By Marc Gabriel Amigone
If you happen to be walking through the Elmwood Village on Wednesday nights, by the corner of Lexington and Ashland, don't be surprised if you hear the enchanting rhythms of African drums. Configuration School of Ballet, a ballet school led by nationally renowned dance company Configuration Dance Theater, is offering a weekly West African Dance class led by Senegalese percussionist and dancer Youssou Lo.
"More than just dance lessons, Configuration School of Ballet offers students the chance to truly engage in the experience of dance," Co-Directors Joseph Cipolla and Kolleen Fischer describe what Configuration School of Ballet seeks to accomplish. Configuration moved into its home at 230 Lexington Avenue in September of 2009. In a neighborhood as diverse as The Elmwood Village, Configuration Dance feels very at home. "We looked at a number of different places, and we kept gravitating back to this area," Joseph Cipolla elaborates, "The art has to reflect the community. When you put an arts organization in the middle of a community like this, it's inevitable that it's going to be diverse."
Of all the classes Configuration has to offer, they are particularly excited about the West African dance class. Youssou is a native of Senegal, West Africa and studied West African drum and dance styles with Le Ballet Rhythm African De Senegal. He has studied djembe drum and dance traditions for over 10 years, including the art of stilt dancing. Youssou has toured with many dance companies, all over the United States, Germany, Canada, Cypress and Brazil. Finally, in 1993, he decided to call the United States his home, residing in Buffalo. Youssou continues to perform and teach drum and dance in local schools including The African-American Cultural Center located on Buffalo's East Side.
Artistic Director Joseph Cipolla describes African Dance's relationship to Configuration's repertoire, saying, "Ballet is our primary focus. That's why we started the studio - that's our background. The catchword of the day, however, is the fusion dancer. That's where dance is going today."
Registration is currently open. Walk-ins are welcome as well as phone registration. The African dance classes are taught at a beginner to intermediate level, so don't be afraid of trying something new. No prior experience is necessary. It's a great cardiovascular workout, so come give it a shot!
230 Lexington Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222-1718
Images: Glenn E. Murray, Esq.