Metro Weekly

Spotlight: The Best of Coyaba Dance Theater

Dance Place offers a digital presentation of the West African dance-focused company's greatest hits

coyaba dance
Dance Place: Coyaba Dance Theater

Sylvia Soumah has long been the rare woman leader in the West African dance world, having founded the Coyaba Dance Theater in 1997. Coyaba works to showcase the ethnic diversity in traditional and contemporary dance and music from West Africa, with a chief focus on ethnic groups from the Mali Empire, including the countries of Mali, Guinea, and Senegal.

Every year, the company performs and leads dance workshops throughout the D.C. area, across the U.S., and abroad, as well as classes for children through its Coyaba Youth Academy.

Coyaba is also a longtime resident company of Dance Place, where in years past Soumah has directed the annual Kwanzaa Celebration focused on the seven principles of the African-American holiday encompassing singing, storytelling, dancing, and drumming.

The D.C. dance hub would have hosted a special celebration of Coyaba to mark the company’s 24th anniversary with a weekend of concerts in its Brookland venue had COVID-19 not rendered such in-person performances untenable.

Fortunately, the celebration will still take place online: Next weekend, Coyaba will offer a mix of recent and archival pre-recorded footage presented by Dance Place and touted as “a high-energy virtual presentation that gives a snapshot of the best of Coyaba.”

Denoted as “perfect for all ages,” the hour-long program will also include elements touching on “the various humanitarian themes of West African culture.”

Saturday, Feb. 20, at 6:30 p.m., with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Free. Visit

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