Celebrating the History of African and African American Dance

Dance group
Rhode Island College Impact

Enjoy Afrobeat, hip-hop and step dance by Motherland’s Finest.

Rhode Island College has a new multicultural, student dance group – Motherland’s Finest. The group recently made their debut for Black History Month.

Founded last year by RIC nursing student Victoria Gyamfi (third from left in photo), who is also a member of Harambee, the college’s first black student organization, Motherland’s Finest hopes to simultaneously lift the spirits and offer a bit of African and African American history.

Of Ghanian descent, Gyamfi says she grew up mimicking dances such as “Azonto,” a popular dance genre from Ghana that features acrobatic knee bending and hip movements, and Afrobeat, a Nigerian dance that combines West African musical styles with American funk, jazz and soul influences.

The repertoire of Motherland’s Finest spans Afrobeat, hip-hop and step dancing. The latter is a form of percussive dance that requires participants to use footsteps, spoken word and hand claps. Since the early 1900s, step dancing has been a ritual practiced among African American fraternities and sororities.

Gyamfi was a member of the step dancing squad while a student at Providence’s Classical High School. She says step moves are complex and have been a challenge for other members of the dance company to learn.

“But my outlook with the other dancers is to be patient,” she says. “I tell them not to stress because this organization is supposed to be a fun thing. Everyone’s dance levels are different.”

Gyamfi says she named the organization Motherland’s Finest because “Africa is the motherland. Life started there.”

“I want this group to be a way to honor, cherish and remember the long, rich history and talent of Black people.”

Motherland’s Finest is scheduled to perform again in April at the University of Rhode Island.