The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s students, faculty and community experienced an energetic night of African dance on Sept. 28 during UMPI’s annual Homecoming. The Kotchegna Dance Company took over the Wieden Auditorium for a spectacular show. The group, led by Vado Diomande, shared ancient stories and legends of Africa’s Ivory Coast, which were brought to life by dances and drums.
Four members of the dance company travelled up to Presque Isle for the show. With an eager crowd ready for their performance, Diomande and another drummer led the audience in different chants from Arica’s Ivory Coast. Throughout the night, the crowd learned basic calls and chants. Some audience members even got the chance to get on stage and practice some African dance moves. Two women from the dance company also danced, wearing vibrant colors, while the men drummed.
“Leaning news things about a different culture was truly special,” UMPI freshman Cassie Demers said. “It was really cool to see the drummers teach the audience members how to play. I learned a lot about Africa’s Ivory Coast tonight and I am very glad I came.”
This New York-based company has been inspiring its audiences with colorful clothing, joyful dances, powerful rhythms for years. The company has performed around the world in concerts, festivals and educational programs.
Company leader Vado Diamonde was born into the Mahouka people of the northwest Ivory Coast. From an early age, he was brought up on silt-dancing. He learned the sacred dances of his people and was later recruited by talent scouts to join the Ballet National de Cote D’Ivoire. While there, he trained in a variety of traditional dances from more than 60 ethnic groups. He spent 15 years as a principal dancer and choreographer. Then, he eventually established his own dance company, L’Ensemble Kokiegna d’Abidjan. Later, he re-established his company in New York during 1994 as the Kotchegna Dance Company.
Diamonde now holds all-age workshops and classes to inspire his students to pursue drumming and dance in African tradition. When dancing in forms of African Ivory Coast culture, it is important to show all emotions. Expressions of anger, love, death and even birth are shown through movements and drums. The performers wore bright clothing and masks during the show for an extra layer of meaning.
“It was nice to see something culturally different than what we normally see. It is always fascinating to learn about other cultures and people from around the world,” UMPI sophomore Roni Shaw said.
The company delivered an intense performance that stunned people of all ages. Kotchegna gave a special moment to UMPI during its Homecoming festivities, which will not be forgotten.