Kariamu, Umfundalai, and a New Generation!

performing Cast

(In Alphabetical Order)

Bevara Anderson


Bevara Anderson hails from from Washington, D.C. and is a graduating senior in the Dance Department at Temple University where she serves as President of the D2D: Dare to Dance Company. She is a founding member of Visions Contemporary Dance Ensemble.  Anderson is a alumna of Duke Ellington School of the Arts (DESA), and in her younger years, studied at Dance and Body works, Joyce Laverne Dance Studio and The Dance Institute of Washington. While at DESA, she performed at the 50th Anniversary Performance for the Kennedy Center as well as the original Black Nativity choreographed my Mike Malone. Anderson spends her summers studying at Alvin Ailey American dance theater.

Maati Kheprimeni Angaza


Maati Kheprimeni Angaza  is a diverse dancer from Brooklyn, New York. At eight years old, she began studying African dance at the Maimouna Keita School. She attended a performing arts middle school and graduated from Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in 2017. Angaza has also trained with Ron K. Brown, Dwana Smallwood, Earl Mosley, and Harkness Dance Center. Currently, she is a freshman Dance Major at Temple University and continues to embody her passion for dance.

Stafford C. Berry, Jr., MFA

Master of Ceremony

Joseph Bryant

Master Umfundalai Musician

Baba Joseph Bryant studied African drumming and dance under the instruction of master drummer/dancer Saka Akwe of the Ghanaian National Ballet, Sakito Akwe, Lawrence Ball former Alvin Ailey Dancer, John Williams, and master Drummer/Dancer Baba Robert Crowder. Bryant is the founder and director of the Batu-Care Afro-American Highlife Band, and Omo Ilu Ile, African Dance & Theater Family Ensemble. Bryant is the Master Drummer for the African Studies Department at Temple University, Freedom Theatre, University of Performing Arts, and Shrine Drummer for Osuna Abreade Shrine of Ghana, Philadelphia.

Nicola Cameron

Costume Designer

A mother, educator and artist, Nicole Cameron is a local designer who creates one of a kind, African inspired pieces. A native of Jamaica, West Indies, "Nikki's" line Kingston Koutoure features women's, men's and children's clothing and accessories. She holds a bachelors degree in African studies from Temple University and a Masters degree in Special education from Lincoln University.

Zakiya L. Cornish, MFA


Zakiya L. Cornish is a New Orleans native currently residing in Philadelphia, received her B.A. from Dillard University in Business Management. Classically trained West African dancer, Cornish was a New Orleans-based independent artist for several years performing with many noted companies. She served as a teaching artist for five years with Young Audiences of Louisiana, culminating in an invitation for her students to perform in Los Angeles for Adam Shankman (executive producer of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE). Cornish holds an MFA in Dance from Temple University and is a movement artist with Lela Aisha Jones |FLyGround. Cornish is a former member of Kulu Mele African Drum and Dance Company. She has recently had the opportunity to work with Tony-award nominee Jeffrey Page, and Ron Brown of Evidence Dance Company.

Julian Darden


Julian Darden studied performance and choreography at the Esther Boyer School of Music and Dance at Temple University. As a teaching artist, he has shared dance with Philadelphia’s youth at the Lenfest Center, The Village of the Arts and Humanities, the Elkins Park School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, and Upbeat Dance Center.  He has choreographed and performed in productions at the New Freedom Theatre and Philadelphia’s 2016 and 2017 Fringe Festivals. In November 2017, he performed in the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble’s 24th Season of Dance in Kingston, Jamaica.  Currently, Darden performs with D2D: Dare to Dance Company, Kariamu & Company: Traditions, and the Berry & Nance Dance Project. 

Amanda Edwards


Jessica Featherson


Jessica Featherson holds a BFA in Dance with a minor in Latin American Studies from Temple University and is pursuing a MFA in Dance at Rutgers University/Mason Gross where she is a Lecturer of Dance. She has performed with Kariamu & Company: Traditions and continues to work with Mama Kariamu on various creative projects including the national tour of The Clothesline Muse. Featherson has also performed with Laurie M. Taylor/Soul Movement and Eyrc Taylor Dance at festivals such as Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, Harlem Stage E-moves, and the International Festival Avante Garde in Merida, Mexico.  She has studied in Mexico and Brazil, and is especially interested in the relationship between music and dance in those areas. With support from the Joyce Theater Foundation travel program, Featherson has also traveled to Havana, Cuba, with Ronald K. Brown to study folkloric and contemporary dance.

Ama Gora


Ama Gora is a member of Cardell Dance Theater and a writer for ThINKingDance in the Philadelphia community. She has trained with various choreographers including Jessica Chen, Silvana Cardell and Earl Mosley and has performed with the Umoja Dance Company, T.MAJ Dance Company, ErvWorks, and the Seldoms. In 2017, she participated in Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, ‘You, Me, We – Understanding Internalized Racial Oppression and How It Manifests in Our Artistic Community’ in collaboration with the People Institute of Survival and Beyond. She has recently toured Silvana Cardell’s Supper, People on the Move in Asheville, North Carolina.  Already in 2018, Gora has premiered two of her own choreographies, Excerpt One: Project ASSATA at Judson Church and The Lost Girls Are Black at the Koresh Artist Showcase. She holds a BA in Dance from Georgian Court University and is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance at Temple University.

Josephine Heard Deans


Josephine Heard Deans began her Umfundalai training with Mama Myrna Munchus and the Nommo Dance Theater at the Pennsylvania State University from where she earned a BA in Integrative Arts.  She danced leading roles in Kariamu & Company: Traditions and currently serves as the Associate Director of Administration for the Organization of Umfundalai Teachers.

Ashley "Peanut" Johnson


Ashley Johnson, a native of Jersey City, New Jersey, is pursuing a BFA in Dance at Temple University. Over the past few years she has attended summer intensives with the Joffrey Ballet School, Mason Gross School of the Arts, and DCNS Dance. Company credits include Philadanco’s second company D/2 and Eleone Connections. Johnson is an M’Singha Wuti trained teacher which empowers her share Umfundalai with recreational communities. She has performed in fringe festival work MUJERES, ACDA 2017 and 2018 gala performance.

Enya-Kalia Jordan


Enya-Kalia Jordan is a choreographer, dancer, and international teaching artist from Brooklyn, NY.  From 2013 to 2017, she danced with Buffalo State Dance Theatre under the direction of Janet Reed and then Joy Guarino and has since founded her own company, Enya Kalia Creations. In summer 2017, the company performed her signature work, Catharsis, at the National Gathering for the Dance for the Child International in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has been invited to perform at the conference in summer 2018, this time at the International Gathering in Adelaide, Australia. In spring 2017, Enya-kalia was a guest, teaching artist in Guimaraes, Portugal at the University of Minho teaching jazz and dramaturgy to undergraduate university students. In 2018, Enya-kalia also has danced with Nana Baakan’s Africa’s Voices and created work for the United Nations’ World Water Day. Jordan holds a BFA in Dance from Buffalo State College where she graduated with honors and is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from Temple University.

Shaness Kemp, MFA


Shaness Kemp, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, is a freelance dancer and choreographer. Kemp has taught at various institutions, festivals and intensives and has trained with several notable artists and professional dance companies, including Philadanco, Urban Bush Women, Eleone Dance Theatre, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Rennie Harris Puremovement, The Katherine Dunham Seminar, The American Dance Festival, and most recently, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. She holds both BFA and MFA degrees in Dance from Temple University and is a certified Umfundalai teacher. Kemp was the 2015-2016 recipient of the Ellen Forman Memorial. After with performing with Kariamu & Company: Traditions for many years, Kemp originated a role in the Clothesline Muse Theatre production and performed at its 2014 premiere at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia.

Aaron Mitchell


Aaron Mitchell, a Philadelphia native is B.F.A. student in the Dance Department at Temple University. During his undergraduate career, Mitchell has worked several companies including Eleone Connection, Grace 2, and Philadanco's second company D/2. Currently, Mitchell dances in hip hop battles throughout the East Coast. He is Artistic Director of PMDC (Power Moves Dance Company) and Co-founder of 5.8 Dancers.

Sophiann Moore


Sophiann Moore received her BFA in Dance Choreography and Performance from Temple University where she was granted the Rose Vernick Most Promising Performers Award. Her Performance credits include Equilibrium Dance Theatre, D2D: Dare To Dance, Kariamu & Company: Traditions, touring with the Clothesline Muse starring six-time nominated jazz singer Nnenna Freelon, and performing in Freedom Theatre's Black Nativity directed by Rajendra Maroon Maharaj. Moore has also perform in Stroproductionz's The Revenge of Dancehall. She has trained under Lee "Aca" Thompson and Dr. Kariamu Welsh, progenitor of the Umfundalai technique of contemporary African dance.

Jalessa Mungin


Jalessa Mungin is a Philadelphia native and has been working in the arts industry with a career spanning poetry, percussion, radio, artist management and production. She holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania where she minored in Jazz & Popular music. While at Penn, Mengin discovered and honed a love of West African and Afro-Cuban drum and dance. This passion lead her to become a drummer with African Rhythms Drum and Dance Troupe where she wrote and directed stage plays for the university and wider Philadelphia community. Having been taught by the legendary Paul “Abba” Lucas, she is beyond honored to share the stage with her mentor in celebration of the incredible Mama Kariamu.

Shavonne Munir


Shavonne Munir is a Penn State graduate with a B.S in Kinesiology and a minor in dance and as of this May, will have earned an M.S in Health and Wellness. Hailing from Philadelphia, Munir has been professionally training for the past 28 years in ballet, modern, jazz and Umfundalai. She has danced with The New Freedom Theatre, Danse4Nia Reparatory Dance Ensemble, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco, Eleone Dance Company, and Kariamu and Company: Traditions. Munir is the Fitness and Recreation Manager at the Salvation Army Kroc Center of Philadelphia and a proud member of the Mu Eta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.  Currently, Munir dances principle roles with Grace Dance Theatre. All of her performances are dedicated to her son Kha’ori, her loving husband Khalil and her guardian angel, Celeste "Mable" Davis. “Dance is life…LIVE IT !”

C. Kemal Nance, PhD "Kibon"

Choreographer/Concert Director

C. Kemal Nance, a native of Chester, Pennsylvania, is a master teacher of the Umfundalai technique of contemporary African Dance.  Attendees at the Colloquium of Black Arts in Bahia, Salvador knighted him “Kibon,” the name of a Brazilian ice cream, to reflect the “delicious time“ they experienced in his Umfundalai class. Nance leads the Organization of Umfundalai Teachers by serving as its Executive Director. He is an Assistant Professor in the Dance and African American Studies Departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His recent work, 'Manifesto', was premiered at the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble’s 24th Season of Dance in Kingston, Jamaica in 2017.  Nance holds a BA in Sociology/Anthropology with the concentration in Black Studies and M. Ed. and PhD degrees in Dance from Temple University.

Saleana Pettaway, MEd


Saleana Pettaway is an artist, educator, choreographer and dancer. Native to Philadelphia and graduate of Temple University, her roots in dance began at the New Freedom Theater and Philadanco working with many dance legends including Dr. Kariamu Welsh. She is distinguished as one of four Master Teachers of the Umfundalai technique of contemporary African dance and a seasoned dancer of Kariamu & Company: Traditions. She has been recognized in national conferences, universities and publications for her intense training practices and gift of empowering dancers to embody the historical, social-cultural and aesthetic traditions of African-based dance forms. For over 20 years, Pettaway has worked with Mama to share the technique beyond cultural divides and loves watching students grow in this legendary dance tradition. Pettaway is an Associate in Performance in Dance Program at Swarthmore College.

Aigner Picou


Aigner Picouis a Philly-based artist hailing from Brooklyn, New York. She started dancing at the age of two, with a focus on ballet and pointe. Aigner trained with Creative Outlet Dance Theater and Brooklyn Music School, where she was part of a touring youth group. In college, she refocused her training on modern and African dance and performed with both ensembles. She is currently a movement artist with Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround.

Angela Pittman, MFA


Angela Pittman is a Bessie award-winning dance artist, dance maker, and dance educator. She has performed her own work at Gibney Dance, Movement Research at Judson Church, BAAD!, Danspace Project, among many other New York spaces, and has performed in work by Ralph Lemon, Tere O'Connor, Jennifer Monson, Solange, Antonio Ramos, C Kemal Nance, Jasmine Hearn, and many others. Angie holds a MFA in Dance and Choreography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a graduate minor in African American Studies and is a M’Singha Wuti certified teacher of the Umfundalai technique. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence with Movement Research.  Angie’s work resides in a space that investigates how the body moves through ballad, groove, sparkle, spirit, spirituals, ancestry, vulnerability, and power.

Jessica Pretty, MFA


Jessica Pretty is on a quest for pleasure that transcends time and the spaces she claims to reside in. Within her research, she makes dances, performs and collaborates with other artists (Larissa Velez-Jackson, Will Rawls, Leslie Cuyjet, Dianne McIntyre, Cynthia Oliver, Jennifer Monson and Niall Jones) and teaches dance art based in New York City where she moved after receiving an MFA in Dance and Queer Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her free time is filled curating methodologies for living past survival through being as unapologetically black as possible.

Westley Rast


Wesley Rast originates from Durham, NC. He studied orchestral percussion throughout high school and college at The North Carolina School of the Arts. Upon completing his training, he started work as a dance accompanist at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Since then, Wesley has accompanied at Wake Forest University and The North Carolina School of the Arts, and is currently an artist in residence at The University of the Arts, Temple University, Swarthmore College, Drexel University, West Chester University, and Princeton University as an accompanist of Modern and African Dance. Wesley resides in the Philadelphia area, where he enjoys performing contemporary folkloric music with Human Rights (HR from the Bad Brains) and Leana Song. Wesley also enjoys performing classical music of the Anlo-Ewe speaking people (Southern Ghana, Togo, Benin) with Worlds Ewe African Dance and Drum Ensemble. His other performance projects include The Madison Rast Quartet, Aaron Parnell Brown, Hennessey Bonfire, Deb Callahan Blues Band, and Trombo.

Surya Swilley


Surya Swilleya Charlotte, NC native is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Johnson C. Smith University where she received BA degrees in Dance and Communication Arts and an MFA candidate in Dance at Temple University. Most recently, Swilley completed the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute, after attending a series of "Undoing Racism" workshops. Swilley has worked and studied with some great artists such as Candace Jennings, Pj Pennewell, Shani Collins-Achille, Michelle Gibson, and LaTanya Johnson. She is a 2011 scholarship recipient of the Garth Fagan Summer Movement Institute in Rochester, NY.  

Danzel Thompson-Stout

Dancer/Sound Editor

Danzel Thompson-Stout is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is an emerging national and international Street Dance artist, teacher, choreographer, and community activist. Thompson-Stout is versed in Street Dance Styles (House, Hip-Hop, Popping, Locking, etc.), Umfundalai (contemporary African dance), and modern dance techniques (Cunningham, Limon, Graham, and Horton). As a dancer, he works for several artists and companies including Rennie Harris’ Puremovement, The Berry & Nance Dance Project, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, and Kingsley Ibeneche. Currently, he is signed with Clear Talent Group (NYC) and is the Co-Founder/Artistic Director of D2D: Dare To Dance in Philadelphia. Thompson-Stout holds a BFA in Dance from Temple University and will be pursuing an MFA in Dance from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

Monique Newton Walker


Monique Walker is originally from Chester, PA, and is an independent teaching artist based in the metro Washington, DC area. She is a Master Teacher of Umfundalai and Director of Administration for the Organization of Umfundalai Teachers. Walker has served on the dance faculties at North Carolina State University, The School at Jacob’s Pillow, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s 45 degrees project, and currently with CityDance in Maryland and Washington, DC. She has trained with many dance masters and institutions including: Philadanco!, The School at Jacob's Pillow, Walter Nicks, Jean-Léon Destiné, Dr. Chuck Davis, and Dr. Kariamu Welsh. Her choreography has been presented at the North Carolina Dance Festival, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Dance Place, and Joe’s Movement Emporium. 

Zoe Lula Walker


Zoe Lula Walker, from Dunkirk, Maryland continues her family's artistic legacy in her professional performance debut with Kariamu & Company: Traditions. Dancing before she could walk, Walker began her formal dance training at the age of three. Currently, she studies dance at CityDance School and Conservatory in Bethesda, MD and regularly assists her mother, Umfundalai Dance Master, Monique Walker with her classes. Walker’s favorite Umfundalai movement is the Kananga Arm Series. 

Sheila Ward, PhD


Sheila Ward, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science at Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA. She holds a B.S. in Physical Education with an emphasis in Dance from Indiana University and the M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from Temple University. Ward also earned the Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. Ward is the Executive Director of and professional dancer with Eleone Dance Theatre, Philadelphia, PA. A certified Umfundalai teacher, Ward is a regular presenter at local, state, and national conferences on such topics as: managing the chronic diseases of cancer, arthritis, and diabetes through exercise; physical activity, exercise, and healthy living through dance.

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