Join us at the Gantt Center every second Saturday of the month as we dance through the African diaspora.

“It was really poignant to me, this idea that a work of art could, somehow, turn a page, shed a light, or lead back to a source. And that’s one of the things that’s exciting about being an artist; that your work threads people to other places, and not necessarily in straight lines.”
-Alison Saar

This monthly movement conservatory will focus on bringing the dance forms and techniques of the African Diaspora to the Gantt Center. Throughout the series of five classes, we will travel, through dance, to Brazil, Cuba and Trinidad.

Integrating themes of the current exhibition, Alison Saar: The Nature of Us, the instructor will demonstrate the importance of empowerment of the female form, explorations of spirituality, and ritual practices as they relate to movement of the body. By exploring global perspectives through dance, we create even more opportunities to share and celebrate black heritage. Moving Spirits: A Community Intensive Dance Workshop is led by Gantt Center teaching artist and Assistant Professor of Dance at UNC Charlotte, Tamara Williams.

Workship Focus: Palo Mayombe, Cuba

This Central-African based Cuban religion is centered on help from ancestors and a relationship with the earth, one’s land and one’s home. The supreme power in the faith is Nzambi Mpungu, and under the patronage of this power, practitioners revere spirits of their ancestors and spirits of natural forces. The Indian is one of the ancestral forces recognized in the religion; it signifies land and home in the Americas.

Palo Monté is an ancient Afro-Cuban religion related to Santería. Called “paleros” or “ngangleros,” followers of this form of worship believe they can use human body parts to contact, and enslave, the spirits of the dead. The spirits are then compelled to do the palero’s bidding – almost exclusively in the service of evil. Paleros must learn complicated rules involving skulls, arrows, crosses and other symbols that are drawn on the floor to summon up spirits.


Tamara Williams is a native of Augusta, GA, where she began her dance training. She earned her BFA in Dance from Florida State University and received her MFA in Dance from Hollins University in collaboration with The American Dance Festival, The Forsythe Company, and Frankfurt University. She is a certified GYROTONIC(R) Trainer, Reiki Practitioner and Capoeirista.

In 2011, Williams created Tamara LaDonna Moving Spirits, Inc., a contemporary arts organization dedicated to performing, researching, documenting, cultivating, and producing arts of the African Diaspora. Williams continues to serve as Artistic Director.

For the past six years, Williams has trained intensely in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, in Silvestre Technique and Afro-Brazilian dance. She is a 2012 recipient of the Artist Residency Fellowship at the Dance & Performance Institute in Trinidad, a 2013 recipient of the Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall Fund for New Work grant, and a 2014 & 2015 Community Arts Fund Grantee by the Brooklyn Arts Council. She was the 2014 Lecturer/Emerging Artist-in-Residence at Penn State University-Altoona. Williams was a 2015 Turkey Land Grove Foundation recipient. As a result, she participated in a seven-day dance writing residency in Martha's Vineyard she also received a 2015 Fall Space Grant which was awarded by the Brooklyn Arts Exchange.

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Image credits: Michael Shi, Tamara LaDonna Moving Spirits, Inc.