Kevin McEwen – Choreographer/Artistic Director, Kofago Dance Ensemble

Dive into the mesmerizing world of dance with our latest feature on the 2024 Arts Council Individual Choreography Fellows! The 2024 NJ State Council on the Arts Choreographers’ Showcase is set to dazzle audiences with the dynamic and diverse artistic visions of 14 incredibly talented choreographers.

Selected every two years, these choreographers represent the epitome of artistic excellence, chosen by an independent peer panel solely based on the quality of their work. And guess what? They’re bringing their A-game to the SOPAC stage, infusing it with the beauty and athleticism of dance that’ll leave you spellbound! 🎉🎶

But wait, there’s more! Did you know that these talented artists can receive up to $32,000 to further their artistic goals? Talk about a game-changer for the arts scene!

This program is made possible by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, in collaboration with the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Visit the Mid Atlantic Arts website to learn more about the Individual Artist Fellowship program and discover how you can support the arts in your community!

Kofago Dance Ensemble

Mark your calendars, because you won’t want to miss “Moving Into the Future: New Jersey Choreographers’ Festival,” a co-sponsored project of SOPAC and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s going to be an unforgettable celebration of dance and artistry!

But that’s not all! We’re thrilled to announce that Kevin McEwen will be featuring his poignant choreographic work, “Remembrance,” on Thursday, April 4th at 7pm. This moving tribute honors loved ones who have passed away, blending the emotional depth of loss with the rich traditions of African dance.

Get ready to be transported on a journey through grief, memory, and celebration as McEwen and his talented dancers grace the stage with their powerful performance!  Don’t miss out – mark your calendars and join us for an evening filled with dance, emotion, and inspiration!

The art of dance is a crucial component of many cultures, serving as a medium for expression and preservation of cultural heritage. In recent years, the call for diversity and representation within the dance community has grown, particularly with regards to Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities. This includes representation within dance education and the role of dance educators.

RND Dance Educator Randee Grant teaching in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

The representation of BIPOC dance educators is crucial in providing access to accurate, culturally-sensitive education to students of color. Research has shown that students perform better academically when they can identify with their teachers, and the same is true for dance education. For BIPOC students, having access to BIPOC dance educators can serve as a source of inspiration, motivation, and validation of their cultural heritage.

Dance educators from BIPOC communities bring a unique perspective to dance education, combining their cultural heritage with academic knowledge to create a well-rounded education. They can provide a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context of various dance styles, as well as their place within society. This type of education not only provides students with a better understanding of dance, but also with a greater appreciation for the cultural diversity that exists within the world.

Despite the benefits of representation, BIPOC dance educators are still vastly underrepresented within the dance education community. According to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the majority of dance educators in the U.S. are white, with only 20% identifying as being a part of the BIPOC community. This lack of representation limits the cultural perspectives available to students, perpetuating the erasure of BIPOC voices within the dance community.

Kevin McEwen – Dance Educator

It is important to note that the lack of representation of BIPOC dance educators is not due to a lack of qualified candidates, but rather to systemic barriers such as institutionalized racism and implicit bias. In order to address this issue, dance institutions must make a concerted effort to increase diversity and representation within their hiring practices, and to create inclusive environments for BIPOC dance educators.

Representation of BIPOC dance educators is essential in providing students with access to accurate, culturally-sensitive education and in promoting diversity and inclusivity within the dance community. It is up to dance institutions to take action to increase representation and create inclusive environments for BIPOC dance educators.


Kwanzaa Celebration 2022This holiday season marks an exciting milestone for the Kwanzaa Celebration – it is the fifth anniversary since its inception! This performance, produced and directed by Kevin McEwen, has grown into a memorable tradition in New York City over the past five years.

The production was made possible through the collaboration of many organizations and talented individuals. Queensborough Community College, Rhythm N Dance, The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning and the Kofago Dance Ensemble all worked together to make this event one of a kind.

The show featured African Diasproic dance forms such as Sabar dance from Senegal, Hip-Hop, Modern and Afrobeats. It also included a live drum call led by D’Jembefola Jean Lemke Charlot and Master of Ceremony duties by 1Pablo (Paul Lee) who spoke to the audience about Kwanzaa’s cultural significance.

Kwanzaa Celebration has become a staple in our community, celebrating African Diasporic culture in the beginning of December each year. This year, we had two shows which seemed like the natural evolution of the work we’ve done for the past five years.

Batingua Arts Youth Ensemble

On December 9th, 2022, the first annual Kwanzaa Celebration Youth Performance kicked off with a bang, featuring some of the best performing arts groups in the area.

The Phoenix Dance Ensemble from First University Prep in Brooklyn put on an incredible show with their signature choreography by their director, Afaliah Tribune. The Sesame Flyers International Youth Dance Ensemble (under the direction of Acharo Smith and Vuyelwa Thom) from Brooklyn brought their mix of Caribbean rhythms and creative movements to the stage. The Batingua Arts Youth Ensemble, directed by Persephone Dacosta showcased dazzling African and Caribbean dance moves. Infinity Blueprint (directed by Tanasia McCorey) from Long Island provided a much-needed dose of soulful Hip-Hop choreography. And last but certainly not least, the A.R.E.A Collective from Harlem delivered an electrifying performance full of Hip-Hop beats and melodies.

Infinity Blueprint

It was truly a sight to behold! Not only did these talented young artists show off their skills, but they also demonstrated how powerful art can be when it brings diverse communities together for a shared purpose. As we celebrate this inaugural Kwanzaa Celebration Youth Performance, let us continue to support our young performers as they strive to reach their highest potentials!

The second show on Sunday, December 11th, was our signature show celebrating our fifth anniversary of our production. Featuring talented dancers from Kofago Dance Ensemble, Queensborough Community College Dance Program, REACH Collective and the Kwanzaa Celebration cast, this performance was truly an occasion to remember!

Every moment of the two hour long show was nothing short of remarkable. From Bakary Fall’s powerful traditional Sabar dances

Sabar Suite

to Tanasia McCorrey’s innovative hip hop numbers and Mama Taylor’s captivating Lengen routines, each piece brought its own unique flavor to the mix. Even Aicha Konaté’s Afrobeats choreography with the QCC Dance program managed to evoke emotions in all who experienced it.

From my position as the producer and director of the show, it was clear that each choreographer took great care in crafting their pieces for this special event – from artistic vision to technical execution. The entire performance flowed seamlessly from start to finish, providing an exciting show full of energy and passion.

This year’s Kwanzaa Celebration 2022 was both an inspiring cultural display and a world-class performance – an unforgettable experience that will linger in our memories for years to come!

2022 is here! We’re are now two years in with having to deal with a pandemic that has truly changed the way we all live and interact with each other. COVID has taken a lot out of me, as it would many people. COVID is so much more than just a virus. COVID has crushed the notion of freedom to connect and commune with others in many ways, especially within dance communities. I am not sure where we go from here.

For four years straight, I produce and direct a production entitled the Kwanzaa Celebration. On Saturday December 11th, Kofago Dance Ensemble, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and Queensborough Community College presented Kwanzaa Celebration 2021: The Legacy Continues. Honoring the fifty-two year long tradition of Kwanzaa, Kofago Dance Ensemble and Queensborough Community College pulled together a performance that pays homage to this beautiful holiday. we even got coverage of our event from Channel 2, CBS News, which was truly appreciated. After everything was done, I couldn’t wait to take a much needed vacation to clear my mind and take a break from what was a truly strenuous year.

Unfortunately, that never happened. The Omicron variant had other plans. Flights were cancelled due to people getting sick in such large numbers. Lines for COVID testing were now hours long instead of the walk-ins we were used to just some weeks ago. Everything started to trend in the wrong direction.

COVID has truly taken so much from us. It seems that every day we lose something else; our sense of normalcy, our freedom to congregate and celebrate as we please, and sometimes even our lives.

I am tired. I hope that 2022 will bring some healing and a better outlook on the future but who knows what COVID will take from us next.

My hope is that my local community gets more proactive about delaing with this pandemic. There’s way too many people out here who are not vaccinated. I’m literally seeing people in my community lose their lives to this virus. Knowinfg that they could’ve been vaccinated and they chose not to is very concerning. In anideal situation, I would love for COVID to take a break and let me enjoy travelling again, but the pandemic seems to have other plans for now. I just have to accept it and keep going on with my life as best as I can until COVID decides that maybe 2022 is the year we all get our lives back.


Kofago Block Party

Kofago Block Party, Saturday, August 7th, 2pm-8pm. FREE EVENT!

Living through a pandemic is something generations before us didn’t have to deal with.  The Corona Virus and is global reach is something we will all tell future generations about.  I will be honest in saying that it’s been quit the struggle as a professor to teach dance classes via Zoom and similar platforms.  The technology itself wasn’t the issue, but it was the lack of connection to my students that I truly miss.

As more and more people get vaccinated, there’s been a loosening of the COVID restrictions (some would say that they rushed that part of the process). The members of  Kofago Dance and I have been hard at work to bring you the content and events you didn’t even know you needed!

Our GENERATIONS dance workshops have been a huge success! In addition to the GENERATIONS workshops, we’re excited to bring to you our first (and hopefully annual) KOFAGO BLOCK PARTY! Growing up in Brooklyn, block parties where great events that brought the block/neighborhood/community together.  The Kofago Block Party will do the same thing.  We will celebrate life, community, culture and dance in a way that represents who we are as a company.

The event takes place on Saturday, August 7th from 2-8pm and we have a whole host of activities and entertainment waiting for you to come and check out:

We’ve got some activities lined up for the kids as well (face painting, arts 7 crafts).  All of these events and activities are with the sole intention of bringing our community back together after being separated for so long.  It’s no coincidence that this event will take place at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC), which is the same location of our last live Kwanzaa Celebration performance in 2019.

Make sure you click the links above to follow the artists who will perform at the block party.  For people who are interested in vending, please click the link here to register.

Kwanzaa Reflection

A true teacher in dance is one who provides guidance and mentorships for their students as they begin the journey inwards, letting their spiritual self shine through their dance. We meet our students as we are and as they are, right here and right now, finite but incomplete; we enlarge and expand in order to engage their minds and fire their hearts, and to provoke their imaginations, as well as our own. The other side of the Teacher/Student paradigm is the student who has a certain level of trust with their teacher. This trust comes with the understanding that the dance is a journey through “uncharted territory” where the teacher has the map leading to a higher level of understanding and elevation through movement.

Being a dance teacher affords me the luxury of combining the best of both worlds; dancing AND teaching! Although I’ve been a dancer for the past 16 years, I was also a corporate technology trainer. Dance education provides me with the perfect nexus for two things that I am truly passionate about.

The bond between teacher and student is a unique association akin to the young Shaolin Monk seeking guidance from the elder Shaolin Master; a melding of a thirst for knowledge and a timeless wisdom. The greatest moments between the student and teacher is when the students is able to understand and can truly grasp the concept, movement, rhythm and /or history of the dance.

These notions on what dance education means to me did not come from how I learned dance, but rather from a mixture of what I didn’t get while learning, as well as my desire to do better for the next generation of dancers coming up after me.

My journey as a dancer is not like most dancers. I didn’t learn about dance as an official dance major, nor do I have a degree in dance. I was led to dance 16 years ago by my ancestors in a process of listening their messages and submitting to my journey. This process relied on me having an unspoken level of trust with a higher order, taking me on the uncanniest journey a person could have. Through this journey, learning how to dance and how to teach others about dance was a part of a larger way of living that included many different facets (ie drumming, cooking, rites of passage, ethical standards, language, etc.). Through this journey and this lifestyle, I’ve learned a lot about myself, as well as what I’ve been put on this earth to do.

I come from a single-family home, where my father was never around. This led to me having a need to over-compensate on many of my interactions with people in a failed attempt at the relational balance and guidance I didn’t have growing up as a child. This type of background was my true foundation in forming my identity as a dance educator, which is a hybrid mixture of Observation, Experimentation, Experience and Determination

  • Observation – In observing other teachers teach dance, I’ve seen both the good and the bad. I’ve seen those who could care less about their students, as well as those who would do anything for their students. Being able to observe both ends of the spectrum allowed me to experiment with the type of dance teacher I wanted to be once the opportunity to teach dance was put before me.
  • Experimentation – During my career as a dance teacher, I jumped at chances to teach where I wasn’t even paid for teaching. My reasoning for doing so was that the opportunity to take what I observed and then experiment with the assessed information was critical in developing what my concept of dance education would be.
  • Experience – If at first you don’t succeed . . . . . Trial and error was (and still is) a major part of my foundation as a dance educator. Not every concept/strategy will work with every group. This is something that a teacher can only learn through experience.
  • Determination – Teaching is not something that will make you rich. It’s something you HAVE to be passionate about. That passion is synonymous with determination, which is the true foundation of success in any endeavor an individual, may take in life.

Educational theorist Maxine Greene states, “While it is not really necessary for everyone to be deeply knowledgeable in math and science, it is crucial for everyone to seriously contemplate who we are as individuals and as members of a culture.” Dance has not only become something that I am passionate about, it has become an integral part of my cultural identity. I identify culturally with dance because of the traditional forms of dance that I study. Most of these dances come from cultures where the dances are a part of every day life. These dances keep me grounded in a world where technology and social media have become society’s preferred way to communicate and socialize. It is the cultural traditions and information of the dance (and the lifestyle it perpetuates) that keep me balanced.

It is said that without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle. Dancing and the art of dance is the ultimate manifestation of one’s inner spiritual identity. The ability to dance is closely tied to how intimately a person is connected to their metaphysical self. That metaphysical (or spiritual) self is directly tied to your family and ancestral lineage. Although some people are able to learn choreography by simply looking at it one time, others need months to learn that same choreography. This notion and perspective on dance doesn’t mean that only a certain type of person can learn dance, rather it exemplifies the notion that dance is for everyone simply because the journey through learning a specific dance form can lead to a certain level of growth for anyone (this of course is tempered by the fact that the personal growth is relative to the individual). Everyone has the innate ability to learn about dance, however not everyone is comfortable with the outward expression of their inner spiritual being.

Finally, the most critical notion of dance is that it is never about the destination; it’s about the journey to the destination that is most important in understanding what dance is to both the teacher and the student.

This past week, I had the honor of presenting my research at the Second Season of Dance Conference, hosted by the Univeristy of the West Indies/Cavehll, in the beautiful country of Barbados. The conference, which was held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI), brought together some of the best and brightest scholars on Caribbean dance and dance ethnography together to share their work and to support the work of others.

This was my first time presenting my research at an academic level.  Although my goal has always been to go after my PHD, this conference put me in the audience of people that are doing the work that I want to do in some capacity.

The conference began on Thursday, May 19th. We began the conference with introductions from the conference chair, Ms. Neri Torres. Ms. Torres then introduced Professor Gladstone Yearwood, Director of the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.  The highlight of the morning introductions was an opening speech by Dr. L’Antoinette Stines.

Dr. L’Antoinette Stines

Dr. L’Antoinette Stines

Dr. L’Antoinette “Osun Ide” Stines is an artistic director, dancer, choreographer, actress, teacher/lecturer, administrator, author, and visionary. Creator of L’Antech, a modern contemporary

Caribbean dance technique, Dr. Stines continues to impact on the direction and future of Caribbean dance. In 1994, Dr. Stines unveiled a new modern Caribbean Dance Technique called L’Anyah Reggae Technique later known as L’Antech. Culminating from over ten years of research, this innovative technique is a blend of classical ballet and several Caribbean folklore forms. Regarded as one of the three pure modern dance technique to develop out of the Caribbean, L’Antech, the language, gives

the audience choreography embodying a wholeness of Body, Mind, and Soul.
Dr. Stines opened up her speech with a quote from Pearl Primus:
The dance is strong magic!
The dance is a spirit!
It turns the body into Liquid Steel!
The dance is strong magic!
The dance is life!
She went on to discuss her work in Jamaica and the reason why she believed we were all at this conference.  “We cannot judge Caribbean Dance by Eurocentric standards!” This statement resonated with me on so many different levels.  On a daily basis, I struggle in a world and society that tells me that who I am and what I stand for does not matter.  The after effects of the Trans Atlantic Slave trade can be felt by its descendants in every aspect of living.  Dr. Stines words were an acknowledgement of these notions, but for me, it was like hearing Kendrick Lamar’s track “Alright” for the first time!  It inspired me to keep my head up and to keep grinding no matter what the world gives you to work with.
After Dr. Stines keynote speech, the first panel on dance education was up.  Guess who was the first presenter (no pressure! LOL!)? It was a great experience! My co-presenters, Dr. Kathryn Austin and Dr. Stephanie Millington gave great presentations!
The next panel was entitled “The World of Orishas” and it included a dynamic discussion that includedRoberto Montero (Cuban syncretism in the Performing Arts), Nerri Torres (Cuban fusion: Creating modern dance rituals) and Leandro Soto (To dance the Colors).
There were many panels and discussions happening simultaneously (I missed Kelvin Cooper’s class “Social dance practices adapted for stage performance: Bahamian dance”),  but the information presented was a great experience!
Overall, I truly recommend this biennial event to scholars looking to present their work on an international level!  The next conference will take place in 2018, so keep an eye out on the links above for more information.

As a performing artist and an arts educator, I have witnessed how little opportunity and funding is allocated to communities of color. Many politicians come to D.C with promises of providing assistance and opportunities, only to gain support and win the hearts of the people during election season. It is frustrating to see the lack of support Ward 7 and Ward 8 receives from the DC Arts Commission. The only way these communities receive support is when outside organizations lead the charge for funding. Part of this phenomenon has to do with the lack of resources for East River organizations, compared to foundations like the Washington Ballet.

In the past, I have visited the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (theARC) in Ward 8, looking for a space to teach West African dance classes. In response I was told that they already have a teacher for West African dance class. They did not value the style of dance enough to provide the community with a variety, and more opportunities to learn. The fact that the only viable Performing Arts space in my community is run by people who are not a part of this community made it clear that my skills would not be valued, which ultimately left me feeling quite defeated. I ended up teaching West African Dance classes in the Takoma section of DC, 45-minutes away from the community I lived in.

I know that this is not entirely the fault of theARC’s or the Washington Ballet. The Washington DC Performing Arts scene has seen a steady shift in the significance of artistic projects, aligned specifically with the changes in the demographics of the city. As “Chocolate City” has become a lot less “Chocolate”, the policies around art education, what, real estate ownership, investment and even what’s considered a community, have all shifted towards what some would consider a more “progressively-exclusive” approach towards the aforementioned topics.

In the midst of all this change, the one thing that I’ve always noticed, is that certain communities don’t have the political lobbyist lobbying for what is needed in local communities. Wikipedia defines Lobbying as “the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.”

Lobbying can be done in two ways:

  • Contacting or urging the public to contact policy makers for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation
  • By advocating the adoption or rejection of legislation

There are people making six figures to lobby for pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, gun makers, the tobacco industry and even the marijuana industry, however, I never see anyone lobbying for the concerns of disadvantaged communities. This is not to say that they don’t exist however I think that if there was a firm/person/organization out there lobbying for the needs of the lower tier of our economy, then things would look a whole lot better in many of these disadvantaged communities.

I had the opportunity to attend Arts Advocacy Day events on Capitol Hill during the first week of March. It was a great opportunity to look at what advocacy and lobbying looks like for performing arts and arts education organizations. The three-day advocacy project was an amazing educational experience on how I can advocate for the various performing arts projects that I work with.

The job of arts advocacy is something that programs in low-income urban communities need in a very big way. Understanding where the money for programming is allocated and who supports these initiatives is very important in understanding how programs can be supported with the appropriate funding from local, state and federal officials.