Humanity in Harmony festival tonight mixes cultures and forms

Classical piano and flute from Ghana will mingle with dance, poetry and mime in the second annual Humanity in Harmony festival tonight, in the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre, 110 Accolade East, on York’s Keele campus.

The interdisciplinary performance collaboration, by York University faculty, students and members of the community, was conceived by Isaac Akrong, a York PhD student in ethnomusicology, who is also an alumnus of York’s graduate program in dance. Akrong is founder of the African Dance Ensemble, which will perform the traditional Jera dance in tribute to the people of the Dagbon region in northern Ghana, who have recently experienced devastating floods.

Right: Pianist Regina Lam performing at last year’s event

"We are trying to bridge the gap between various disciplines of performance, to create an ongoing collaborative forum that uses music, dance, the visual arts, film, theatre and poetry," said Akrong. "It delves into questions such as how an attenteben flute from Ghana, which is what I play, can co-exist with a classical piano performance, and it encourages many other experiments as well."

Many of the performers are York students and the production is being managed by York theatre students Miriam Fernandez, Sanaz Tathi, George Quan and a team of volunteers. Involvement in this festival offers students a unique experience from planning to post-event analysis that feeds into academic discourses.

Above: The African Dance Ensemble (ADE) led by York PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, Isaac Akrong (centre), perform a traditional piece called Sorsorone, a harvest dance of the Baga people from Guinea, during the opening ceremonies for the Tubman Institute in March 2007. The choreography borrows from Ghanaian cultural practices and the history of the piece reflects the story of slaves that were taken from the coast of Ghana.

Humanity in Harmony will celebrate other cultures as well, says Akrong. For example, Nina Soypher, who was born in the Ukraine, came to Canada two years ago and is now a fine arts student at York. Soypher has studied everything from Indian dance to funk, and has developed an interest in African dance and music. However, on Thursday, she will be playing the traditional Ukrainian duct flute, a sopilka, and displaying her paintings.

The lineup of performances this year also includes:

  • Regina Lam, York’s MA Ethnomusicology Program – Classical Piano,
  • Bert Smith, member of  the African Dance Ensemble (ADE) – Poetry,
  • African Dance Ensemble (ADE), a multi-ethnic group based in Toronto,
  • Isaac Akrong, founder and artistic director of ADE and a York PhD student in Ethnomusicology – Attenteben flute,
  • Newton Walker – a fusion of Caribbean, jazz and reggae styles,
  • Petra Grant – solo musician,
  • Daniel Schnee & Gerry McGoldrick, both ethnomusicology PhD students at York – Improvisation,
  • TheatrePeace, a Toronto-based educational theatre company,
  • Petra Grant, a singer and radio presenter for CHRY 105.5 FM. 

Humanity in Harmony Festival takes place in the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre, 110 Accolade East, at 7pm. There will be an accompanying exhibition of student work in the theatre’s lobby, Accolade East, at 6pm.

For more information, see the African Dance Ensemble Web site, or visit for ticket information.