West African dance is characterized by its grace, athleticism, and rhythmic movements. In many African cultures, dance is a part of everyday life. Important in rituals and ceremonies, it can be used to mark life’s transitions, to heal, to tell a story, or for pure enjoyment, and often engages all members of the community.
Hailing from Conakry, Guinea, M’mah Toure began training in dance at the age of 13, and danced with Les Merveilles de Guinea and Les Ballets Africains for twenty years. She studied dance from Les Ballets Africains directors and choreographers Kemoko Sano and Yamossah Soumah, as well as Sano’s wife, Mariatou Camara. Of her experience with dance, M’mah says, “In my country of Guinea, dance is very important for weddings, baby ceremonies, rites of passage, celebrations, and daily life. It brings people together and keeps them from violence, and even distracts them from the daily struggle of poverty. Dance is important for the country and the same way it serves youth in Guinea, it can also serve youth in [United States].”
In 2009, M’mah participated in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice N’soroma James. During their apprenticeship, M’mah’s instruction to N’soroma emphasized the proper integration of movements (the coming together of hands, head, posture, and persona), communication with drummers, and learning a wide spectrum of traditional songs.