"Mama Kadiatou" is a TREASURE! As a former member of Les Ballets Africains de Guinea, (which would be the equivalent of a national dance company representing all of the United States) her presence is immense and her dedication to the art of dance is completely selfless. I consider Mama Kadiatou my mentor and advisor as she "lit the fire in me" to dance again. I have danced with several national companies and recently completely the production of FELA! on Broadway, of which I was in the original cast. What she brings to Balafon West African Dance Ensemble is a complete experience of not only Guinea and West Africa but also humanity. The workshops and performance were great this year at "Welcome to Black River African Dance Conference." They're only going to get better. If you ever have to chance to take her class or see a performance, DON'T MISS IT.
I've been performing and working with African Dance Groups for since 1986. Working with Kadiatou Conte-Forte for the last 22 years has been an experience on another level. She brings out the best in all who work with her. She brings much talent and joy to every community she works with. Especially when she works with children in the schools. Through African Dance and Culture, she uplifts and pushes unity and hard work. Through her culture she brings all who work with to another level and shares her soul.
I've studied and performed traditional West African dance for five years now and believe that Balafon is ranked among the best in the country. From costuming to choreography, these performers always deliver a great show. If you haven't seen them perform, you are definitely missing a true cultural, high energy experience.
Have you ever seen Balafon perform? Once the drummers begin to beat and the dancers begin to jump--and I mean JUMP--you are hooked! I was.
In the past year, we filed and received our 501c3 status, began a strategic plan, a fundraising plan, and building our board, steadily transforming the organization from a performance troupe to an arts organization. We received our first grants from the Pittsburgh Foundation and the greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and participated in Pittsburgh is ART: Day of Giving. And, the dance company continues to perform throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania and the entire Mid-Atlantic region.
Currently, we are planning our first African dance conference, "Welcome to the Black River," for Memorial Day Weekend 2012. It will bring internationally renowned Guinean and Senegalese Master drummers and dancers to Pittsburgh to conduct residencies in local schools and senior centers, conduct classes (for all ages skill levels) in drumming, dancing, and singing, perform in a concert finale, and train Balafon dancers and drummers. Pittsburgh has never seen this caliber and conglomeration of talent. It will be VERY exciting!
Passionate, committed, serious... Balafon is poised to push African dance and drum in this region to the next level. Collaborating with local Senegalese-style and Congolese artists, and drawing from Mama Kadiatou's connection to the very best international artists, is creating an exciting African arts presence here in the 'Burgh.
Balafon is consistent in providing high-quality performances and interactive educational workshops and classes, which have measurable outcomes of an increase in students’ (of all ages, abilities, and walks of life) knowledge, interest and ability to produce and express themselves through African culture. Kadiatou is a distinctively effective teacher, artist and performer. The success of Balafon’s educational programs have been directly related to the skill-set and abilities that Kadiatou encompasses as a talented artist and an exceptional teacher. Those skills and abilities include: an in-depth knowledge of traditional African culture; talent for engaging students and building repoire; successfully infusing personal experience and personality into presentations; a displayed and expressed passion for African culture, teaching and mentoring; proficiency in leading by example; adept at providing constructive encouragement and input; and setting clearly defined expectations while offering the necessary support for achievement.
Kadiatou’s commitment to her craft is evident in the quality and veracity of Balafon’s performances. Balafon dancers and drummers’ passion for art, culture and heritage all but consume an audience at any given presentation or performance.
Florida African Dance Festival