Afro Urban Society + Bearettes

WORLD PREMIERE / USA and Pan-African

The dazzling Bearettes perform in the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) majorette tradition of “stands”—a game-time and halftime get down performed in the bleachers at UC Berkeley’s football and basketball games. Their choreography draws from vernacular jazz dance, African American social dance, contemporary stylized jazz, and ballet. The Afro Urban Society marching band joins them for this performance with a deliciously rhythmically complex musical arrangement of call and response, 6/8 timing, and polyrhythms from the African Diaspora – West African, Caribbean, Hip Hop, New Orleans Second Line, and more.

HBCU majorette teams proudly present a self-defined aesthetic, a self-described “expression of beauty, strength, and dynamic feminist power” performed by women with “style, grace, and college degrees.” The tradition began in 1969, when Gracie Perkins and Dr. Isaac Greggs co-founded the Fabulous Dancing Doll Squad of the Southern University “Human Jukebox” Marching Band. The Dolls set the standard for college dance ensembles’ precision techniques, stylish uniforms, graceful choreography, and standards of beauty.

The Afro Urban Society is a creative community of brilliant artists and culture workers dedicated to celebrating the unique expressions of Urban Africans through performance and community activism. Through original and curated arts and event production, popular arts education, and community engagement, they exist to dispel the perception that all Africans have a single story, creating spaces for people of African descent all over the world to tell their own stories, and celebrating reality that Africans are of many cultures and nations. Afro Urban Society is created and driven by its constituents, its context, history, and identities. They are the community that they serve.

The Bearettes were incorporated in 2015, one of only two HBCU majorette dance teams in California. They were created with a goal to serve underrepresented communities, as well as the entire UC Berkeley community, as a group of students who demonstrate diversity, inclusion, and empowerment through performance and discipline. The team strives to create a space in which students from different backgrounds, communities, and cultures come together and portray Berkeley through a different lens.

Weekend 1

July 6 & 7


Dance Origin: (The Afro Urban Society) African/Black Diaspora: United States, Bahamas, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Congo, Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba / (The Bearettes) US
Genre: (The Afro Urban Society) Pan-Afro Urban Drumline / (The Bearettes) HBCU-Style Majorette Dance
Title: Connecting the Concrete to the Dust

Who's Who


Artistic Directors: Tossie Long, Nkeiruka Oruche
Musical Director: Nkeiruka Oruche
Band Leader: Monica Hastings-Smith
Choreographers: Kanukai Chigamba Ensemble
Artists: Philip Agyapong (repique), Brandon Brown (bells, cymbals), Niki Brown (zabumba), Kanukai Chigamba (spoken word), David El (repique), Trina Fields (zabumba), Jillian Lyles (marching quads), Quincia Lynn (marching quads), Roccsy Mahania (snare), Sitalbanat Muktari (bells, cymbals), Cadence Myles (snare), Moses Omolade (zabumba), Mariyam-Ifteam Y Rufael (bells, cymbals), Oluwafemi Sawyerr (zabumba), Holly Shogbesan (bells, cymbals), Umi Vaughan (snare)



Artistic Director/Choreographer: Saabirah Faatimah
Co-Artistic Director: Tiffany Nelson
Dancers: Saabirah Faatimah, Yunuen Nava, Tiffany Nelson, Nadja Barker, Keyarah Sylve, Loray Davis

Photo: RJ Muna

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The mission of World Arts West is to support local artists sustaining diverse world dance and music traditions by providing needed services and performance opportunities, while deepening the public's support of and engagement with these inspiring culture bearers.