Sabar Dance in Fort Greene

December 29, 2009 2008 - articles, Culture, Travel & Heritage, Features

by Imani Kaba, June/July 2008: Vol. 2, No. 6

Dance is the physical manifestation of music” says Imani Kaba who teaches West African dance at Charles Moore Dance Theatre in downtown Brooklyn. As we know from our African ancestors music and dance has always been extremely important in African culture. Most all important functions, ceremonies, celebrations, etc. involve singing, drumming and dancing.

The Djembe is played throughout Africa however Sabar drums are specific to Senegal and Gambia. The Sabar drum is by far the most common instrument in Senegal. Sabar is the national dance of Dakar, Senegal but it is danced in Gambia and Guinea. In Senegal, sabar is most often danced at all important functions, celebrations, ceremonies, family gatherings, etc. Both men and women dance Sabar although it is mainly a dance for women. Sabar is a celebration of women’s beauty and grace. When women dance, they typically wear a long buba (top), lappa (wrap skirt) and bejo (decorative undergarment).

There are numerous Sabar rhythms, however, the most commonly danced are Kaolack, Thie Bou Djeune, Bara MBaye and Lembeul. Sabar rhythms are very intriguing and can be challenging to learn. Once you learn the basics, it can be a lot of fun to dance. Sabar dance is wicked, spicy, funky and most of all fun. Those who have seen Sabar performed are usually stunned, captivated and left speechless.

Studying Sabar dance is a wonderful way for African American women to reconnect with their cultural heritage. Many whom study Sabar dance say it is both a cultural and spiritual experience. Although Sabar dance is traditional it allows you the flexibility to add your own nuances to the dance. I believe studying Sabar dance will allow you to express your creativity at its deepest level, learn a new skill, meet new people while dancing collectively. Furthermore, dancing is a wonderful way to stay fit, increase flexibility and reduce stress.

In 1994, Imani began studying African Dance at Wayne State University. She was immediately captivated and felt a deep connection to West African culture and dance. Once she began studying West African dance she never stopped. Over the years she has studied numerous forms of African dances such as Afro- Hatian, Afro-Cuban, Congolese, Soukous, etc., however specializing in dances from the countries of Guinea and Senegal. She has had the pleasure of studying with numerous master teachers such as: Fabayo Manzira, Latifa Diop, Safia, Ebrima Jeng (Gambian Dance Company), Mohammad Diaby, Yamoussa Soumah, Alpha Kaba, Marietou Cisse (Les Merveilles D’Afrique), Aisha Rivers (formerly Aisha Diaby, Papa Hanne, Babacar M’beye, Rich Faye and Marie Basse- Wiles. Also intrigued by other ethnic genres of dance she has simultaneouslystudied Salsa with the legendary teachers Eddie and Marie Torres. Imani also had a four-year performance history with a Detroit-based African dance company, African-American Arts and Cultural Society (AAACS) which further allowed her to gain performance experience and further express her creativity.

She currently teaches a beginning Sabar dance class on Mondays at Charles Moore Dance Theatre located at 397 Bridge St. 2nd Floor (between Fulton and Willoughby) from 6:00-7:30pm. The class is geared towards those who have no previous dance experience with Sabar or those who have previously danced Sabar however want to further develop their skills. This class is easy to follow and suitable for all fitness levels.

If you would like to obtain further information, please contact Imani directly at 313-467-0759 or or visit


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