African heritage dance class uplifts and energizes

McDaniel Roberts demonstrates the dance routine as a member of the class looks on. (Staff photo by Tiayana Ford)


Every Monday night, for just $5 a session, dance enthusiasts gather for the African heritage dance class at the Hayti Heritage Center.

The class, with live drummers, starts off with stretching, and deep breathing. On a recent Monday the substitute instructor, McDaniel Roberts, explained the importance of breathing through the muscles and building up stamina.

Live drums bring an upbeat tempo and energy to the dance studio. (Staff photo by Tiayana Ford)

As the drums switched beats to inspire different movements, the energy in the room flowed.

Dance provides many benefits beyond increasing strength and flexibility. Many sources cite the benefits to one’s emotional health and stress relief.

The instructor demonstrated each movement more than once, while the class was separated into three groups. Next, the groups copied the move as they danced across the dance studio.

Roberts has been teaching dance for about 15 years. On this night, he was subbing for the regular instructors, Tony Hall and Ivy Birch.

“I was on tour with Chuck Davis’s African American dance ensemble and while on tour we do lecture demonstrations as well as workshops,” said Roberts. “I started to become a leader in those workshops which moved me to opportunities once I came home to teach different classes.”

The late Chuck Davis has always been one of his biggest inspirations.

“He taught me and groomed me for certain classes, how to teach, how to engage your students and through West African dance and movement, it’s such a free spirit of movement and music and as well as a marriage between the two. It’s just a great inspiration to teach.”

Daniels has taught the Heritage Rhythm dance class several times before. Because all instructors trained under Chuck Davis, they have the same teaching style.

The class is every Monday at 6:30 to 8:00 on the second floor in the Chuck Davis Dance Emporium. There’s also a class called African Movement with high impact that’s held on Wednesday at 6:15 to 7:15 at W.D. Hill Recreation Center.



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