A (competitive) night of celebrating African dance, storytelling, and music.

On April 5th, Lerner’s Black Box Theater hosted RAWA 2024, an African dance team competition hosted by Columbia’s African dance team, Ijoya. Rawa means “to dance” in Hausa, capturing the infinite possibilities of dance as expression. Ijoya is Columbia’s first African dance team. The group is focused on showcasing African dances and African-rooted dance styles. As the lights went out, Columbia’s very own Ijoya set the tone for the event by opening with a stunning performance. 

As the audience eagerly anticipated the stars of the competition, the host, Tomisin (Barnard’ 25) reminded the audience to show their maximum energy for the performers, all of whom have prepared dance routines that are at once a vibrant celebration of African culture, Afrobeats, and moment for everyone to surrender to beautiful art. Three judges were invited to sit for RAWA. They included Ijoya alum, Shyanne (Barnard ‘23), Jay, a Dance With Purpose USA dancer, and TJ, a Dance With Purpose USA dancer and choreographer.  

For the night, the competing teams were: Yale’s African fusion dance team, NYU Afroseke, associated with NYU’s African Student Union, and University of Pennsylvania WAVe (West African Vibe). Yale’s Afro-fusion dance group, Dzana was the first to perform. Performing a variety of choreographies, the all-women ensemble demonstrated a range of styles, moods, and beats. At one point, the group completed choreo while donning black fedora hats and white button-down shirts. Following their poised performance, the next team was Afroseke’s four-people ensemble, setting off the transition with an upbeat choreography that remained energetic throughout the performance. Finally, the last group to perform, WAVe did a series of performances that aimed to showcase the breadth of African dance styles, with dance segments spotlighting Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Caribbean. 

Following a twenty-minute intermission, the group had a second captain’s round for every group before the judges finalized their decisions. As the night drew to a close, UPenn’s WAVe took the crown for 2024 RAWA. Judges and competitors came down to the dance floor and as the competition ended, the night continued with joy in dancing along with the music in the background.

Header via Picryl