A passionate proponent of African dance, Charles “Baba Chuck” Davis, died May 14 in Durham, North Carolina, where he had taught with the American Dance Festival for decades, and founded the African American Dance Ensemble in 1983. He was 80.
The New York Times said Davis “considered dance an agent of social change,” and shared the knowledge of dance and folkloric traditions he gained from studying in Africa through his choreography and teaching, and through the two professional dance companies he directed (the Chuck Davis Dance Company was founded in New York City in the late 1960s).
One of his most popular endeavors was DanceAfrica, first held in 1977 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The festival of African dance, song, food, and handicrafts is still going strong 40 years later and has spawned imitators across the country.
Dance educator Yaminah Purefoy, a former AADE apprentice and longtime family friend, told Dance Studio Life that Davis “truly believed that people would come together through dance and be at peace. He expected nothing but the best from you at all times, and he believed nothing but the best of you.”