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Behind the Curtain

In Memoriam: Chuck Davis
By Susan McGreevy-Nichols
Posted on 5/24/2017 11:27 AM

NDEO was saddened to learn of the passing of Chuck Davis, widely considered the father of African Dance in America. Davis passed on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at his home in Durham, North Carolina, at the age 80. Davis was a Bessie-award winning dancer, choreographer, and educator, and an advocate for dances of Africa and the African diaspora. He was a member of NDEO for many years.

His legacy includes the founding of DanceAfrica, a festival of dance, music, crafts, and food celebrating the traditions of Africa and the African diaspora. The original DanceAfrica festival, held in New York City in May, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, and satellite programs have been established in cities throughout the country. In 1983, he founded the African American Dance Ensemble in Durham, North Carolina, a performance company with the mission “to preserve and share the finest traditions of African and African American Dance and music through research and entertainment.”  His work with the company and throughout the world helped build community and bridge divisions between people. As he had been known to say, “As long as you’re dancing together, you have no time for hatred.”

“Baba Chuck,” as he is known affectionately worldwide, was an influential teacher who touched the lives of dancers across the globe. As an educator, he helped share African heritage through the dances of Africa and the African diaspora with students on five continents. Through his performances, community work, and teaching, he impacted the field of dance education in innumerable ways. His pedagogical legacy has influenced countless other teachers, including many NDEO members, who continue to share his dance and his message of “Peace, Love, and Respect...for Everybody.”
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