Presenting Denver would like to shine a community spotlight on Kebrina Josefina De Jesus and Samba Colorado!
Artist: Kebrina Josefina De Jesus
Organization: Samba Colorado
Education: MFA from Naropa University
Hometown: New York City
Presenting Denver: If you are not a native, why did you choose Denver?
Kebrina Josefina De Jesus: Our director, Kebrina Josefina De Jesus came to Boulder for graduate school, an MFA in theatre and performance arts from Naropa University, but then chose to stay in Denver because of a burgeoning arts scene which she felt could benefit from the kinds of Brazilian and African dance community she was hoping to grow. The mountains and laid back atmosphere stole her heart, but she stayed for the dancers. Samba Colorado was born in Colorado and has developed a group of passionate and creative dancers and community members who are willing to put in the time to grow as performers while devoting countless hours for the benefit of the Denver community.
PD: Do you split your time between dance/arts and another vocation? If you split your time, what is your other vocation?
KJ: Our director, Kebrina, is a full time dancer, actor, and director/choreographer. She leads Samba Colorado and also teaches dance for a number of well-known institutions across the Front Range. The Samba Colorado dancers come from all walks of life. We have a small professional company as well as a community performance group that consists of dancers who train between one and four times a week. We also hold beginning dance classes and offer opportunities for community members to perform.
PD: If you have received any awards or recognition for your work, tell us about it.
KJ: Many of our company members have won awards at international Samba competitions and our director, Kebrina, recently took 4th at the International Samba Congress in Los Angeles. We love sharing dance from African Diaspora traditions as we’re aware of the ways that these traditions counter oppressive histories deeply embedded in the United States; dancing at international competitions gives us opportunities to show the world the positive influences that African Brazilian traditions offer to community members of all ages and backgrounds. We were also recently featured in the Excessive Realness Queer Dance Intensive, which offered us an opportunity to showcase our LGBTQ partners and the ways we have created an inclusive Samba community within Denver and Boulder.
PD: How can dance be more inclusive and why is access to all important?
KJ: Our director and several of our members identify as queer women of color. Dance can be more inclusive by creating a safe environment for all people: for people who want to connect with their roots, for people who identify as part of the queer community and are looking for new forms of self-expression, for people who have never felt safe in dance spaces, and for people of all ages who have never had the opportunity to join a dance community. Kebrina specializes in dances from the diaspora. Across these traditions, dance has always been a form of communication and we work to embody this and offer our community a way to express themselves regardless of ability or body.
PD: What is the most rewarding thing most people would not know about a dance or dance organization owner?
KJ: The most rewarding thing about running this organization is creating a safe space for people of any age, gender and orientation, and profession to come together to bond and train. We believe that dance connects us and allows us to discover more of ourselves. We also love providing education, particularly for our youth members. We recognize that the dances we perform can be really healing so we want to create even more opportunities for young people to engage with and grow up in these African Brazilian art forms.
PD: How do you determine which music is appropriate for your organization or choreography? Do you start with concept or score? Talk about your relationship with music and/or musicians.
KJ: We have been really lucky to collaborate with a group of musicians who have traveled with us to Brazil. Together we have learned the African Brazilian traditions so as we create new pieces, we develop the music alongside our dance. We draw on inspiration from the Deities of the Yoruba traditions and have received permission from master teachers to perform all of our pieces. Our artistic director continues to travel annually to collect the stories behind this music and dance, and to ensure that the history of these traditions is recorded and available to community members. Each of our members has the opportunity to travel with the company to continue developing alongside an international community.
PD: What about this art form drives you?
KJ: Our dance company is all about community healing. We love connecting with new people through dance and hearing stories about the ways that people find themselves growing alongside others through movement. We have also devoted a lot of our time to acknowledging the roots of Samba and the ways that African traditions have developed over time. We love learning and sharing the history of these traditions in order to honor our ancestors, teachers, and the dancers who have come before us.