Congo SQ West Kinship Society
A Night of Tribute in Dance: Blanche Brown, Guest of Honor with honorees of distinction: Linda Faye Johnson, Marcus Gordon, Roger Dillahunty and next generation artist, Elizabeth Soberanes
Presented by Congo SQ West Kinship Society (duration 90 minutes)
This evening was made possible in part through the generous support of the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.
An inaugural night of tribute in dance honoring Bay Area Arts Pioneers whose works represent historical cultural gateways. Now in its 10th year, Congo SQ West Kinship Society has partnered with San Francisco International Arts Festival to salute this year’s Guest of Honor, Dance Pioneer Blanche Brown, and her legacy of Arts Ambassadorship, including a milestone Teaching career at age 79. A stellar cast of Dance and Drum luminaries will grace the stage trumpeting the trailblazing works of Marcus Gordon, Linda Faye Johnson, Roger Dillahunty and next generation, Elizabeth Soberanes. Commemorative highlights include Outstanding Service recognition, Ancestral remembrance and a rare Haitian Dance Reunion Performance.
Inspired by its historical moniker, Congo SQ West Kinship Society boasts 10 years of dedicated service “serving to build bridges, restore networks and bind cultural ties.” In response to the Gulf Coast Hurricanes, a call to action propelled its launch in 2005 providing distinct services of impact in Relief campaign advancement and Social Entrepreneurship to include: Bay Area, CA, New Orleans, Harlem, Haiti, Peru and the Congo. A respected leadership in creating “kinship-partnered” initiatives, co-produce Commemorative concerts and events such as Malonga Center #REUNION2013, Rasanble Haitian Arts and Culture and Cristo Moreno: Afro Peruvian Musical, building ART with celebrated Cultural Architects and organizations.
Regina “Califa” Calloway – Artistic Curator / Executive Producer
A consummate bridge building strategist in cultivating signature Arts presenting initiatives, she’s also worked upon production teams for celebrated Bay Area events such as: Malaki Matanga [‘10], Fua Dia Congo 30th  India Jazz Suites  SF Int’l Arts Festival  La Peña’s Mojuba Omo Afrika  Mandeleo’s “Africans are Coming” [90’s] including multiple seasons with SF Ethnic Dance Festival, and Collage des Cultures Africaines. Sought after Bay Area consultant with a 25-year career trek as Professional Teaching-Artist, served in Advisory positions with Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Black Choreographer’s Festival and Izzie Awards. Ms Calloway forwards her dance-building ventures via Nzo Califa Dance Works curatorial director for creative works: Dancestory2013-2015 and Muisi-kongo’s Kimpa Vita.
Janeen Johnson - Managing Director / Producer
Production Stage Manager credits include: San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (05-08), San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Fest (06-08), Black Choreographer’s Festival Here and Now (06-07) and SF International Arts Festival 2003. As Company Tour Manager worked with Brooklyn’s (NY) Urban Bush Women’s - visible (2011) and Be Bop Baby - A Musical Memoir featuring Margo Hall and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra (2013). Serving as General Stage Manager, Janeen tours with Cirque Mechanics – Cirque Theater Performing Arts Company, since 2008, she’s toured 50 US states, 5 European countries and 2 Asian international markets. Her most notable experiences include 2 three-week runs off Broadway at the New Victory Theatre and Lyric Theatre in Hong Kong, China in 2011. //116
Blanche Brown – Guest of Honor / Artistic Visionary
"All my life I wanted to be a dancer..."
As mother of 3, Blanche Brown returned to college to study dance in 1970, later graduating from SFSU. In 1974, she performed with Dr. Nontsizi Cayou’s Wajumbe throughout Nigeria, absorbing the rich spiritual influences of West Africa. In 1988, Blanche formed Roots of Haiti, known as Group Petit La Croix, serving as Artistic Director for over 15 years; The group toured throughout the Western U.S performing the traditional dance and music of Haiti. Her Ambassadorship extends to service as Board President of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and as a member of the San Francisco Arts Commission. Ms Blanche Brown is a well-respected leader, mentor and Master Teacher of dynamic grace and inspiration wisdom, continuing to defy limitations and expand the parameters of dance at age 79.
Baba Marcus Gordon - U.S. Bata Drum legacy / Bay Area Carnaval Architect
Marcus Gordon was raised by his Caribbean parents in Harlem introduced to the drum at the age of twelve through a performance of dance legend Katherine Dunham at the United Nations . He attended the famed High School of Music and Arts with an opportunity to travel to Cuba thereafter, in 1962. At a premier performance by the Conjunto Folklorico de Cuba he observed Bata drumming for the first time, returning to New York deeply inspired and further moved Bata rhythms played on conga drums by African American drummers: Carl Vale, Ray Mckeithen and Rudy Wright at a Jam session in NYC; Carl Vail became one of the most important of Marcus’s teachers.
He formed his first Bata study group with John Amira, and John Montalbo becoming the first Americans to play bata drums for Santeria ceremonies in NYC in 1963, later to include Gene Golden. In 1971, Baba Marcus taught Bata drumming and formed the first ensemble in California with Tobadji Stewart, Bill Summers, and Sosu Randolph playing for Santeria ceremonies in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
His love for Carnaval music from Cuba and Brazil and playing drums in the West Indian parade in Harlem further influenced his dream of having a Carnaval parade in San Francisco. That dream came true in 1978 becoming a founding member with Adel Chu and Pam Minor of San Francisco’s Carnaval parade. He served as the Parade Director for Carnaval San Francisco for 15 years.
Linda Faye Johnson "Sister Linda" West African Dance Pioneer / Cultural Educator
Multi-Cultural International Performance Artist, Entertainer and Educator, Ms. Johnson is recognized as one of the foremost exponents of traditional music and dance education in the Bay Area. For more than forty years she has directed and choreographed music and dance ensembles, extending her Ambassadorship worldwide to venues in South Africa, Senegal, Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Croix, Brazil, Canada and Europe. A star in her own right, she's performed professionally with internationally recognized Entertainers such as Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Patti La Belle and Melba Moore to presentations for Grammy award winning Artists Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams. Affectionately revered as "Sister Linda" she established the first West African dance training program at Everybody’s Creative Arts / Alice Arts Center, now known as Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland, CA (1981-Present). She's a three-time Oakland Tribune Newspaper Spotlight Awardee for community contributions, Creative Arts Fellowship Award recipient for choreography and Isadora Duncan Dance Award for dance and choreography with Bay Area pioneering Dance Company Ballet Sabá.
Roger Dillahunty - Dance Empresario / Bay Area Dance legend
Mr. Dillahunty has been a Dancer, teacher and choreographer, since 1979. He's trained extensively throughout the U.S.A. and overseas, studying various dance styles and techniques including modern, jazz, blues, African Haitian and ballet. A founding member of Citicentre Dance Theatre in Oakland, Roger was on the faculty of the dance department at California State University in Hayward and has conducted master classes and workshops throughout the USA including, California, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and has worked internationally in Martinique, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Canada and Mexico. Presently he is Executive Director of The Beat, Berkeley Performing Arts, Inc. and former Studio Manager at The Eddie Brown’s Center of the Arts, aka “The Beat” and Studio J (30+ yrs.) He received a proclamation from the mayor and city counsel declaring September 17, 2013 as Roger Dillahunty in the city of Berkeley, California.
Elizabeth Soberanes - Next Generation Artist / Dance Producer
Ms. Soberanes begin dancing at Rhythm and Motion Dance Center in 1985 inspired to pursue dance as a way of life. She holds a BA in Dance Ethnology from SFSU earning an Award for Academic Excellence and Professional Promise. She's studied Dunham Technique, Afro-Haitian, Brazilian, Cuban, Modern, Capoeira, Hip Hop and Jazz Dance, participating in her first Carnaval with Escola Nova de Samba in 1989. Over the past 20 years, she has worked as an arts educator, administrator and producer for prominent organizations such as Performing Arts Workshop, World Arts West, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnaval San Francisco; Further training and study include tours to Brazil and Cuba participating in Carnaval celebrations, with additional travel to New York and Miami honing her craft and training development. As Founder and Artistic Director of Latin Dance Grooves created in 2008, LDG boasts some of the most popular classes in Dance training and fitness in the Bay Area with an Award Winning Carnaval Contingent and Performance Ensemble.