The American Dance Festival (ADF) is awarding Dr. Kariamu Welsh the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching. ADF granted her this honor in 2020, but the pandemic forced cancellation of the celebration. Dr. Welsh requested that the celebration happen when the event could take place in person. Unfortunately, she passed away before it could happen.
The award ceremony will take place at Page Auditorium on Duke University's campus in Durham, North Carolina on June 19th -Juneteenth. Dr. Nance is Assistant Professor of Dance and African American Studies at the University of Illinois. He was one of Dr. Welsh's students and serves as principal for the school of dance she created-the Umfundalai technique. Nance will accept the award on Dr. Welsh's behalf.
Six students from the University of Illinois' Department of Dance will perform one of Welsh's classic works, Women Gather (1990). Dr. Nance will also choreograph a processional comprised of former dancers from Welsh's company, Kariamu & Company: Traditions. It will include dancers from the Durham arts community, and members of Rennie Harris' Pure Movement Company who will be in residence during the time of the celebration.
Following the ceremony, Dr. Nance will teach a master class in the Umfundalai contemporary African dance technique, the movement practice that Dr. Welsh developed. It is considered her greatest contribution to the field of dance. This award ceremony will kick off ADF's internationally respected Summer Dance Intensive.
Read more about Dr. Kariamu Welsh's life and work here: "Kariamu Welsh, Pioneer of African Dance Studies, Dies at 72," New York Times, November 25, 2021.
"What makes Umfundalai so precious is how it takes the Africa I was living every day as a North American Black person and places it in the African continuum," Dr. Nance said by phone. "The cheerleading in my hometown, Chester, Pa., the double Dutch jumpers, the drill team marching, and the dancing in the living room with my mother to 'Le Freak'"-Chic's 1978 disco classic-"is all part of it. Dr. Welsh changed the landscape of how we think about African dance by showing that what we do with our bodies is worthy of investigation." Dr. Kemal Nance in the New York Times, 12/25/21