African drum and dance classes coming to Steamboat |

African drum and dance classes coming to Steamboat

Luke Graham

— Congolese drums provide an invigorating sound.

The rhythm and sound produced from them can make the hips move. But the sound and the soul also tell a story.

In a storied tradition of African dance and drum in Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat African Dance & Drum Ensemble is hosting a pair of accomplished Congolese drummers for a trio of classes Wednesday and Thursday.

Master artists Teber Milandou and Jean-Claude Biza Sompa will host a drum class from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and a dance class with live drumming from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

People are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and dance in bare feet. The cost is $15, and both classes are at the Depot Art Center.

Also Thursday, the pair will host two classes for children. At 10:30 a.m., a class for children ages 3 to 7 will take place, and a second class will be held at 11:45 a.m. for children 8 and older. Both classes are free and take place at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

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"It's an opportunity to learn about the culture and village life," said Jennie Lay, the Bud Werner Memorial Library's adult programs coordinator. "They evolve around stories. It's about cultural stories and village life."

African drum and dance have a rich tradition in Steamboat. Lay said they have been bringing in African artists for more than 30 years.

Biza Sompa has a long list of drumming credentials dating back to 1970. After traveling around the world, Biza settled in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he teaches at the University of Michigan School of Music.

Milandou, also from Congo, is the founder of Tanbours Sans Frontieres, or Drums Without Borders. After performing and touring out of Chicago, Milandou lives in Boulder.

The pair are on a Colorado tour with multiple stops across the state. Lay said the two do each class to teach people not only about the song and dance, but also about their rich culture.

"Expect an authentic dance and drum experience," she said. "It's hands-on. Drummers will be learning traditional rhythms. The dancers will warm up and then learn a traditional Congolese dance, step by step."

With questions about the classes, call Lay at 970-846-9695.

"I guarantee it will be high energy," she said. "Get ready to shake it."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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