Dance TO Showcase Feature #3: COBA and Bakari I. Lindsay

For over 20 years COBA (Collective of Black Artists) has been passionately forging a path of "traditionally innovative dance and music" in Toronto and beyond. This quote is found on their website homepage, and I can't think of a better way to describe what they do. While engaging some traditional aspects of African dance aesthetics, their work always grabs hold of the now with vitality. No doubt this drive is spurred onwards by the current artistic leadership, co-founders Charmaine Headley and Bakari I. Lindsay. 

COBA is one of the companies to performing in the Dance TO Showcase  this fall and Bakari graciously and succinctly answered my questions with that same kind of energy you feel in COBA's work. 

Bakari I. Lindsay by Michael Chambers

LUCY: Why was COBA founded? How has that shifted over the years?

BAKARI: COBA was founded first and foremost to create a platform for the original founders, (Charmaine Headley, Junia Mason, Mosa (Kim) McNeilly and myself) for creation and performance. There was a lack of work that highlighted the Africanist aesthetic in movement and themes. In short no one was dancing our stories. I would not say the vision shifted but it grew to encompass giving a place for artists of African descent to develop and explore. 

LUCY: Can you tell me a bit about the work you'll be featuring in the showcase?

BAKARI: I will be performing a work entitled “Ancestral Calling”, it was actually selected by Vivine Scarlet from Dance Immersion [one of the partnering organizations making up Dance TO Showcase]. This work was a commission by the company with which I began my dancing career many years ago in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. I posted the performance of it on Facebook and Claudia Moore saw it and asked that I perform it in Older and Reckless - Men Dancing. The work has become quite a favourite of audiences and also one of mine to perform. If marries the balance of technical virtuosity with story telling.

LUCY: What keeps you inspired as a dancer, as a creator?

BAKARI: Hmmmm, I would say the desire to continue to tell stories through movement about my histories and experiences.

LUCY: What do you think dance artists can do to improve the health of the Toronto dance community? I'm not saying it's  ailing, but there are always ways we can grow and improve!

BAKARI: Actually, I do feel the Canada Dance scene is ailing. While there is lots going on, in my opinion its not very exciting. We need more dance related things to look forward to: festivals, conferences where we can come together and interact with each other. I feel we are all being stifled to the point of myopic visions.

photo by David Hou

LUCY: What is your dream for COBA?

BAKARI: To survive long after I am gone, with an inspired vision to carry on.

LUCY: Can you tell me about a performance you’ve seen that was a game changer — artistically or personally? Something you were in the audience for, rather than performing in. Who was it, when, where, why was it impactful?

BAKARI: It was Vincent Mantsoe’s first performance in Canada, it was the first time I had experienced a solo concert and was totally blown away by the strength and power both physical and spiritual. I was in awe that one human being could possess such power.

See Bakari in action with COBA's Ancestral Calling
Wednesday Sept. 30th at 2:15pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Free admission for professional Toronto dance artists. 

more about COBA:

for full Showcase schedule visit:!showcase-performances/czy5

more about Dance TO Showcase:

photos courtesy of COBA


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