A Kenyan Dance Troupe Performs in Bed-Stuy

The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe brought the beauty of their Maasai heritage to Bailey’s Café on Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (Photo by Ron Howard via Our Time Press)

In a story for Our Time Press, Priscilla Mensah gives a first-person account of watching the Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe, made up of Maasai men and women of southern Kenya, at Bailey’s Cafe in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Oct. 27.

At the beginning of the show, Nicholas Sironka, the troupe’s founder and leader, spoke about the traditional Kenyan values of the Massai people, such as respect for elders and respect for oneself.

(…) Among the songs and dances performed by the troupe, there was one in particular, a hymn and song, sung by Kenyan mothers to their young. I listened intently as this demonstration transpired while simultaneously recorded it on my videophone. I understood the value and rarity of such a live performance of song and dance from the continent which my ancestors originated. (…)

A story that appeared in Our Time Press in July detailed the “nightmare” Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art’s executive director Vira Lynn Jones went through in trying to secure visas for the dance troupe for an earlier event. The organization sponsored the Oct. 27 show. Now able to watch the dancers live in Brooklyn, Mensah reflects on the significance of the performance, both politically and personally.

The impact of the Sironka Dance Troupe was perhaps placed in perspective for me when at the very end, a local community member arrived and insisted that I take a picture of him with the Maasai. He was almost star-struck and even called his friend to brag that he was with, in his own words, “real” Maasai.

(…)

I understood more fully why Vira was so insistent on having the historic troupe perform amidst a hostile foreign policy climate espoused by the Trump Administration via their various travel bans. It’s not that Nicholas and the Sironka Dance Troupe were not effective in conveying the importance of their performance. Rather, seeing the admirer, who happens to also be my father, react in that manner only served to increase my understanding of the mighty Maasai people.

In Mensah’s full account of the show, she describes a “jumping” dance and a song used to calm cows performed by the troupe, as well as the mentioning of the U.S. trend of saggy pants in Sironka’s talk on Maasai values. Read her complete story at Our Time Press.

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