Ago Ame: Homage to Baba Chuck Davis
June 4, 2017
I went backstage to interview him afterward because I was writing about the performance for the NC Anvil. Or was it for the Spectator?
'Mr. Davis' – 'Please call me Chuck' – was incredibly gracious and patient with me — a white woman who was raw, woefully uninformed, and asking all the wrong questions. This was my first experience witnessing live African dance, and what were the odds that it would be offered by the mundanely-named Chuck Davis Dance Company. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina? In Memorial Hall? A building whose original architecture was dedicated to the memory of President David Swain and the fallen Confederate alumni. It was the kind of irony that would not have been lost on Chuck.
It was the late 70’s, I think, before Baba Chuck moved back to Durham from New York to form the legendary African American Dance Ensemble, become a self-proclaimed Edutainer, tucking hundreds of thousands of us under his grand bubu-draped wings.
That night, 40+ years ago, is indelibly burned into my visual, aural, kinetic, and spiritual memory. Those head wraps flying in all directions let loose by loose-limbed dancers. The drumming musicians intertwined with the dancers, seamlessly driving and following each others’ rhythms. The strong women deeply comfortable in their radiant skin. The muscular men drenched in gentleness.
It was a night that unleashed a shared ecstasy with the audience that launched a phenomenal movement we had never known before, and will not know again.