05. Continued Growth
Creative research/COLLABORATION abroad
AFRICA CENTRE IN LONDON
COLLABORATIVE PARTNERING WITH DIRECTOR KENNETH THARP, CBE
The Africa Centre in London remains a prime resource since it opened its doors to the public in 1964, not only for people of Africa and African-Caribbean descent but also for anyone interested in African and diaspora culture and heritage. It presents an acclaimed series of cultural events, while becoming an important hub for African innovation, arts, and commerce. The Africa Centre hosts monthly events, including panel discussions, African film screenings, and cultural partnership events, bringing together the best and brightest contemporary African culture.
The Director, Kenneth Tharp CBE is a British dance artist and former Chief Executive of The Place. His 25-year performing career included working with London Contemporary Dance Theatre. He has also worked extensively as a choreographer, teacher, and director and as Lead Artist and Artistic Advisor for the Royal Ballet School.
The initial reason for contacting with Kenneth was to get him on board as a keynote speaker for the 2020 TEDx SUNY Potsdam, which was planned for an in-person event. The thought
was also that while he was visiting, he could teach master classes to the SUNY Potsdam dance students and possibly, the arts management students. Obviously, everything turned out differently due to COVID.
If Kenneth came to SUNY Potsdam after the pandemic is over, fresh from any TEDx, I would still see him do a few important things. With the Africa Centre in the background of what he does and with his credibility, I feel that he could make a powerful statement for the students. He has been a dancer, the boss of one of the most important dance organizations in the world, and he has been on top of leading the Africa Centre. I feel he is an ideal person to encourage dance students, or any students for that matter, to bring together art and expression with identities such as natural and cultural heritages.
I could see Kenneth work successfully with dance students as a guest artist in residency, sharing his vast experience in the field. He could also talk about entrepreneurship and how students could start their own dance company, school, organization once they graduate. Kenneth could even share his experiences with the Africa Centre and through his own background, as his father is from Nigeria. He would be great for advocating cultural identity in the arts, which was what was initially in mind when inviting him for the TEDx – how cultural and artistic identity can come together and merge. Dance students could better understand integrating their own heritage and culture into their art-making, and I feel that Kenneth is in a prime position to help them.
Furthermore, I feel Kenneth could truly do more than just teach dancers. He could also integrate arts management students, cross discipline students, sociology, anthropology, business – students working to find their voice toward creating something that is meaningful to society. Kenneth is not just a master in his field, he is an all-around kindhearted person, who the students would gravitate to and truly appreciate. Someone like Kenneth Tharp could even be seen becoming a visiting professor or a commencement speaker. He is of that calibre with the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) award, the highest ranking Order of the British Empire awarded by the Queen to individuals for having a prominent role for services to arts and sciences, as well as society.