Energy surged through the Ossie Davis Theater as the audience clapped to sounds of drums and swayed back and forth to the rhythm of dancers during the annual African Dance and Drum Performance.
The Saturday afternoon event culminated a seven-week program presented by the Bokandeye African American Dance Theater, based on traditional movements learned by families in Africa, said Barbara Davis, the community relations coordinator for the .
“All ages from children to grandparents and members of Bokandeye perform,” she said.
Bokandeye Director Anthony Wooden Sr. said the annual performance was an opportunity for members of a diverse New Rochelle to learn each others’ cultures.
Bryan Murray, a husband to one dancer and a father of another, was on stage as well as one of four men from the audience to volunteer to dance with the performers.
He said this event was important to increase knowledge of African traditions.
“It’s a good way to get the community involved. And involvement brings commitment to cultural awareness,” Murray said.
Wooden Sr. explained the drums’ significance in African history.
“Drums are the backbone of African culture,” he said. “At one point in time they were the only means of communication.”
Olumide Gilbert, Anthony Wooden Jr., Ricardo Laguerre, Frank Malloy IV and Paul “Ade” Harris played the drums while members of the workshops danced.
A sixth drummer, Ricardo “Jivaro” Santose, was a late addition to the group. Wooden Sr. said Santose had been looking for a place to play so he welcomed him. He had a week of practice but did not miss a beat.
“I came to rehearsal last Saturday,” said Santose, “I rehearsed with them and then Tony told me to become part of the show.”
Davis said the event is part of the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District Family Days presentations.