Celebrating Women and Arts Education in March

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March is Arts Education Month and Women’s History Month, when we honor the contributions of women to our history and culture.
We’d like to highlight some of our terrific woman performing artists this month, all of whom perform in the schools through the Youth in Arts Presents assemblies program. In addition to helping students understand the important contributions of women in cultures around the world, these women’s efforts to sustain and share their art forms illustrate the impact women are making in the arts in the U.S. today.
Diane Ferlatte, a native of New Orleans, can readily remember childhood years sitting on the porch of her grandparents’ home, captivated by the oral stories of family generations past, their spirit, their journeys, and their heartfelt fantasy coming more alive in each moment. Now an internationally renowned storyteller, she has received numerous honors and all eight of her recordings have won awards including a 2008 Grammy nomination. Diane believes that telling and listening to each other’s stories not only enables us to learn about each other, but also to understand each other better. She views storytelling as a traditional art form that can promote literacy, imagination, and values in the young. Many of her stories tell of women’s strengths and unique gifts and she frequently performs in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Here is a montage of clips from some of Diane’s storytelling performances:

Julia Tsitsi Chigamba grew up in the rich cultural traditions of Shona music and dance. Daughter of the highly respected Mai Chigamba and Baba Tute Chigamba, she’s a long time member of the Mhembero Dance Troupe and part of the internationally known Chigamba Family of dance and mbira musicians. In 1999, Julia left Zimbabwe and came to the US to share the beauty and wisdom of her culture through teaching and performance. Her Chinyakare Ensemble offers a 45-minute school presentation through Youth in Arts, highlighting traditional instruments, music and dance from Zimbabwe and explaining the important role of women in Zimbabwean traditions and celebrations.
This video features a KMTP-TV segment on Julia and her efforts to bring Zimbabwean music and dance to the U.S.

Joti Singh is a choreographer, performer and teacher of Bhangra dance from Punjab, India, and more contemporary “Bollywood” dance. She also works in West African dance forms from Guinea, West Africa, where she has traveled extensively. She leads the Duniya Dance and Drum Ensemble and has received prestigious awards for creating and performing new work, especially exploring cross-cultural connections through dance. Duniya’s Indian dance presentation for schools features traditional and contemporary dance from India, performed by Joti and her company of women dancers. Joti will explain where each dance originates and talk about the role of women in the arts both here and in India.
Here is video of Joti and Duniya dancers on the Youth in Arts Global Stage at the 2010 Marin County Fair:

Diane Ferlatte
Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i has been a professional dancer and teacher of ancient and modern hula for 39 years. As a professional dancer, she traveled the world performing in countries such as Africa, Germany, France, Asia, Bali, Hong Kong, Japan and even danced before a royal audience in the Taj Mahal in India. She has performed for such dignitaries as the King of Singapore, as well as for the general population throughout her world travels. Her group, Halau Na Pua O Ka La’akea offers Hawaiian dance, language and arts classes and performs for a wide range of audiences. Shawna’s presentation for schools includes traditional ancient Hawaiian chanting, drumming and dancing, interwoven with modern Hawaiian hula, singing and music. Students can learn about the role of women in traditional Hawaiian arts and in hula today.
Here is Shawna performing a contemporary hula with musician Faith Ako at “Kokua Japan,” a 2011 San Francisco event supporting tsunami relief for Japan.

Youth in Arts features these extraordinary women and many more through our Youth in Arts Presents assemblies series. Click here for more information on our website or email lily@youthinarts.org to book a performance.

  • Stacey Keegan

    I am a 2nd grade teacher at Montclair in Oakland. A parent, Merri Chu, mentioned to my principal that there may be an opportunity for someone from your organization to come to our class (or grade) and talk about women in the arts. I thought I would inquire…
    Thanks, Stacey Keegan

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