Dr. Zakarya Diouf
Dr. Elizabeth Grady
Joseph & Alice Hughes
Samuel & Florence Johnson
From 1958-62, Dr. Diouf was director of the Mali Ensemble, a multinational company representing the unity of the West African countries of Mali, Senegal and Guinea. He became director of "Les Ballets Africanes," in 1963 and later the Senegalese National Dance Company from 1964-68. In 1969, he joined the faculty of Southern Illinois University while working with Ms. Katherine Dunham.Dr. Diouf's knowledge and expertise in African art and culture was so valued that in 1970 he wa among performers invited to the White House Conference for children. In June of 1996, Dr. Diouf was one amoung hundred drummers selected to attend the "World Drum for Peace Parade," in Atlanta Georgia as a prelude to organizing the opening of the Olympics.
Since 1973, Dr. Diouf has taught at San Jose State University, Sonoma State University, University of San Diego, University of California at Los Angeles and San Francisco, and California State Hayward. Dr. Diouf currently teaches West African music, dance and history at Laney Community College in Oakland, is an Artist-In-Residence teaching free women's Sabar Drum techniques along with weekly classes in music and dance at the Alice Arts Center in Oakland, and does consulting and workshops in drum-making, choreography, African history and performing arts.
Naomi was born in Monrovia, Liberia where her artistic career was greatly influenced by dances she learned at the "Kendeja" Cultural Center for indigenous performers. Beginning dance at the age of 10, throughout her dance career Naomi also studied with prominent dancers and musicians from other West African countries. In 1973, Naomi studied ballet and modern dance under Ms. Constance Taul of the Paris Ballet and has done extensive research and comparative analysis of dance forms from around the world.
As an expert in West African dance, she has assisted and choreographed works for numerous performing companies including: the Dutch Theater Van Osten in the Netherlands and Belgium, U.C. Berkeley's Drama Department, Dimensions Dance Theater in Oakland, and Kankoran Dance Company in Washington D.C. In 1998 and 1999, Naomi collaborated with the San Francisco Ballet in the premiere, "Lambarena," Ballet for Utah, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet of Florida, the Singapore and South African Ballet.
Naomi is a strong advocate of Arts-In-Education and has conducted and organized various projects that introduce the arts to youth and merge acdemics, music and dance. For 15 years she has worked with the Arts Through Education programs in the San Diego, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Oakland, Richmond, and Alameda School Districts to promote cultural literacy. Naomi currently teaches West African dance and culture at Berkeley High School to over 400 young teens a semester, at Laney College and the Alice Arts Center in Oakland. Naomi also consults and conducts workshops in costume design, cultural event/program coordinating, and West African culture.
From 1985 to 1989, Nimely founded a performing company in Columbus, Ohio and in 1994 he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he currently reside and formed the Nimely Pan African Dance Company, the only Liberian traditional dance company in Minnesota. Under his direction the Nimely Pan African Dance Company has toured nationally and annually hosts Panafest, a West African dance and drum conference. The company has been invited to perform by the NAACP in Washington DC and for numerous Liberian delegates including Ambassador Rachel G. Diggs and for two years in a row, Liberian President Ellen Johnson.
Nimely has been awarded a Certificate of Excellence by former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, and has performed and created woodcarvings at the Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, the 1996 Olympics, and as an educator with numerous school districts in Minnesota, California, and Louisiana. As costumed designer and choreographer he has been commissioned by renowned companies such as Diamano Coura West African Dance Company based in California and Kankouran Dance Company based in Washington, DC.
Dedeh A. LaFoucade began her professional career in dance over 16 years ago. Through her study and performance of West African dance she has been able to stay grounded to her Liberian roots and pass her embodied knowledge down to her children and generations to come. She began her professional career in 1993 with Dehcontee Liberian Dance Company, based in Oakland, California and by 2000 had advanced to Assistant Artistic Director. In 2005 she decided to expand her repertoire of dance and joined Diamano Coura West African Dance Company. With Diamano Coura she became versed in dances from the regions of Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Senegal while also furthering her understanding of Liberian dance culture.
For Dedeh, dance is "the rhythm within that moves me through every aspect of my life. Being a part of Diamano Coura is a wonderful experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. There is such an extreme amount of knowledge that not only helps me with dance but to also guide me through all aspects of life. I plan to continue dancing until my body and spirit won't allow me to. Dancing brings me balance, it completes me."