African Drum and Dance Ensemble highlights TCC showcase
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
For nearly 90 minutes, the lobby area inside the Performing Arts Center was transformed into a showcase of all of the possibilities for students interested in the arts at Tallahassee Community College.
Every one of the offerings had career opportunities all over them.
Theatre TCC!, one of the most popular, topped the list. Then there were the Speech and Debate team, the Talon student newspaper, the Eyrie art and literary magazine, visual arts, creative writing, multicultural mythology and Latino literature.
Donmetrie Clark, Dean of Communication and Humanities at TCC, said presenting the showcase was essential to getting the word out about what TCC has to offer beyond the classroom.
“It goes beyond what people think about fine and performing arts,” Clark said. “This is not only educating students but educating their parents. This is about showcasing what we do at TCC. I know most people catch the broadcast on TV, but this was a way for people to come out and see for themselves, not just theatre, not just forensics but everything else that we offer in terms of performing arts.”
One of the most impactful was the African Drum and Dance Ensemble, which put on a four-minute demonstration.
Five dancers performed to recorded music, but they captivated the audience in the lobby area the entire time.
The root of what the ensemble does is based in West Africa, said Sara Brown, director of the group.
“The traditions go back hundreds of years,” said Brown, who has been with the ensemble for more than a decade. “The rhythms we perform are very common in the African dance community. We just put our spin on them.”
Those who make up the drum segment of the ensemble have vast knowledge of the dances that are common in Mali and Guinea, said Brown. Together with the dancers they make up what Brown called a “flexible art form.”
“These rhythm and dances have so much energy to them,” Brown said. “There is so much richness to them.”
Sunshine Scott and Bianca Hargret are the choreographers who bring uniformity to the dances. A lot of what they learn comes from attending conferences and workshops, said Scott.
The dance they performed at the showcase was titled “Kuku”. Unlike what the title implies, the presentation was a happy dance that told a story, Scott said.
“Every rhythm has its own story from everyday life,” said Scott, who graduated from TCC in 2016 but maintained her spot with the ensemble. “We just pick how it’s going to be told to come up with the choreography that we do.”
While the event didn’t attract an overflow crowd, James Rosa and his mother, Laura, drove from Pinellas County for the showcase. He came specifically for the preview performance of the play “Head over Heels” by Theatre TCC!
A senior at East Lake High School, Rosa said he will join the TCC theatre group in the fall. He will bring previous acting and directing experience, he said.
Making the decision to come to TCC is worthwhile, said Rosa, who took the four and a half hour drive to Tallahassee.
“I have a lot of support up here already so I figured I would venture out of my comfort zone,” he said.
His mom seemingly trusts his choice.
“I totally have faith in his decisions and I know he will do what he needs to do to enjoy college; his life,” she said.
Throughout the showcase, professor of journalism Reggie Grant, was pitching the Talon student newspaper. Grant, who is advisor to the newspaper’s staff, said he hoped the event head off one of his biggest challenges of having students look to join the staff too late in their time at TCC.
Olivia Lunsford, a student on the Eyrie art and literary magazine staff, got in early. She’s been participating in the magazine production for almost three years.
“I like the design aspect and putting something together,” she said. “A lot of people would probably say the group aspect is the fun part. It is an important thing to learn working with people, but I like putting things together more.”