Kwanzaa extravaganza: Dance studio to hold musical holiday celebration

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Come one, come Kwanza-all!

The Center for African and Diaspora Dance will lead an interactive song-and-dance Kwanzaa jubilee on Dec. 29 for long-time observers — as well as people of all backgrounds who want to learn more about the week-long holiday, which celebrates African cultural heritage and history.

“It’s meant to be a celebration for families who know about Kwanzaa, but it is also meant to take both beginners and people who are familiar with it and walk them through the principles,” said Jimena Martinez, the center’s co-director. “We think this culture is so beautiful that we want to share it with everyone.”

Participants will learn the history and seven principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith — through song, dance, and percussion, Martinez explained.

The program will also feature a candle-lighting ceremony to underscore the importance of each principle.

Martinez created the Center for African and Diaspora Dance in 2011 after falling in love with Haitian, Brazilian, Caribbean, and African types of dance, including swing and tango. The studio was one of the first in the city to have an explicit focus on African dance.

“It makes all the sense in the world to have all of [these cultures] under one roof,” she said. “They’ve transformed in a lot of fun ways over the centuries and have a beautiful set of traditions that we felt deserved a home.”

The Kwanzaa ceremony will be led by artist and dancer Iris Wilson, who performed in the original 2010 Broadway cast of “Fela!”

Celebrate Kwanzaa at Cumbe Dance Center [558 Fulton St. near Flatbush Avenue Extension in Fort Greene, (718) 935–9700,]. Dec. 29 at 11:30 am. $10 for family of five, $2 for each additional family member.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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