Discover the voices behind UZIMA! Drum and Dance’s ASHE: A Celebration of Voices, as they share their insights, experiences, and inspirations in anticipation of the upcoming event on January 20. This event is one where unity and inspiration converge, bringing the community together.
ASHE: A Celebration of Voices features a unique collaboration between UZIMA! and many choirs, groups, and individuals from our community that will culminate in an uplifting and inclusive celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are excited to share that this event is a part of our Presenting Series’ Cultural Collective, new programming supporting equitable artistic development in our community.
Learn more below, as various members of UZIMA! Drum and Dance shed light on this exciting event.
Can you give us some background on the ASHE: A Celebration of Voices event? How did the idea for it originate?
Well, first of all, we were thrilled and truly honored to be invited back as a part of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Presenting Series. As community artists, it’s always a great experience to work with the staff at DPAC, and it also helps us to grow as artists. We thoroughly enjoy performing for family and friends in our community and really appreciate the opportunity to do so on a world-renowned stage.
So, we started preparing for this concert like we always do, where we come together and decide what we’d like to share with our community. This particular year, we honestly felt that we were called to do something different, something that would not only take us out of our comfort zone, but something that would also invite the audience to go from being spectators to participants.
In addition, we saw that there are many challenges we face as a community and as a nation, and we wanted to explore different ways we, as a dance company, could help people aspire towards hope. It was then that we felt an urgency to share a powerful and beautiful African philosophy called “Ashe” with our friends and families. Ashe originates from the Yoruba people of Nigeria and it means, “we were all given power by our Creator to speak things into existence that we desire to see.” It is the power that we are all given to choose every day to speak, love or hate, peace or conflict, hope or despair, unity or division. We also realized that this philosophy, as wonderful as it is, would take a certain intentionality in the way we live our lives, and wanted to help guide the way. The truth is, as we were preparing for this concert, we, as performers, learned the importance of this philosophy, and we have seen the ripple effect our words have on ourselves, each other, and those around us. Not that we have mastered this in any way, but we have, and are experiencing the power of Ashe firsthand, and we are excited to share this with our community, friends and family. Additionally, since Ashe focuses on the words we speak, this concert will be a very different concert than UZIMA! Drum and Dance has ever put on before, and it is a collaboration with many people and organizations within our community lending their gifts, their talents, and their voices to the spirit of Ashe. People of diverse backgrounds and beliefs – people such as Mayor Mueller, Gladys Muhammad, Dr. Marvin Curtis, Brother Sage, Tim Sexton, Rabbi Karen Companez, and Pastor Ricardo Taylor. Altogether, over 50 voices represent the visions and dreams of our community and our future.
Our hope is that all who come on Saturday, January 20th, bring their dreams with them, their hopes, and their visions. Together, in the spirit of creativity, and of Ashe, let’s give our dreams permission to take flight. Ashe.
~ Kelly Burgét, Artistic Director
How many different organizations, choirs, and/or groups throughout the South Bend community are involved?
We have been fortunate that so many in our community have embraced the concept of this concert and are excited to be involved. We have members from nine choirs from throughout Michiana who will be performing, as well as UZIMA!’s own choir, band, drummers, and dancers. The Pokagon Band Ribbon Town dancers will also open the concert with a very special ceremonial program, including a healing dance. Additionally, in collaboration with the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, we reached out to over 40 prominent individuals in our community to ask them to speak about their hopes and dreams for Michiana – their answers have been compiled into a short film, which will be excerpted as part of the concert. All told, we will have approximately 220 performers who will grace the stage on January 20th, and another 40 who have been kind enough to offer their vision for our incredible community.
What do you look forward to the most with putting on this event?
For this upcoming concert, I look forward to demonstrating community. For this concert, many moving parts like the singers, dancers, musicians, technicians, janitors, stage crew, and many more must line up perfectly to produce a cohesive and desired result. Every single person is important in their role, and this concert would not be the same without them. I feel this represents our world because, too often, we take for granted how others can help us. I’m excited to show how working together can produce a result that is bigger than just one person!
~ Abigail Moss, Dancer
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of planning this event and the most rewarding?
For us dancers, I’d say the most challenging thing is the daily commitment to preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies for the show — at rehearsals, at home, and at the gym — in the midst of a season filled with lower energy, demanding workloads, increasing holiday activities, and family/social commitments. For our leaders, I’d say it’s wrangling all of us, along with the other artists and groups involved, and making sure all the details fall into place.
Seeing all the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication manifest into a transformative experience for the audience is so meaningful. It’s truly rewarding to get to work alongside such a wonderful group of people dedicated to bringing wholeness, health, and life to our community.
~ Amina Cavallo, Assistant Director
Are there any messages or feelings you’d like the community to take away from their experience after attending this event?
This concert, like all of UZIMA!’s performances, is not just a dance concert or a vocal concert. ASHE: A Celebration of Voices was conceived as the result of a seen need in not just our community, but beyond our borders as well. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to bring people together while effecting change. This is the same intent for us with this concert. We would like for those in attendance to feel as though they have been renewed, uplifted, and inspired. We want people to leave the theater with hope in their hearts that they have the power to make a positive change. The ripple effect of each of us speaking our dreams, desires, and hopes into our homes, our schools, our churches, our community, our city, our state, our nation, and our world will truly transform the scope of our experience – individually and collectively. We want people to feel connected to one another, in a way that allows them to know that they make a difference and that no one accomplishes much on their own. We all need community, and we want OUR community to be unified in wholeness, health, and life.
~ Michelle Jewell, Director of Communications
What does this event mean to you?
This performance to me is a means to come together. I transitioned out of childhood and into a world where we don’t reach out to one another. I don’t know how to befriend my neighbors or what goes on in my city. But I really want to learn what all the people around me do, and how they live, how they feel, and how they show their joy. I know this show has a lot of moving parts, and a lot of different people hoping to make something beautiful together, and I’m just really excited to know that it’s possible for us all to want to experience each other in such an amazing way. I hope everyone else can see the love we’ve put together, and feel called to build or grow their communities too.
~ Eileena Davidson, Assistant Director
What inspired you to get involved with UZIMA! Drum and Dance?
Last year, I took African Dance Classes with Pierre at Children’s Dance Workshop, and was reminded how good it feels to move through space with a group of people. After attending the UZIMA! performance at DPAC last January, and noticing how diverse the company was in terms of age and experience, I wondered whether dancing could be in my future, as well as in my past.
With Pierre’s encouragement, I auditioned and have been welcomed so warmly. It is also vital that I seek ways to make changes in myself, and our community, in terms of inclusivity, racism, and discrimination. As a white woman, with more ballet than African in my background, joining Uzima is an incredible opportunity to dance again, while also expanding my horizons, and participating in this important work.
~ Claire Sandler, Dancer
Do you have a favorite or memorable experience from previous years working with DPAC on events?
My entire relationship with DPAC has been full of memorable experiences that I hope will continue for many years to come. Both as a performer and patron, I have felt a sense of awe and excitement for the arts every single time I enter the building. As a performer, I have always enjoyed working with their dedicated staff to put on the best show possible. As a patron, I have thoroughly enjoyed every concert, event, or movie I have ever experienced there. Impossible to name a favorite!
~ Vincenzo Carrasco, Lead Drummer
Do you have any words of encouragement that you would give to members of the community to inspire them to attend ASHE: A Celebration of Voices?
ASHE is a completely different concept for UZIMA!. We are excited about how it has come together, and even more excited to share it with the audience. The entire concert symbolizes, and personifies, unity. With more than 9 local choirs, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi dancers, a live band, and UZIMA!’s drummers and dancers there will be nearly 225 performers taking the stage throughout the evening. Each of these people has dedicated their time and talents, in the interest of unity and community. We are literally speaking into existence our desire for people of all walks of life to come together under the hope that we can create the community we envision. We want everyone to join us in this hopeful and safe space we are creating. We want our audience to feel the power of unity, of hope, and of the difference each of us can make when we choose to speak positivity into the world.
~ Michelle Jewell, Director of Communications
We hope that you join us for this beautiful expression of unity and inspiration on Saturday, January 20!
January 20 at 7:30pm
UZIMA! Drum and Dance presents: ASHE
ASHE: A Celebration of Voices, presented by UZIMA! Drum and Dance at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center will feature a unique collaboration between UZIMA! and many choirs, groups, and individuals from our community that will culminate in an uplifting and inclusive celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We hope you join us for this beautiful expression of unity and inspiration!
This event is part of the Presenting Series’ Cultural Collective, new programming supporting equitable artistic development in our community.