Berkeley High School (BHS)’s African Diaspora dance program — previously known as Afro Haitian — performed their last show of the year on May 5, 6, 12, and 13. The classes put on live performances in the Little Theater, located at BHS. Their performances were expressive, filled with love and talent.
The show began with Dr. Dawn Williams (known as Doc Dub by her students), the executive director of the Afro-Diaspora classes. She poured libations, in honor of community members who recently passed away. Afterwards, dancers filled the stage with different pieces from the African Diaspora.
The artistic director of the Afro-Diaspora classes Tanzia Mucker (better known as Ms. Shorty) shed light on the distinct nature of Afro-Diaspora Dance. “What makes it unique is that it comes from different genres of Africa. We touch from West Africa, to Guinea, to Haiti, to Mexico, to Cuba, Guatemala. It touches so many different places and spaces” Shorty explained. This quality was uplifted in the shows, which featured Samba, Capoeira, Salsa, and other dance styles alongside the Haitian and African pieces. Additionally, she expressed her love for the cross-genre connections that arose through the African Diaspora that stretch as far as certain elements of hip hop.
Shorty explained the difficulties that were present throughout the process of creating these pieces, “Always the challenge is making sure that everything is synchronized, andwhen you have certain things like [props]it’s not the easiest thing to teach.”
Regardless of the challenges, everything about the creation process has brought joy to Shorty. For her, there are countless rewarding elements of the class. “Everything, the bond, the history, the coaching, the students, the joy, the difficulties, the creativity, and knowing that they are dedicating themselves to make a vision come true.”
BHS senior Miracle Vallot highlighted a very memorable part of the process of putting together the performance. She explained how the stories Shorty tells her students transforms their ideas about the dance. The history behind the dance gets them prepared to perform and to share their art with the audience. Vallot continued, “It just feels like a family, all the time in here, even the people who aren’t in our class with us, we’re all in here together.” She added on how this type of performance has deep roots and connections, “To know where it came from, it just makes us feel more at home,” Vallot explained. She continued by talking about her experience feeling out of place at school, until joining Afro-Diaspora dance. “Now I found this class, and I have my core group of girls that I’ve been dancing with for, like, four years now. For this to be our last show all together — it feels like we’re getting sent out into the world in the best possible way.”
Love for the Afro-Diaspora dance class is all around, and it’s clear that the program is more than a class, but a family. “More [people] need to take the class. It’s more than just the structure and the discipline, it’s being a coach and teaching your little sisters and brothers the drumming or the dances.”