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The Master Steps Down, Crowns a New Leader

ChuckDavisFINALwebThe great Dr. Charles “Baba Chuck” Davis, foremost dance teacher, choreographer and scholar, has transformed Brooklyn into a performance village nearly every spring for almost 40 years through his beloved DanceAfrica. He founded, developed and grew the Festival into the nation’s largest celebrating the diverse culture of Africa and its Diaspora. And for this we all should be thankful. He calls us his Brooklyn family, and we feel we love him best, yet his family extends beyond the Opera House at BAM and the marketplace that grows each year on and around Ashland and the borough of Kings. Dr. Davis has directed more than 80 companies from the Ivory Coast, Congo, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zaire, Benin, Uganda, Ghana, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, Zambia, Madagascar, Brazil, and all across the US. Millions have applauded his works. This weekend, Brooklyn youth and the elders will pay tribute to him at two neighborhood landmarks. On Saturday, May 16, 1:00PM, students from Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration will present a special tribute to Dr. Davis, who shaped their African dance program at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza (1368 Fulton St, Brooklyn). A Tribute to the Ancestors ceremony will be held earlier in the morning at the Weeksville Heritage Center (1698 Bergen
St, Brooklyn). This traditional ceremony, which includes dancing and music by participating artists, is an integral part of DanceAfrica that honors elders who have passed on. The event is free and open to the public.
Of course, at BAM there are the Memorial Weekend performances after weekday activities and exercises, including possibly a Rite of passage moment with Chuck extending something symbolic to the great Abdel Salaam, whose magnifi cence can be observed in his powerful “Forces of Nature”
dance company.
Yet, the language of “stepping down” is strange in describing the process of this King’s “retirement. This wise chief, powerful lion, cultural arts warrior, beloved Baba, is a preserver of the knowledge of the village.
And he is a portal to the world of his forebears; and a preserver of their traditions, their visions, their rhythms and their history.