The timeless tradition of African dance is thriving in Washington, DC. 5 years ago, an African-American dancer, Marcellus Reynolds, began offering classes in West African dance at the Marcellus Dance Studio. His students include adults and children as young as 3.
"African dance took an explosion here in America, I remember when I was dancing earlier on, it did not have the presence that it has now," Reynolds says.
His students are enthusiastic about West African dance, he says, even though the dancer says he offers an "Americanized" version, taught by Americans. "We have a need for rhythm. Rhythm starts with the African beat, with the drum," he says.
Reynold's students recently displayed their mastery of African rhythms to the delight of an audience of 1,500 people at a community college outside of Washington, DC. The occasion marked the 10th anniversary of his dance studio.
Reynolds and his students take part in the week-long "DanceAfrica," which is held every year in May. DanceAfrica was founded by African-American performing arts legend Chuck Davis. "Dance Africa" features American and international artists who come together to celebrate the culture and traditions of Africa.
Marcellus Reynolds taught in the public school system for 18 years. Today he uses his experience to teach his African-American students more about African culture. "Through African dance you tell a story, through the music, through the movement. It's a wonderful journey, very versatile. Even if it's just celebrating a new life or the passing away of an old life, it's a wonderful journey," he says.
Owning a dance studio has helped him become an entrepreneur who can express his artistic vision without being subjected to external influences, says Reynolds. He and his dance studio have received a number of awards, including the "Best Dance Studio" award by the Washington Business Guide Magazine.
Although Reynolds says he wishes he had started the studio earlier, he plans to make up for lost time by sharing the art of dance with everyone, even those who cannot afford to take classes.
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