region and strives to be a voice for Caribbean representation in American Arts.
Ariyan Johnson, a native New Yorker, is a graduate from the “Fame” La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts where she studied dance, she holds a B.A. in Speech Pathology and Audiology and an M.A. in Applied Theatre. Ariyan creates strong female perspectives within the African Diaspora culture specializing in theatrical methods and Hip Hop, Jazz, Afro-Fusion Modern, and African dance forms. She is a multi-disciplinary artist, known for her Independent Spirit Award best female lead nominated performance in the Sundance Special Jury Prize Awarded film – Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., where she represented Hip Hop female dance duos. Some other credits include Law and
Order; J.A.G.; The General’s Daughter with John Travolta; Bulworth with Warren Beatty and Halle Berry, where she depicted a rapper influencing Hip Hop culture on the political landscape; and a series regular on The Steve Harvey Show. Johnson’s voice-over work includes cartoons, radio, and television campaigns.
Ms. Johnson’s early work contributed to the beginning of the commercialization of Hip Hop dance, having worked with pioneers of the field. As a professional dancer, she has either danced, choreographed, and toured worldwide for an array of artists such as L.L. Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Ms. Melodie, Prince Markie Dee from The Fat Boys, Ya Kid K, 2 in a Room, Mary J Blige, SWV, Keith Sweat, Crystal Waters, Mariah Carey and many more; having gone to such places as the Philippines, Japan, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand to name a few. She was a featured member of Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre where she was greatly influenced by his work that first introduced her to African dance fusions and her first touring experience to Mexico. Her work in Ronn Pratt’s Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Companies began her community work exploring jazz-based dances of protest with Eleo Pomare’s Dancemobile. Her community work continued throughout her ten years as Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Faithful Dance Company (F.D.C.). Among the many things she accomplished as a liturgical dance forerunner during her tenure at F.D.C., Ariyan also taught dance to deaf participants, organized social justice initiatives, and created interactive performances at Faithful Central Bible Church, housed at the 18,000 seated arena – The Great Western Forum. Through her own company, D.I.M.A.B.A. founded in 1991; she is a community partner with Los Angeles United School District, where she artistically engages high school students in educational activism. As an educator, she taught drama conventions and Hip Hop dance to genocide survivors at the University of Rwanda (formerly Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda, Africa); having also taught at Pasadena City College, Studio School (formerly Relativity Education), UCLA EXT, Kansas University, and N.J.P.A.C. (New Jersey Performing Arts Center).
Ariyan is the three-time recipient of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Artist-in-Residence grant, where she inspired communities through artistic expressions through her intergenerational theatrical work with storytelling. Most recently, Ariyan’s short film Triggered, (that she wrote, directed, and choregraphed) received international and national award recognition. Her article “The Historically Missing Piece of African American Women Hip Hop Dancers and their Contribution to the Culture” was published in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Black Dance magazine. Currently, Ms. Johnson received The Claire Trevor School of the Arts Institute of 21st Century Creativity Research Grant for 2020-2021 where she is working on her Spiritual Cyphers documentary. Ms. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine.
Started studying dance at the tender age of five at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She joined Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Company in 1990 – 2004. She has a 21-year-old daughter who also has a love for dance.
In 2007, she began Culture’s Closet Performing Arts Studio in Mt. Pocono PA where she currently lives and teaches dance to children of all ages. She will be celebrating her 15th anniversary in service to the Pocono Community where she is loved by many.
Armando Braswell is a professional dancer and teacher from New York City. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance from The Juilliard School in 2006, Armando danced with Ballett Theater Munich, Gauthier Dance Stuttgart and just recently completed his final season as a soloist with Ballett Theater Basel.
Aside from his dancing career, Armando has established himself as a guest teacher in high demand, teaching amateurs and professionals worldwide, including at the Prix De Lausanne and the Juilliard School. Armando has also choreographed for many dance and opera stages, as well as television.
In addition to his artistic activities, Armando is also active in the journalistic and social media fields. His popular arts blog, “Interview En L’air”, has become widely known in the international dance scene and earned him a place at “Dance For You Magazine” as a permanent correspondent and his media company “Creative Promotional Media” has earned him opportunities to work with clients such as Fondation Beyeler, Basellandschaftliche Kantonal Bank and Theater Basel in Switzerland.
In 2015, Armando began to build an arts community in Basel where dancers of all levels and all body types could train in a supportive and professional environment. This idea has since expanded and in 2017, he and his wife Lisa founded the “Braswell Arts Center” – a space for innovation and collaboration in all art forms located in Basel, Switzerland – and in 2019, they officially founded the “Braswell Arts Association,” a non-profit arts organization dedicated to support emerging and established artists. Through arts education and exchange, Armando hopes to encourage collaboration and the creation of new works of art and to promote networking and entrepreneurship within the local and international arts community.
Visit his website here.
Visit Braswell Arts Center here.
Kofi Osei Williams
As Chief Executive Officer of the Asase Yaa Entertainment Group, LLC, Kofi Osei Williams has ascended to a position of tremendous influence on African Dance, Music and Culture in Brooklyn, New York where he also oversees the creative and business direction of the affiliated Asase Yaa African-American Dance Theatre, Asase Yaa School of the Arts, Asase Yaa Children’s Arts Camp and the non-profit Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation. Beginning as a deft drummer and dancer, Williams scaled the ranks as a student, historian, touring performer, educator, administrator and company co-founder. He has worked with artists ranging from jazz greats Pharoah Sanders and Dianne Reeves, gospel’s Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and new age guru Paul Winters to Djembe Drum innovator M’Bemba Bangoura, soul chanteuse Erykah Badu and conscious hip hop star Talib Kweli.
Detailing his role as CEO with Asase Yaa, Williams states, “I develop our programs, curriculum and run most of our day-to-day operations. I also remain a musician for the dance theater and the summer camp. One of our ongoing core missions has been to bring people from Broadway and professional companies into the neighborhood to teach at affordable prices so kids can benefit and flourish in the arts.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Williams is the son of father Ofori Payton – a rebellious, Mississippi-born Black Nationalist – and mother, Nana Kodia Ababio, an African Spiritualist. Both inspired Kofi to become entrenched in African culture and the Black community.
Kofi and his siblings attended a private school started in 1982 by their mother through an organization run by the great Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu. Within this school was the Asafoba Dance Company where Kofi began indulging passion for African drumming and dancing. The best students went on to the professional Dinizulu African Dancers, Drummers & Singers – the oldest African Dance company in America (1947). By 9th grade in 1993, Kofi entered Professional Performing ARTS School in Manhattan and found he was significantly ahead of other students in academics.
Upon graduation in 1997, Kofi and his brother Yao made a pilgrimage to Guinea to study the African drum, Djembe, with the National Company of Guinea. Yao had a vision in 2001 for the brothers to pool their knowledge and experience into starting their own dance company. Following two years of development, they invited First Child Society to fund a concert held on Saturday, June 28, 2003 at York College titled “Africa: A Journey in Dance” headlining Asase Yaa along with four others – three from New York (representing Guinea, Ghana and Senegal) and one from Washington, D.C. (Ivory Coast & Guinea). This begat the launch of the Asase Yaa African-American Dance Theater, symbolically named after the Earth Goddess of fertility in the tradition of the Akan people of Ghana. In 2005 they participated in the acclaimed Dance Africa at Brooklyn Academy of Music – a MAJOR event for African Dance (starting in 1977) where Kofi also came under the invaluable creative and business mentorship of Artistic Director Chuck Davis.
In 2010, Kofi also co-founded, produced and directed an African dance & drum concert series, “Djembe in the New Millennium.” This is in addition to Kofi’s annual month-long continued studies in Ghana, drumming for programs and workshops given by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and adjunct musician duties at Medgar Evers College.
This year, Kofi wrote the play ‘The HBCU Show’ for their Summer Camp, which teaches the value of historical black colleges and the culture behind them. Asase Yaa’s primary goal in producing their various theater productions is to create richly impactful learning experiences beyond books that their students can contribute to and share face to face (or first hand).
For more on Asase Yaa, click here.
Frank Malloy IV
“I can see his soul through his hands,” one man exclaimed in a post-performance conversation. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in New York City, Frank Malloy IV; musician, composer, and DJ is a human being of an indomitable nature with a Southern soul and New York flavor.
Frank was handed his first drum at the age of two and began to study classical music at the age of five when he attended the Special Music School at Merkin Concert Hall. After years of classical music study, Malloy began his journey as a professional musician upon attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in 2005. He has since then, worked with the likes of Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper, Lion Babe, OSHUN, Jidenna as well as brands such as Danna Karan’s Urban Zen, Everyday Ppl, The Big Quiet, and Abrimah Erwiah and Rosario Dawson’s Studio 189.
The biggest ingredient in Frank Malloy’s work is SPIRIT. Malloy uses his gifts and life experiences to create blended works that not only entertain people but capture the essence of what it is like to be ‘African in America.’
Malloy is currently the Musical Director of performing company, Harambee Dance Co., founded by his mother and father, solo recording artist, and live percussionist to several emerging and established DJs including Everyday Ppl’s DJ Moma, and WizKid’s lead sound man, DJ Tunez. He continues to acknowledge his responsibility to carry the ‘African in America’ culture forward by creating his own modern doundoun drum set, playing various West African percussive instruments on his B. Cool Afro mixes of popular songs, and answering the call to create new traditions for the many generations to come.
Malloy has also used his stage career to catapult into other realms of entertainment. He can be seen in 20th Century Foxlight feature film “Black Nativity” and the Golden Globe-nominated Starz Network original mini-series “Flesh and Bone.”
Frank just released his debut single, Culture, featuring international Afro-hop recording artist, ADH and plans to release more music very soon. Malloy intends to change the way people relate to the djembe by presenting it in a musical context that everyone can digest.
Building community has always been a part of Frank’s philosophy and he intends to use his music to connect, empower, and bring greater recognition to African music throughout the world.
Jason Herbert is the founder and CEO of JR Media Group, a New York-based entertainment company, launched in 2020. Jason has a unique creative and business edge over the competition. With more than 20 years of experience as a professional dancer, singer, and actor, and a decade of work in music entertainment, Jason is in high demand for his skills and know-how in media technology and consulting. Dance and film credits include the Alvin Ailey School, Boston Conservatory, The Philadelphia Dance Company, Kymera Dance, Lion King Jr, Fela Broadway National Tour, Invisible Thread, Konan Obrien, Saturday Night Live, Ballet Noir, Forces of Nature, and feature films Bolden, Freedom, and Hal King to name a few. Three years later, Jason was sought out and became the project manager for Music Xclusives, a New York-based music media company. There he mastered the art of media, press, journalism, public relations, marking, brand development, and social media strategy. He orchestrated interviews and invents with major artists such as Future, Torey Lanez, Akon, Tamia, Jonathon McReynolds, Mario, Mona Scott-Young, and Miguel, to name a few –almost 150 artists within three years.
Jason has also studied video editing, produced and directed music videos, was AD and production manager on a web series called “How to Make It Big,” and was a partner in a start-up men’s fashion brand, focused on the work of designers Lee and Ben Copperwheat.
Along with interviews, videography, and video editing, Jason has worked as press for some of the biggest award shows and concerts in the country including Summer Jam, BET Awards, Essence Festival, Grammy Awards, Rolling Loud, AC3 Festival, and countless album release parties and red carpet events. With this experience and knowledge, Jason went on to earn a degree in New Media Technology and is eagerly pushing 20+ years of experience to a new level with JR Media Group.
For more on the JR Media Group, click here.
Anita Macbeth has been a Dancer and Dance Educator for over 40 years. Three times Broward County Arts Teacher of the year nominee, Anita recently retired from Broward County Schools Bethune Elementary School of the Arts where she was Arts Magnet Program Coordinator and taught Dance for 30 years.
Anita is a native of New York City, where she mastered her craft, performed with the Chuck Davis Dance Company and was a founding member of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. As an independent artist she taught and choreographed for several New York agencies and organizations including the Bronx Council of the Arts, New York Artist in the Schools Program, New York Housing Authority and the East Harlem Repertory Company.
After moving to South Florida Anita was a founding partner of the Children of the Caribbean cultural arts organization and later founded Recreate and Move Inc. and its Children of Kuumba Dance Company. For over a decade Anita taught Jazz, Tap and African Dance at the Arts Academy of Hollywood. Her African dance classes combined elements of Catherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and African influences that are strongly rooted in today’s techniques. Her style and cultural based elements are renowned in South Florida. Anita performed and choreographed in South Florida for Delou Africa Dance Ensemble and Venus Rising Women’s Drum and Dance Ensemble. In 2016 Anita Macbeth was nominated for J & M Enterprises Achievers Award and honored in 2018 at the Miami Dade College A.I.R. Dance Conference for her “outstanding achivement, professionalism and contribution to the world of dance.”
Tobias “Toby” Macbeth
A retired Technical Operations Specialist from NBC Universal in New York, Mr. Macbeth (everyone calls him Toby) is most proud of his work in the historic Black Arts Movement, and lifelong support of quality presentation of African-American arts and culture. Toby was lighting designer at the legendary New Lafayette Theater for premier productions of Ed Bullins plays and groundbreaking New Lafayette Theater Rituals. He designed lighting and stage managed productions for the New Federal Theater, the National Black Touring Circuit, the American Place Theatre, the Manhattan Theater Club and the New York Shakespeare Festival among others.
Toby has lit and stage managed performances for the Chuck Davis Dance Company, the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, the Hoofers Classic Tap Tour, and others. Returning from stage managing an international tour with the Rod Rodgers Dance Company, he became Technical Director for the Black Theater Alliance’s theater and rehearsal center on New York’s Theater Row.
With a BFA in Television Production from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Toby produced and directed LaMama Experimental Theater’s television production of Ed Bullins’ Clara’s Ole Man and original dance videos of works by Eleo Pomare and Andy Torres for WNYC-TV New York. He was Assistant Lighting Designer for Paramount Pictures performance documentary Save the Children, lighting director for PBS Black Journal’s Black Nativtity, the films The Long Night and The Torture of Mothers directed by Woodie King Jr., and other independent filmmakers.
In South Florida, Toby lit and stage-managed a number of productions for Delou Africa Inc. in several venues, including Dance Africa Festivals and Family Fest at the Knight Concert Hall. Close to his heart are youth productions he lit and stage-managed at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center and the Broward Center for Performing Arts.
Wimberly is a composer, percussionist, educator, and music producer based in Harlem, New York. Having recorded and toured with innovative artists such as, Charles Gayle, Steve Coleman, William Parker, David Murray, and others. He’s earned his place in the pantheon of cutting-edge avant-garde jazz drummers. As a soloist Wimberly has been featured with several European orchestras along with his own orchestral compositions performed by symphonies in the U.S. Additional compositions appear in the dance co. repertory of Urban Bush Women, Joffrey II, Alvin Ailey, Philadanco, Forces of Nature, Ailey II, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Noir, Alpha Omega, Ballethnic, Purelements, and The National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique.
Wimberly’s documentary film, The Sound of Freedom, received an Arts International award to capture a musical portrait of the traditional dances and unique Mozambican xylophone, the “Timbila”. The film features performances by Mozambique’s national treasure Venancio Mbande, and members of the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique.
As the creator of the international percussion experience, Power of Drum (POD), an arts program whose mission is to make accessible to all youth, independent of social status, age, gender, and ethnic background, the learning of music and its relationship to the arts and sciences. POD has broadened its reach from New York City to the islands of the Açores, PT, Abrantes, PT, and Bennington, VT.
Recent activities before the pandemic placed Wimberly coaching masterclasses at Tainan University, presenting music in Locri, Italy, and the Azores, and composing music for the Jerome Robbins Project Springboard musical residency “A Nation Grooves: A People’s History of Hip-Hop” by Kambi Gathesha. February brought Wimberly’s latest release, “Afrofuturism’, on Temple Mountain Records.
For Michael’s website, please click here.
Aimée Wodobodé was born in Central African Republic and raised in France where she studied Philosophy and Foreign Languages at the University of Paris XII. After touring Europe with Laura Scozzi and the Opinioni In Movimiento. Aimee moved to New-York city where she was introduced to Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theater in 2006. After being an apprentice for a year Aimée became a featured dancer with the company. She toured around the US with Forces for six successful years. Aimée left the company to become one of the original member of the cast of Fela! On Broadway, directed by Bill T. Jones. While on the Broadway show Aimée performed in Sadlers Wells, London, Nigeria, around Europe and the United States. While on Broadway Aimée took the opportunity of her seasons off to perform with FONDT at Dance Africa a few times. The last time being to honor the life and legacy of Baba Chuck Davis. In 2012 Aimée relocated to Los Angeles and earned a BA in Performing Arts. She is currently a Lecturer in West African Dance at UCLA. She has recently returned from an eight months research trip in Senegal, West Africa during which she worked with dancers from various parts of Africa at the iconic Ecole des Sables of Germaine Acogny.