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Ko-Thi Dance Company Celebrates 50th Anniversary With 'Juba-Lee'

David Overbeck
Korporate Media
Dancers performing in the Ko-Thi Dance Company show "Juba-Lee."

When enslaved Africans were taken to the Americas, they brought few — if any — possessions. But they retained the legacy of their homeland through memories, songs and dances. This artistic inheritance would give birth to cultures around the world, which now make up the African diaspora.

Ferne Caulker has spent much of her career researching and dissecting these cultures, pulling together their ties to the African continent.

"There’s a million stories to be told that haven’t been told. The most fascinating part of it is we can tell these stories through dance, music, and song, 'cause these people didn’t lose their memories," says Caulker. 

For the past 50 years, her dance company has used this research as the platform for their performances. Now, Ko-Thi Dance Company is celebrating its half-century of performing with a show called Juba-Lee, named in honor of William Henry Lane (known as Mr. Juba), the father of tap dancing.  

"This concert in particular, it's a journey. It starts ... [in the] early 1900s, and then it travels back into time. So it travels from literally the U.S., going into the Caribbean, to Haiti, and then making its way over the Atlantic Ocean, back to West Africa," says DeMar Walker, artistic director for Ko-Thi. 

Juba-Lee is on the UWM Mainstage at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 2-3, and Aug. 9, and at 4 p.m. on Aug. 4. There's more information for tickets at 414-229-4308. 

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.