SOCIAL WISE COMMUNICATIONS

Audrey Davis-Dunning has a passion for African dance. The East Brunswick resident and mother of an 11-year-old son has been conducting virtual and in-person African Joy African Dance classes for years. This year, she took her love to a new level by launching a book and online course series called KUCHEZA! The Basics, Beauty & Power of African Dance.

Audrey’s mission is to help other driven female “goddesses” recharge and experience the joy of African dance as well as shining a light on their own empowerment.

New Jersey Family: How did your passion for African dance begin?

Audrey Davis-Dunning: I have been dancing since the age of thirteen and discovered traditional West African dancing during what I refer to as my “summer of heartbreak.” I was having a tough time after a breakup and a dear friend took me to a class to get me out of my funk. I was mesmerized and immediately hooked! I had the good fortune of having Yewande Kelley Johnson as my instructor. Her warmth, knowledge and love of the art was infectious and life changing. I studied with her for years and became the assistant artistic director of her troupe, the Iwa Lewa Heritage Dance Ensemble.

NJF: When did you develop African Joy African Dance? Where do you share this program?

ADD: The African Joy Online African Dance Class was created during the pandemic. We couldn’t gather in dance studios, but we still had to dance! I quickly pivoted to online classes to provide the healing, stress relief and fun that we all so desperately needed during that challenging time. Having the class online allowed me to reach students in Canada, England, China, Germany and Taiwan. That was amazing. I love having international dance sisters.

NJF: What are people unfamiliar with African dance surprised to learn?

ADD: How fun it is and that it is something that they can actually do. I pride myself on teaching the steps in a way that is accessible to all regardless of your fitness level. I even teach a seated version of every step. I have students who take the entire class seated – and you know what? They still get the movement! They still get the history! They still get the music! And more importantly, they get the sisterhood! There is a special bond created when you dance with someone. You dance with me once and we’re dance sisters for life.

SOCIAL WISE COMMUNICATIONS

NJF: KUCHEZA! The Basics, Beauty & Power of African Dance details the rich history of African dance and culture through your story, the movements and the vocabulary. You also created an online course where you break down each move, term and definition, plus a free monthly Kucheza Cuties course where you can ask questions, gain one-on-one time with you and meet other fellow enthusiasts. What was your inspiration?

ADD: I decided to write the book to provide an informative yet easy to read introductory book for new African dancers. I believe the way you are introduced into this art form makes all the difference in the world. By providing key terms, history, pictures of African dance related items as well as fun stories, my hope is that they’ll fall in love with African dance. African dance will give you life!

SOCIAL WISE COMMUNICATIONS

NJF: When you’re not dancing, how do you spend time with your family?

ADD: I love family time! My husband and son (I call them “my guys”) keep me hopping. Between my son’s sports, hosting family gatherings and our movie nights, we have a great time. We also have a very special family hug that we do as well as a “family ring” that we all wear. We put our rings together, do our affirmations and unite our family power.

NJF: What other work are you doing to drive female goddesses to their energy?

ADD: At every opportunity I encourage women to walk in their power, state what they want and know that they deserve it. When I end my classes I always tell them to walk like, talk like and act like the goddess that they are.

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