Djembe Dance

Written by May Phan Category: Health & Fitness Issue: January 2018
Group Free

African dance classes teach rhythm and community.

photo by Rob Ballard
photo by Rob Ballard

The booming sound of West African drum rhythms resonates through your body before you even walk into the gymnasium-style hall. Once class begins, men, women and children, wearing loose African garb, gather to embrace the movements of African dance.

Arizona Drum and Dance offers classes every Saturday to teach African dances – no shoes required. Kawambe-Omowale, a Phoenix-based West African performing arts company, teaches students of all levels, step by step, how to sway and pop their hips in time to the vibrations of the djembe drum. When the class ends, everyone gathers in a community circle to showcase their moves.

“African culture is so rich… There are many, many types of music and many, many types of dance,” says Kawambe-Omowale teacher Awa Sebacoumb. The classes, typically held in four- to eight-week sessions, incorporate drum and dance traditions from African countries ranging from Mali to the Congo (pictured: dance instructor Evette Minns and drummer Mel Bridges).

People of all ethnicities are welcome, Sebacoumb says. While African dances personally help her reconnect to her ancestry, she says they are also important in spreading diversity and knowledge throughout the Valley.

Interested in drumming? Visitors can also learn how to play African tempos during the community dance classes. Bring your own instrument or reserve one with Kawambe-Omowale in advance. Classes are $5 a session, and a recreational pass is required. An annual pass costs $20 for Phoenix residents and $40 for non-residents. If you want to try a single class, there’s a $2.50 drop-in fee.

AZ Drum And Dance West African Drum Class
1549 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix

Dancing in the Street
More dance classes to get your global groove on:

Phoenix International Folk Dancers
Learn cumbia, polka and other folk dances Tuesday nights at the Irish Cultural Center. All ages and levels welcome.
7-10 p.m.
Irish Cultural Center
1106 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

Bachata Addiction
Join one of the Valley’s largest – and most sensual – Latin dance socials every second Saturday. You’ll salsa, bachata and kizomba the night away. Dancers must be 18 or older.
8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. DeSoto Central Market
915 N. Central Ave. Phoenix