Common Threads, is a Pan-African community engagement performance project, directed by Michael ‘RAS Mikey’ Courtney of F.I.V.E. Productions

Addis Ababa―Dance is the common thread that ties us all together. That was the theme that inspired the recent dance celebration at the National Theater in Addis Ababa, which brought together more than a half-dozen local and international dance groups before 1,200 appreciative dance fans.

The high-energy event, Common Threads, is a Pan-African community engagement performance project, directed by Michael (RAS Mikey) Courtney of F.I.V.E. Productions, a leading African Diaspora company, which uses Ethio-Modern Dance and other indigenous African and Diaspora movement as a medium for cultural exchange, knowledge sharing, and youth empowerment.

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Dance performers from Jabeza, Destino, Huha Wendata, the City Hall Dances, the New Dragon Martial Arts, the National Theater Dancers and international step dancers and ethnochoreologists , Jakari Sherman and LaQuinda Grimes, brought down the house. The two-hour performance demonstrated why movement, the language of dance, has been a fundamental means of communication and cross-cultural expression since the beginning of human existence, providing us with creative narratives about peoples’ origins, identity, experiences, and aspirations. As an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Scholar, RAS Mikey’s sought to bridge the gaps of cultural knowledge within our global communities, through education and production in the performing arts.

Common Threads goal is to add to the current education and profession of dance in Ethiopia, while creating a bridge for knowledge exchange and enhanced communication between dance professionals in Africa, the Diaspora, and beyond.  This production provided a cultural platform for youth and artists, while exposing young Ethiopian performers to professional ethnochoreologists for an educational and entertaining experience.

Common Threads not only enhanced the structure of the professional dance industry by providing training for young performing artists seeking a career in dance, but it generated funds by initiating the Gash Negash Abdu Common Threads Award (Powered by Tomoca Coffee), for dance scholar(s) seeking to attend university to further their education in dance studies. This year’s winner was Mintesinot Getachew, who was selected and will receive a full tuition scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts in Contemporary Dance at the University of Limerick.

The power of dance is the power of movement and this annual event proved that people coming together for a common purpose can make a difference.

Source: US Embassy-Addis Ababa Blog

Michael ‘RAS Mikey’ Courtney is currently a guest lecturer at the University of Limerick, Ireland where he is continuing his research and development of Ethio-Modern Dance while pursuing his PhD in Arts Practice Research. RAS recently completed his MA in Ethnochoreology at the University of Limerick and he has a B.F.A in Modern Dance Performance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in the US. He has taught, performed, and choreographed dance and other performing arts world-wide with his company Fore I’m a Versatile Entertainer (F.I.V.E.) Productions (www.fivedance.com). RAS Mikey has collaborated with Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Raven-Symone, Ethiopian Television, and Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke to name a few. He has co-produced music numerous shows internationally including Adama Ethiopia 2000 (The African Millennium) and Reggae by the Nile. RAS is also an independent singer/songwriter who recently collaborated with UK based artists Dubsalon on their 2014 release of Praise & Love under the Aztek Electronic Music label. RAS is currently serving as board member for Dance Research Forum Ireland and continues to allow his works to reflect his spirit and passion for the performing arts as a cultural and social movement. RAS’ objective is to bridge cultural knowledge gaps within our global communities through knowledge sharing of the performing arts.

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