From Executive Director Thor Steingraber: Fridays this fall

From Executive Director Thor Steingraber: Fridays this fall

Look for an email from me every Friday this fall. Inspired by the popularity of last spring’s weekly “Director Selects,” The Soraya renews its commitment to bringing you important and uplifting performances from around the world. Our first offering is exclusive to The Soraya’s audience. As co-commissioners of the project, we invite you to watch this timely and relevant film and the post-show talkback. Created by our friends and artistic partners at the renowned Washington D.C.-based company Step Afrika!, few artistic endeavors this fall can be so timely or relevant. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and a national conversation about race, we are proud to support Step Afrika! in meeting the moment with their new work for film. If you were with us for their live performance in February at The Soraya, you know their power and emotional impact is unequaled.

At The Soraya, we are proud of the artists and arts organizations who have been our partners in recent years. We count Step Afrika! among them, and are honored that Founder and Executive Director C. Brian Williams recently joined our summer Teacher Institute. Every time I hear him speak, I am reminded about the intersection between the arts and social/historical moments, and the positive effects that can have in education and in society at large.

Executive Director Thor Steingraber and Step Afrika! Founder C. Brian Williams, Leadership Series (Feb 2020) (Photo: Ricki Quinn )
Step Afrika! Founder C. Brian Williams, Taylor McFerrin, and Executive Director Thor Steingraber (Feb 2020) (Photo: Luis Luque)
Step Afrika! Founder C. Brian Williams and Barbara Leonard give a pre-performance talk (Feb 2018) (Photo: Luis Luque)

About the film

Step Afrika!: Stono

On September 9, 1739, the largest insurrection of enslaved Africans in North America began in South Carolina on the banks of the Stono River. Twenty Africans marched south toward a promised freedom in Spanish Florida, waving flags, beating drums, and shouting ‘Liberty.” 

Step Afrika! commemorates this moment in American history and the 281st Anniversary of the Stono Rebellion.

The virtual premiere will be followed by a live panel discussion moderated by Lesli Foster (Evening Anchor, WUSA) and joined by C. Brian Williams (Founder and Executive Director, Step Afrika!); Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox (Associate Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies, Yale University); Kendall Thomas (Nash Professor of Law, Columbia University Law School); and Bruce Teague (Mayor of Iowa City, IA).

An American treasure from Washington, D.C., Step Afrika! blends percussive dance with story-telling and music. The company has toured the world and sold out Off-Broadway.

A look back at Drumfolk by Step Afrika! at The Soraya (Feb 2020)

In their second appearance at The Soraya and preceding their performances Off-Broadway, Step Afrika! brought their new piece Drumfolk to Northridge in February 2020.

About Drumfolk
Following a revolt of African slaves in the American South, The Negro Act of 1740 denied African people the right to read, assemble, and use drums. But the beat could not be stopped. These people, the Drumfolk, transformed their own bodies into musical instruments to preserve the rhythms and culture of their ancestors and to inspire their survival in a new world. Drumfolk gave rise to other percussive art forms — tap, hambone, stepping, and present-day beatboxing. This is a resounding exploration of nearly three centuries of a cultural phenomenon.

The company of Step Afrika! (Photo: Luis Luque)
The company of Step Afrika! (Photo: Luis Luque)
Taylor McFerrin and the company of Step Afrika! (Photo: Luis Luque)
The company of Step Afrika! (Photo: Luis Luque)
Final bows with the company of Step Afrika! and special guest Taylor McFerrin (Photo: Luis Luque)