Folk Art PA

Master: Yalani Bangoura

Apprentices: Dorothy Wilkie and Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble

Art Form: Sorsornet dance

This Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Apprenticeship in Folk and Traditional Arts involved collaboration between Yalani Bangoura and Dorothy Wilkie, director of Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble in order for the ensemble group to learn the traditional Sorsornet dance. Sorsornet is a masked dance that originated with the Baga ethnic group in the Boke region of Guinea. As the rhythm is played, the Sorsornet mask moves protectively through the village to chase away evil spirits. By learning the traditional movements, music, and songs of the Sorsornet dance, the Kule Mele drummers and dancers have been able to add this dance to their repertoire of traditional West African and Afro-Cuban dance.

Yalani Bangoura is a master dancer, performer, choreographer, acrobat, and teacher of dances from his country, Guinea, West Africa. Bangoura was a member of the award winning West African dance and drum company, Les Merveilles de Guinea under the direction of renowned choreographer, Mr. Kemoko Sano. He now works as an independent contractor with numerous arts organizations in NYC, teaches a weekly class in Philadelphia, and continues to share West African traditional art forms with others. Bangoura greatly enjoyed teaching the Sorsornet dance to the Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble: "The apprenticeship had a positive impact on me because I love and deeply appreciate any opportunity to teach traditional West African dances that were taught to me by my ancestors."

Kulu Mele, loosely translated as "voice of the ancestors," performs West-African based original and traditional communal dances that celebrate life passages such as birth and marriage, and everyday scenes, such as children at play. Dorothy Gordon Wilkie has served as artistic director of the ensemble for more than 25 years and has studied West African dance intensively both in the US and in Guinea with Les Ballets Africains. The ensemble has a strong desire to learn about the people who traditionally performed the dances to be able to develop a connection that they can then try to share with audiences when they perform on stage: "Through learning this dance, why it was performed, when it was performed, how it was performed, the meaning of the songs and the slow melodic parts versus the up tempo, higher pitched parts, we learned how our people dealt with life in that region when the dance was created."