DAF Performers and Instructors
DAF Instructor/Afro Cuban dance (All levels)
Maya Berry, Ph.D., is a third-generation Cuban-American and an artist-scholar of Afro-Cuban dance. She completed her Master's degree in Performance Studies at NYU and her doctorate in Social Anthropology (African Diaspora Program) at the University of Texas at Austin.
Maya danced professionally in modern, jazz, and contemporary companies in NYC before turning to graduate studies. She began her formal study of Afro-Cuban dance forms in 2004, training extensively in Cuba, Miami, and NYC. In Cuba she studied under Johannes Garcia and the Conjunto JJ, El Ballet Folklorico Cotumba, el Ballet Folklorico de Oriente, Danza Contemporanea, and the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, in Miami under Neri Torries and the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance Company, and in NYC under Xiomara Rodriguez. She returned to Austin this past summer after living in Havana from 2012-2014 while training extensively in rumba and Yoruba dance with Jennyselt Galata during her dissertation fieldwork with Yoruba Andabo, one of the foremost traditional Afro-Cuban performance groups.
DAF Performer/Guinea dance (intermediate to advanced)
Ismael Kouyaté was born in Guinea, West Africa, into a long line of 'Griots', the oral historians that preserve the history and culture of Africa through songs, stories, music and dance. He began dancing professionally at the age of 12, when he was recruited by Les Percussions de Guinee' to perform in their international tour, which included Europe and Asia. Upon his return in 2004, he joined Ballets Africains, the National Dance Company of Guinea, for their 50th Anniversary Tour of the US, Jubilee! From his performances on this tour, he was contracted by the team of Fela! to serve as a Master Choreographer for the production, along with a principle role in the play.
Ismael toured with Fela! from its humble off-Broadway roots in 2008 through its final international tours. He is the subject of a CNN special on Africa in Americawhere his class of over 100 people ecstatically learned and modeled his movements, while speaking of their excitement to study from this legend of Guinea, many of whom had heard of him in their travels abroad. He is a featured vocalist on Beyoncé’s Grown Woman, the single featured on her Pepsi commercial. He currently resides in New York City, teaches dance regularly, sings with his band Ismael Kouyaté: Waraba Band, and performs with his West African Dance Company, African Soul International. He is currently completing his own production about the life of King Sundiata Keita, the ruler of the Malian Empire.
DAF Performer/Guinea & South African dance (beginners)
Christina Gerard is the Artistic Director of KoumanKe’le’ African Dance & Drum Ensemble. Ms. Gerard possesses over 20 years of professional performance experience. She performed and studied under world renowned dancer, drummer, and Griot, Djeli Moussa Diabate, for over seven years. Other professional experiences include Artistic Director and principal dancer with Kuumba House Dance Theatre, under the direction of Lindi Yeni and Dimakatso “Mama D” Hampton; dancer with Djeli Kunda West African Dance & Drum Ensemble, under the direction of Moussa Diabate; and WonLande Dance and Drum Company, directed by Mohammed Diaby. Christina also served as Artistic Director of the Impilo Cultural Dance Troupe, where she created and choreographed a full production, The Seven Gifts of Kwanzaa.
DAF Performer/Low impact movement & music (all levels)
t. negresco lyes is an innovative multicultural world percussionist whose musical background is rooted in African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern traditional rhythms. Her style is diversified and influenced through her experiences as a solo African dance class djembe accompanist, West African drum and dance ensemble member, West African dancer, multicultural storyteller, hand percussion instructor and gospel, funk, soul, folk vocalist and auxiliary percussionist. Her path has converged with some of the greatest World percussion instructors in the United States including Babatunje Olatundje, Mabiba Baegne, Mohamed Camara, Abdoulye Diakate, M’bemba Bagora, Edwina Tyler, Carolyn Brandy, Karuna Warren, Ubaka Hill, Mouminatou Camara, and Alseny Sylla. She is currently a member of Color of Sound, a collective musical experiential improvisation ensemble where she plays multiple percussive instruments: djembe, djun djun, shakaree, vocal gourd, shakara, bata, bango cajon, Mbira, kalimba, talking drums and dumbek.
DAF Performer/West African djembe and dunun drumming
Mohamed Diaby has been sharing the culture of Guinea, West Africa with audiences all over the United States and Canada for the past 20 years. Bonafide master drummer, Mohamed Diaby began playing the djembe at age seven, under the supervision of his elder brother Moustapha. By fifteen, Mohamed joined Africa Djole, led by Fode Yulla. Mohamed later joined Les Merveilles de Guinea as lead drummer, touring all over West Africa, including Sierra Leone. Kemoko Sano, Artistic Director of the world famous troupe Les Ballet Africains, requested Mohamed to join his troupe. In April of 1995 Mohamed arrived in America to play at New York City’s Symphony Space. Today, Mohamed is a featured Artist in Residence at the Slyboots School in Buffalo, NY and also at Bush Mango in Rochester, NY- teaching both drumming and dancing. He performs as a solo act or with his amazing ensemble- Manding Foli Kan Don and travels around the world teaching and performing.