Black and White photo images courtesy of
Ziga Koritnik and
Petra Cvelbar

     Chandra Washington has enjoyed over 30 years of studying, performing and choreographing traditional West African dance from the Ancient Mali Empire era.  In addition to performing African dance, she also specializes in an improv style combining modern dance expressions with movements from the African Diaspora.  Her earliest dance training took place while studying at the University of Maryland, where she joined Improvisations Unlimited, directed by Miriam Rosen.  With a background of modern and improvisational dance, her dance focus changed in 1978 upon meeting Assane Kounte, master dancer/choreographer, who at the time was acting choreographer for Wo'se Dance Theater in Washington, D.C. (currently Artistic Director of KanKouran West African Dance Company in Washington).  She trained and performed with Wo'se for 2 years, eventually teaching community classes.  During this period, she also began a longstanding relationship as a freelance dancer with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra.  Currently a dancer and vocalist with the Arkestra, performance highlights include the Whitney Museum, New York (Composers Showcase, 1981), Ruta Maya in Austin, TX (2006), the Uncool Festival, Poschiavo, Switzerland (2012), and the Centennial Dream Tour (Europe, 2014).

     Chandra also received invaluable training from the now defunct International Afrikan-American Ballet of Brooklyn, N.Y., with Hazel Starks-Bryant as primary teacher of the dance and its history.  She also trained and performed with jali Djimo Kouyate's Memory of African Culture in D.C. as a dancer and vocalists, singing in the traditional Malinke language.  In 1980, she co-founded Cosan Arts Ensemble in D.C.  Additional important training came from Melvin Deal, Director of the African Heritage Dancers in D.C., and an array of workshops and master classes hosted by Chuck Davis, Assane Kounte, Marie Basse Ndele Wiles, Yousouf Koubassa, Amadou Boly, and Aminayea Payne, among others.  In D.C., she performed in several prestigious venues including the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian.

     While in Richmond, Virginia (1985-‘90), Chandra served on the Adjunct Faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Dance & Choreography as instructor of their advanced-level African dance course.  She also served as consultant to Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company, and a host of community organizations and educational institutions in the Richmond area (including lecture/demonstrations for the Richmond Public School System), and co-founded the performance company, Legacy: An Arts Collective.  After 5 years in Richmond, Chandra returned to D.C. in 1990, joining Assane Kounte's KanKouran, where she performed for 2 years.  While residing in Honduras, Central America in 1996, Chandra conducted a special African dance workshop for the country’s national company, Danzas Y Teatro Folkloricas Garifunas.

     Currently residing in Austin, Texas (she is an Austin native), Chandra continues to consult in the areas of dance instruction and choreography, as well as performing.  Highlights include creating a dance concept combining African dance and rhythms with "street" dance and urban contemporary music she coins “Ancient Hip-Hop.”  As a fellowship recipient of Dance Umbrella's New Choreographer's Project in 1995, Chandra choreographed, staged and performed her work, Seeking Satisfaction.   She received a dance fellowship in 1996 from Pro Arts Collective to study and perform with dance master Linda Spears (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater). In 2003, Chandra was commissioned by One World Theater to conduct lecture/demonstrations and teach a youth dance camp.  She also performed at One World in her one-woman multi-media presentation, A Taste Of Africa in their 2003 Kids Series.  Chandra performed as a featured artist in the CreOp Muse annual Circle of Light production (1999-2009) as a dancer, vocalist, percussionist, and workshop facilitator.  In 2012, she collaborated with Indian classical dance master Anuradha Naimpally in the 2012 production, “Journey: Tradition to Innovation.”

     Currently, Chandra tours with the Sun Ra Arkestra (dance, support vocals), performs with vocalist James Robinson (dance, percussion) and serves as Artistic Director, dancer, musician, and performance poet in the multi-disciplined production, Healing Caravan, performing at the 2007 and 2011 Pro Arts Collective’s Black Arts Movement Festival in Austin. The 2011 production opened for the legendary Last Poets.  Future plans are to tour the Healing Caravan project. 


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