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African drum and dance troupe celebrates 33 years with show

blackhistoryfinaleMOUNT RAINIER – Explosive drum beats and energetic African dancing infused with African culture served as a fitting celebration of Black History Month for dance troupe Soul in Motion Players (SIMPINC).

On Feb. 25, at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier, SIMPINC celebrated its 33rd anniversary with an entertaining and lively performance of this year’s show entitled, “It’s Our Time,” which underscored the richness of African-American history and the African diaspora. Action-packed choreography impressed a crowd of African dance and drum enthusiasts of all ages who clapped and made complimentary remarks throughout the celebration.

The premiere of “Temple Memories,” choreographed by Rosangela Silvestre from Brazil, added a spiritual layer to a memorable performance. Silvestre, a choreographer, instructor and dancer who travels outside of Brazil to teach, visited the area for two weeks to train SIMPINC’s dancers and rehearse with them. Incorporating ancestral spirits and nature is a part of her technique, she said.

Michael Friend, the founder of SIMPINC, later told the packed house that a sudden wind sound circled the building when the guest choreographer introduced aspects of the African goddess of wind called Oya while teaching the dance.

“In doing these (dance) pieces, we really do have to acknowledge what it is that we are doing and what we are sharing,” Friend said. “When we reach out to these gods, and these energies, it’s a real thing.”

Candace Mickens, a Hyattsville resident who was invited on stage to dance in heels, said African dance and music is a spiritual matter for her as well, in addition to it being an important part of African culture.

“It was completely unexpected to be pulled onstage. However, I do (African) dance. I do not perform, but I do honor the culture,” Mickens said. “I think it is important that we see this (performance) because our traditions in Africa are still being carried, even when we don’t recognize it. A lot of things that we have done with hip hop, R&B, all of our dances, all of our cultural activities, they really are still in place even though we don’t necessarily make the connection, so I think it is important to see these types of things.”  

SIMPINC, which is a resident artist company at Joe’s Movement Emporium, originally consisted of Friend and his sister Khandi (known as Mama Khandi). The pair began to perform together as the Soul In Motion Players in 1984. Their debut performance was held at Howard University, Friend’s alma mater, during Black History Month.

Friend graduated from the university in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. However, the Philadelphia native started his music and acting career back in 1969. His artistic talents have led him to tour in West Africa and perform nationally. In 2011, as director of SIMPINC, Friend won the prestigious Montgomery County Executive’s Community Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities. On March 19, 2016, Joe’s also honored Friend as a “Mighty Joe” with the Creative Visionary Award. SIMPINC continues to grow under the direction of Friend, joined by Associate Director Pam Lassiter Rhone, who is a choreographer and dancer.

“Soul In Motion has been a part of our artist collective at Joe’s for 18 plus years,” Brooke Kidd, executive director and founder of Joe’s, said while welcoming attendees to Saturday’s performance. “Joe’s is a collective of artists that use our space to rehearse and present, and (SIMPINC) is one of our anchor groups.”

Information about SIMPINC can be found online at www.soulinmotionplayers.org. Joe’s is a cultural arts hub offering programs and productions. More information is available via www.joesmovement.org.


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