Living Arts Dancers to Perform Sofrito of Cultures with Penny Godboldo at the Wright Museum

Young Southwest Detroit dancers explore Afro-Latinx identity through dance and music 

Living Arts’ Youth Dance Ensemble, under the direction of Master Teacher and Dance Artist Penny Godboldo and Living Arts’ Teaching Artist Miryam Johnson, with musical accompaniment by Chinelo "Chi" Amen-Ra  and  Ozvaldo "Ozzie" Rivera, will present a free community performance graciously hosted by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on August 8, 2019 from 6:00pm - 9:00pm.

Sofrito of Cultures is the culmination of a two-week dance intensive, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the intensive, participants train in the Dunham Technique of dance, which blends European ballet, modern, jazz, and classical African movement.

“Katherine Dunham founded this technique as a means of anthropological study asking ‘What is the function of the way people move? Why do we move differently than Europeans? What history is tied in the ways we move, sing, play an instrument’,” says Godboldo. “Rather than feeling inadequate, there is a body of movement ingrained in culture to define yourself and feel empowered.” Johnson, who has taught with Living Arts for the past three years, was attracted to the project as her work revolves around the concept of the body as an archive of movement. “We’re looking at the ways we move naturally and what these bodies carry into dance; in contrast to the upright form of European traditions of dance.” 

Johnson’s role as protege to Godboldo as well as instructor to the students is part of the mentorship process. “We are also looking at the intercultural (black and Latinx) and intergenerational traditions of movement,” says Erika Villarreal Bunce, director of programs at Living Arts. Godboldo adds “there is a history of oral tradition in African and Caribbean culture. This project holds that tradition in the construct of music and movement, it is an accurate account of history — as opposed to the written tradition that has become skewed through the eyes of others.”

The project began with a master dance class in the summer of 2017 through the Teatro Chico program. Since then, the students and families of Living Arts have requested more culturally relevant programming that reflects their own history. “Living Arts’ commitment to respecting partnerships and youth drives our programming. When it comes to our artistic production, we take direction from our youth to create art that reflects their experience,” says Villarreal Bunce. 

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