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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:28 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 6883
Location: El Granada, CA, USA

March 17, 2009

Media Contact: Roy A. Wilbur

267-350-4980 -


Film documenting trip to be screened with performance

PHILADELPHIA, PA - Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble will perform the U. S.
premiere of Mali Sadjo: The Legend of the Hippopotamus, a theatrical ballet from
Guinea, on Saturday, May 8, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. as part of its 40th Anniversary
Concert at New Freedom Theater, 1346 N. Broad Street. The premiere of a documentary
film on Kùlú Mèlé's recent residency in Guinea, providing insight into the creative
process for learning this ballet, will be shown in conjunction with the performance.
Tickets for Mali Sadjo are $25 and may be purchased at

In December 2008, fourteen members of the Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble
traveled from Philadelphia to Conakry, Guinea, West Africa for an intensive,
two-week residency with internationally-recognized artists M'Bemba Bangoura, Mariama
Touré, and Yamoussa Soumah, as well as dancers from the Les Ballets Africains and
Les Merveilles D'Guinea. Master classes in the dance and drumming styles of Guinea
were followed with rehearsals in which the company learned choreography for the
first portion of Mali Sadjo: The Legend of the Hippopotamus. A tale from Mande,
West Africa, of a young girl who falls in love with a magical hippo, Mali Sadjo
shows how relationships between human beings are often reflected in nature, and how
the environment can be cultivated to meet their needs.

Upon returning from Conakry, Guinea, Dorothy Wilkie, Kùlú Mèlé's artistic director
stated, "Our mission was accomplished. The play has so much emotion, dance and
drama. The songs and music are so beautiful. We had some highs and lows in Guinea,
but for the most part it was fantastic!" According to film producer Pamela A.
Hooks, a high was "being surrounded by the beautiful people and culture of Guinea; a
low, the lack of human services that hindered a basic quality of life."

A day for Kùlú Mèlé in Conakry was filled with approximately eight hours of training
and rehearsals in the inescapable heat. When they were done in the studio some
dancers, including James Wilkie and Edward Smallwood, would take to the streets
where they infused their native hip-hop with traditional African dance while
passersby gathered to watch.

The company of dancers and drummers performed for U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Raspolic
and guests in her home; were honored guests at the Dundunba Festival, a celebration
of dance; shopped the markets in search of colorful fabrics for costumes and
handmade drums and balafons to accompany performances in the U. S.; and along with
filmmakers Gabriel Bienczycki and Pamela A. Hooks visited Kindia where the sites
included huge waterfalls and sunset over Mount Gangan. In addition, they met with
elders and griots (historians) from whom they learned about the local cooking,
language, costume design, drumming, songs, and history.

Kùlú Mèlé's time in Conakry, Guinea (December 1-16, 2008) was chronicled online at <> . The site will be updated as
the creative process for Mali Sadjo continues and concludes with the premiere
screening of a longer, thirty-minute documentary film of the trip and residency,
scheduled for June 16, 2009 at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. This screening will
be accompanied by a panel featuring Kùlú Mèlé company members, the filmmakers, and
Dr. Debora Kodish, director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project.

This project has been funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
through Dance Advance with additional support from the Marketing
Innovation Program.

Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble is the longest-lived African dance company
in Philadelphia and is dedicated to serving the community by presenting and
preserving the culture, dance and music of the African diaspora. Since its creation
four decades ago, it has established a national reputation as a unique and dynamic
performing arts ensemble. Kùlú Mèlé has built a repertoire that is an exciting
blend of West African ancestral tradition and African American creativity.
Performances include the music and dance of Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Brazil,
Haiti, Cuba, and the United States. A force behind a vital African cultural
renaissance in Philadelphia, it teaches and performs both new and traditional works.
Kùlú Mèlé offers high quality and authentic workshops, performances, residencies,
apprenticeships, and study tours that seek to reclaim traditional cultural


Roy A. Wilbur

Project Manager

Marketing Innovation Program

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

1608 Walnut Street, 18th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19103

267-350-4980 (telephone)

267-350-4997 (facsimile) <>

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