African rhythms ignite festival

Heather Hennigan
Contributing Writer

On Aug. 25, the University welcomed the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble (UAD) back to campus as a part of the second annual “Arts. Everywhere.” festival. The UAD performed during last year’s festival and was delighted to return to campus to share more original African dances and songs.

“We are honored and we appreciate being invited back to Bucknell to perform for the students again,” said Robert Dickerson, who founded the UAD with his wife, Wanda, in 1984.

The UAD is headquartered in Camden, N.J. and includes members from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Africa.

Carmen Gillespie, professor of English and the current University arts coordinator, discovered the UAD as a consequence of their international reputation.

“We are fortunate to have a world class group performing on campus and are grateful to the community for supporting the event by showing up in such large numbers,” Gillespie said.

The UAD is passionate about representing the authentic and genuine beauty of African culture and performance and values family above all else. Last year, the UAD mesmerized the campus crowd with traditional African songs, instruments, dance and drum. The performance, which took place on the Science Quad, even featured a stilt-walker.

Wanda Dickerson also shared a little secret with the crowd–all members of the UAD are trained martial artists. This group activity helps the ensemble stay focused and disciplined, and serves to keep the group bonded and working smoothly as a team.

“Our performance is not just a performance; it is a workshop in which students can be educated and learn the value and the beauty of African culture. Africa is very important in a global sense, because it is one of the richest countries in terms of resources–it provides oil, minerals, copper, diamonds and many other vital assets. So much comes from Africa that it actually helps the world. We are privileged to show the beauty of African culture and hope that everyone appreciates the aesthetic and educational components of what we bring to our performance,” Robert said.

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