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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 04 November 2021

On Thursday, Nov. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Reflections Dance Festival returns as a ray of light during the dark times of fall and winter amid the pandemic. Reflections, which was filmed on Pier 62 and will be presented as a virtual event, is co-presented by The Seattle Public Library and Friends of Waterfront Seattle with lead partners Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects. It is free and open to the public.

The special dance series debuted to a virtual audience of more than 5,000 viewers in the fall of 2020. Back again with a dynamic lineup, Reflections features the following artists and cultural practitioners, whose performances were filmed by Futsum Tsegai, artist in residence for The Seattle Public Library and filmmaker, who is returning for a second year:

  • Abriel Johnny (Cowichan and Tlingit): Dancer and civic leader Abriel Johnny (Cowichan and Tlingit) shares a jingle dress dance as ceremony and remembrance.
  • The Coast Collective - Aiyanna Reid (Cowlitz), Chayil Brooks, Drew Gorospe, Michaila Taylor: Moving to the lyrics of a “rising sun,” this ensemble of deftly choreographed modern dancers holds up inclusive communities with joy, beauty and collectivity at heart. Giavonna White with Inner G: Educator and dancer
  • Giavonna White has chosen Seattle children who are her dream team for their Reflections performance entitled “Young, Gifted, and Black.”
  • Larry Lancaster: 18-year-old dancer Lancaster, who performs courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet, is accompanied by classical violinist Swil Kanim (Lummi).Makeda Ebube with Lungusu Malonga’s Traditional Congolese Ensemble: Veteran dancer
  • Makeda Ebube celebrates the Motherland in her collaboration with Lungusu Malonga. As the choreographer and artistic Director of the Traditional Congolese Ensemble, Lugunsu’s “ancestral arts” exist in the beautiful vein Ebube values and lifts up. Featured talent also includes: assistant choreographer Maxie Jamal, dancers Decontee Wea and Ma’Syiah Malonga, with traditional music by Kiazi Malonga and drumming by Eugene Yaw Amponsah.
  • Pasifika Wayfinders: This gorgeous dance ensemble brings to light stories of ancestors from each island in the Pacific, holding past and present together. Their program also uplifts these young leaders’ outstanding work in public health during vaccine drives. Featured young artists are Destinee Harris, Keleni Tavaiqia, Donna Tavaiqia, Rachael Waqaitanoa.
  • Tloke Nahuake: Coming together to dance after nearly two years of being separated by the COVID pandemic, Tloke Nahuake brings prayer and a breathtaking moment of witness by the water and with clouds breaking the heavens open.

RSVP to Reflections 2021 on Facebook; a streaming link will be posted there several days before the event. Library events and programs are free and everyone is welcome. More details on Reflections 2021 here. More photos of the artists by Futsum Tsegai here.

Culture as medicine

“Culture shifts when we lift each other up,” said classical violinist Swil Kanim (Lummi). His compositions accompany Baltimore-born, 18-year-old ballet dancer Larry Lancaster, who performs with Reflections courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. With Swil Kanim’s advice that now is a time for taking on the impossible, his song “Ascending Mourning” is dedicated to frontline health workers. Lancaster’s spare and graceful performance brings this crucial point home.

Powerful drums open civic leader and activist Abriel Johnny’s jingle dress dance. She said, “Our culture is our medicine."

"When we practice our medicine, it restores balance to all physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.”

“We take care of us” is a community adage that you often hear from Ixtli Salinas-Whitehawk, who has been on the frontlines of mutual aid throughout the pandemic. The Indigenous artist and cultural worker is a member of Tloke Nahuake. The family of traditional Aztec dancers had their first reunion during their Reflections filming, after a nearly two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Salinas-Whitehawk emphasized, “This is not a performance. You are watching a sacred prayer.”


The graceful gestures of the young women in the Pasifika Wayfinders may belie their equally deft moves in the community to combat COVID. These cultural workers worked door to door to get their communities vaccinated. The highlighted work shares how community work can also help keep beautiful cultural traditions alive.

Contemporary dance comes into the fore with the quartet led by Aiyanna Reid, a recent graduate from Cornish Art College, as they perform a rousing choreographed piece set to Nina Simone’s “The House of the Rising Sun,” now a public domain classic.

The African Diaspora shines in a special ensemble convened by veteran dancer Makeda Ebube highlighting Congolese culture. Featured dancer Malonga Casquelourd put the piece in the context of this Congolese Traditional Proverb: “Wa Dia Fua Yi Ka Dio — What one inherits, they must add value to." 

The focus shifts to younger generations when dancer and educator Giavonna White invites the children of Inner G who are “young, gifted, and Black” to have a moment of joy on Pier 62.

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