Senior Staff Reporter, Donna Michele Ramos had the opportunity to talk with Muisi-kongo Malonga about the Fua Dia Congo International Workshop Tour, celebrating 35 years of the dance company. The dance company will offer master workshops in Congolese dance and drums on Saturday, July 21st in South Sacramento. CLICK HERE to see the Sac Hub exclusive eblast ad and for workshop info, please contact Mischwa MMC at (707) 695-3599. The tour has gone throughout Northern California, St. Anne, Guadalupe, Brooklyn New York.
THE HUB: Is this Fua Dia Congo’s first time teaching or conducting a dance workshop in Sacramento?
Muisi-kongo: This is the first time in a long time we have been here in over a decade, but it is the first time Muguso Malonga will be teaching a workshop here.
THE HUB: Tell us about the type of dance workshop you will be conducting.
Muisi-kongo: We are offering two workshops: a drum workshop, teaching basic sounds and building upon it to put pieces together to build a rhythm. It is 1 hour and 15 minutes and open to all levels. Following that is the dance workshop, it is 1 hour and 30 minutes, and this includes a 30 minute warm-up, a brief introduction, and a breakdown of movements. The teacher leads the class to live drumming, it is for all levels.
THE HUB: How did you wind up becoming an instructor?
Muisi-kongo: My father, Muguso Malonga is the founder. I grew up in rehearsals and I have been dancing close to 20 years. My mother was also a founding member in 1977, before I was born. My sister too, she is the one teaching the class.
THE HUB: Do you dance full-time?
Muisi-kongo: Yes my sister and I teach, dance and perform full-time. We are choreographers, instructors and leaders. We have a residency program in schools (K-12), universities and we also teach master classes.
THE HUB: When you are not dancing, what do you like to do for fun?
Muisi-kongo: I enjoy traveling, reading, writing poetry and short stories. I also have some musical projects I am working on.
THE HUB: Tell us about the founder of Fua Dia Congo.
Muisi-kongo: My dad, Muguso Malonga is originally from the Republic of Congo and he immigrated to New York in 1972. He and other immigrants established the first Congolese dance community. In 1976 he relocated to East Palo Alto and founded Fua Dia Congo in 1977. The dance company was made up of Stamford students, housewives and students . Since 1979 our Congolese dance class and drum workshop was the first of its type in the United States; a 10 day camp and immersion classes. My dad taught at San Diego State, San Francisco State, universities in New York and Stamford University. He founded the first all-female drum ensemble in 1990, Yata Yata. He met my mother Dr. Faye McNair-Knox in 1977 in East Palo Alto.
THE HUB: I understand that the founder of Sacculturalhub.com, Pleshette Robertson’s mother Cherry Douglas, is a “Fua” alum and dances professionally with Fua Dia Congo over 35 years ago, can you tell us a little about that? What was the group like back then?
Muisi-kongo: Miss Cherry was one of the original members. There was lots of energy in East Palo Alto, we started our own college Nairobi College. East Palo Alto was almost named Little Nairobi. There was lots of interest in the culture, the dancers embodied lots of love and energy for what they were doing. They embraced everything with great fervor, that’s why it took off so fast and galvanized it so it’s here today.
THE HUB: The Alice Arts Cultural Center was renamed in honor of your father and changed to Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in 2004, what an honor that must have been for him. Who are the instructors there now?
Muisi-kongo: Boueta Malonga (brother) is named Congolese freedom names, Kiazi Malonga (brother) named after the village my dad came from, Lungusu Malonga (sister) is named after our great grandfather, Muisi-kongo (myself) name means one from the Congo. Also part of the troupe are: Rafael Matingou, Mbay Louvouezo (drummer), Sandor Diabankouezi (elder master dancer). Jeannie Ishman Brown and Cherry Douglas were also founding members.
THE HUB: Where have you traveled to for performances?
Muisi-kongo: In 1988 the company traveled to Jacobs Pillow Massachusetts Dance Festival. It was very prestigious as it was the first time for an African dance performance there. We also had performances at The Kennedy Center, UC Berkeley, and Town Hall in Seattle, New York workshops near the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Guadalupe. In 2006 we participated in a festival in the Congo. We are trying to get the entire company there next year.
THE HUB: What do you like most about dancing?
Muisi-kongo: Dancing allows me to connect with and express my heritage on a regular basis. I enjoy it, it’s spiritual, I am able to connect to a higher being. You connect with a connection between drums and that language, it’s fun, it feeds your spirit.
Fua Dia Congo Performing Arts Company will hold workshops in Sacramento, California this Saturday, July 21, 2012 at Our World Cultural Center, 2251 Florin Road. Drum Workshop 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m and the Dance Workshop 2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., each class is $10.00. CLICK HERE to see the Sac Hub exclusive eblast ad and for workshop info, please contact Mischwa MMC at (707) 695-3599.
Updated on 7/20/12