[ call ]

Aye, Bobo

[ chorus responds ]

Aye, Bobo

[ song, in unison ]

Elegba, ayo . . .

[ repeat, &c. ]

Thus begins the sacred dance Yanvallu, as taught by Arthur Hall, who learned from Lavinia Williams, who taught for Katherine Dunham, who learned the dance first documented in the New World in the year 1619, when it was already an ancient dance carried across the Atlantic from the Slave Coast of West Africa.

The Fantastic, The Authentic, The Truth Set to Music and Dance

So reads the Club 3 Guys poster for Max Roachs Freedom Now Suite at Town Hall, the corner of Broad and Race, April 4th, 1968, when word comes of the killing of Reverend King in Memphis. Backstage, in shock, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and Arthur Hall consider stopping the show, but they go on, in a year of tumult and assassinations, keeping at least some of the raging fire on the stage and off the street.

Nineteen sixty-eight was a watershed year for the Afro-American Dance Ensemble. They performed for the African Press Attaches in DC, with Count Basie, in high schools, colleges, clubs, and ballrooms across the Mid-Atlantic states, for Action Summer 68 in Philadelphias parks and playgrounds, on television, and at Jacobs Pillow in the Berkshires, one of the most prestigious modern dance stages in the country. The following year, through the Model Cities program, they opened the Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center, where after-school programs in dance, music, and art began a long history of keeping thousands of children off the streets of North Philadelphia.

And the Children Danced : Thirty Years of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble is the story of the birth of the Black Arts Movement in Philadelphia. Robert Farris Thompson of Yale describes how "The Africanist center in America shifted from Katherine Dunhams school in New York to Ile Ife in Philadelphia." Dance historian Joe Nash says, "The Arthur Hall dance company was not like the other dance companies ... You could see the difference every year they came to Dance Africa. Youve got to be unique!"

And unique they are. In their own voices, Arthur Hall, members of his company, and the children who grew up in the Ile Ife Center describe how they carried traditional African and modern dance to stages and schools across the country and across the seas, bringing a larger vision of beauty and dignity to students and audiences of all races and places of origin. It is a unique story, and it is a beautiful story, spanning four decades, from the 1950s through the 1980s.

And the Children Danced is a story of inspiration and triumph. of institution building and culture-making, of movement education and spiritual healing. From the beginning, the story revolves around the vision of Arthur Hall. "I think we must know something of our culture. I saw in the dances a chance to bring grandeur back into blackness," he said 1968 (Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine). Now, nearly thirty years later, the vision of Arthur Hall is essentially the same, and his voice is at the center of And the Children Danced. Remembering the dearth of information about African culture when he began, he says:

And the Children Danced is a one hour television special that shows the dances, sings the songs, plays the rhythms, and tells about the ancestors:


is the story of the Dance Ensemble, the Ile Ife Center, the Ile Ife Museum, and in Maine, the People to People Dance Co., all reflecting African influences in an exemplary way and reflecting the work of an artist and a healer raising spirits in North Philadelphia and eventually in communities across the US and on four other continents, including Africa herself.

In the voice of Arthur Hall ~

And the Children Danced presents a vision which is just as important now as it was when it was being developed. Again, the voice of Arthur Hall:

And the Children Danced uses historical film of the major dances, still photographs, and interviews to tell the story of a beautiful and unique people. Original music for the production is by two collaborating musicians, both of whom are a significant part of the history being recounted -- Odean Pope was the music director of both the Model Cities Cultural Arts Program and the original production of Arthur Halls Orpheus (1973), and John Blake composed and performed the score for Arthur Halls A City Called Heaven (1975). Filmmaker Bruce Williams has been working with Arthur Hall since 1977, producing Snake Dance Teacher Dance (1978), Orisun Omi (The Well) (1982), and most recently Arthur Halls Obatala (1996). The sophistication and artistry of Arthur Hall himself have been recognized since the beginning:

And the Children Danced looks back to the early years of Saka Acquaye and the West African Cultural Society, and it looks forward to the thriving legacy of dignity and pride carried by the children of Ile Ife:

And the Children Danced is guided throughout by the spirit of Obatala, the spirit central to the Yoruba creation myth, to birth and creativity, and the spirit that has been given exquisite form by Arthur Hall and the Afro-American Dance Ensemble. The spirit of Obatala has been called for centuries by many praise names -- the Divine Sculptor, the patron saint of children, Alamo Re Re, the one who turns blood into children, Alabalashe, the wielder of the scepter of life, and O Ho Ho, the father of laughter, who sits in the sky like a swarm of bees.

The dance of Obatala is perhaps one of Arthur Halls most sublime creations. "Many of his company's dances have cultural truths and verity, but this one has much more," writes Daniel Webster (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/21/70). "Its chief asset is the long solo dance that Hall himself performs. He is an old king, shrouded and shielded [to protect the audience from the power of his gaze], who takes a few bent steps after the young worshipers [have consecrated the stage]. From those few steps develop a widening circle of variations, always harkening back to the beginning but extending the idea with great imagination ... this is a memorable creation and a notable dance achievement. Even in the most fervent moments of the dance, there is the dignity of age and the beauty of recollection."

And the Children Danced reflects a universal spiritual imagery given form by this history specific to North Philadelphia. It reflects the art and the mission of Arthur Hall, engaging the heart and the mind and delighting the eye and ear. It aspires to be inspirational to young people, and for those of us who are older, to be full of "the dignity of age and the beauty of recollection."

*footnote: all block quotes are from the 14 Dec 1996 interview of Arthur Hall
by research assistant Ayo Ngozi-Brown.

Ile Ife Films
The Arthur Hall Collection
754 Mount Ephraim Road
Searsport, Maine 04974

a nonprofit 501(c)(3) arts organization
Patrice A. Janssen - treasurer


And the Children Danced
Production credits to date

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