Photo by Sara D. Davis, courtesy of ADF

Dancer and choreographer Chuck Davis, who founded the largest African dance festival, DanceAfrica, and performance company African American Dance Ensemble, died Sunday at his home in Durham, North Carolina. He was 80. Known for his benevolent spirit and powerful presence, he was committed to keeping the roots of African dance alive, as well as fusing together the older traditions with contemporary choreography. In 2004 he was honored with a Dance Magazine Award, and he won a Bessie Award in 2014 for outstanding service to the field of dance.

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On Memorial Day weekend, one of the country’s largest African dance festivals wrapped up its 36th annual performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Founded by Chuck Davis in 1977, DanceAfrica spreads the love of African dance with performances and master classes by traditional and contemporary companies from around the world. Here are a few of the most colorful moments from the event:

The BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble performed in the festival’s finale and opening celebration. The youth company is the result of a partnership between BAM and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, dedicated to improving the lives of residents of Central Brooklyn.


A cappella troupe Sweet Honey in the Rock performed at DanceAfrica’s opening ceremony.


Umkhathi Theatre Works from Zimbabwe performed at DanceAfrica 2013 in Brooklyn, New York.


Zimbabwe's Umkhathi Theatre Works


Atlanta's all-female African dance, percussion, and vocal company Giwayen Mata


Chuck Davis and DanceAfrica were recently named one of “America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100” by the Dance Heritage Coalition.


Sweet Honey photo and top Umkhathi photo by Dino Perrucci, others by Jack Vartoogian; all photos courtesy of BAM

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