FANIKE!, a Queens based West African dance troupe, and Flamenco y Sol, an artistic Spanish group, delivered traditional performances that were both interactive and educational. The seniors were encouraged to dance and clap along, while also learning about the culture these groups are preserving.
The event was sponsored by Councilwoman Linda Lee, who represents parts of eastern Queens. Prior to taking office, Lee was a social worker who held roles in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, including running two senior centers and a Meals on Wheels program.
“Thank you for all you’ve done for building up my generation,“ Lee said before the performances began. “For me, events like this are a very, very small token of appreciation.”
The councilwoman also pointed out that there are now more seniors than public school students in NYC. In the past decade, the city’s 65 and older population grew by 36%.
FANIKE! has performed at various festivals, as well as in community spaces and theaters all across the city. But everyone in the group is from neighborhoods in southeast Queens.
“The dance and drum do not happen separately,” explained Khary Kamau, one of FANIKE!’s drummers. “This is not a spectator sport.”
Kamau helped attendees understand how traditional West African dance has been used as a way to document and pass along history through generations. The drummers performed a hunting rhythm followed by a celebration rhythm before dancers joined in. They handed out instruments to the attendees and invited them to learn the movements to one of the dances, whether it was from their seat or up in front of the room.
Then guitarists and dancers from Flamenco y Sol took the audience on a journey through southern Spain’s Flamenco culture, which was inspired by the Andalusian gypsies. The dancers spoke through strong facial expressions, and varying tempos of music matched the range of emotions.
“Flamenco is so much about expression,” said one of the dancers from Flamenco y Sol. “Once you learn the rhythm, which is the most important thing, then you can learn to express yourself in many ways.”