The 34th annual DanceAfrica festival (May 21–30) features Cuba’s Ballet Folklórico Cutumba (Cutumba), joined by two American companies, Philadelphia’s Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble and Bambara Drum & Dance Ensemble from New York City.

This is BAM’s longest running performance series, and one of America’s largest and most vibrant celebrations of African and African American dance, music, and culture.

The theme for this year’s festival is Expressions and Encounters: African, Cuban, and American Rhythms. Created in 1977 as the nation’s first festival devoted to the rich legacy of African dance, DanceAfrica has evolved into a highly anticipated Memorial Day Weekend tradition that brings together the entire community.

The production is under the artistic direction of Founding Elder Chuck Davis.

The festival also features the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble, an annual favorite and a powerful symbol of youth involvement in the preservation of African heritage, performing for the 15th straight year.

DanceAfrica 2011 events begin on Saturday, May 21 with an opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. at Weeksville Heritage Center. This traditional libation ceremony, including dancing and music by Cutumba and local artists, is an integral part of DanceAfrica that honors elders who have passed on to the ancestral grounds. It is free and open to the public.

The celebration continues at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza (1368 Fulton St. Brooklyn) at 1:00 p.m. with the annual community welcome for the visiting company featuring free performances by students from Restoration who have participated in the DanceAfrica Education program at BAM.

Also on opening night, BAM and Restoration will celebrate their 15-year DanceAfrica education collaboration by honoring Peggy Alston, director of Restoration’s Center for Arts & Culture’s Youth Arts Academy.

The celebration, which is centered around the dance performances at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (May 27–30), also includes the popular outdoor DanceAfrica Bazaar with nearly 300 craft, food, and fashion vendors; FilmAfrica, a BAMcinématek film series at BAM Rose Cinemas; Cuban social dancing; a late-night dance party; master classes for families and adults and an Artist Talk.

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave)

May 27 at 7:30 p.m .

May 28 at 2 & 7:30 p.m.

May 29 & 30 at 3:00 p.m.

Subway:2, 3, 4, 5, Q, B to Atlantic Avenue; D, M, N, R to Pacific Street; G to Fulton Street; C to Lafayette Avenue

Train:Long Island Railroad to Atlantic Terminal Bus:B25, B26, B41, B45, B52, B63, B67 all stop within three blocks of BAM Car:Commercial parking lots are located adjacent to BAM.

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