The movements of African dance are "fluid and low to the ground, showing respect for the Earth, the environment."

Jelani! Exclaim it. Feel its inner poetry. Jelani is the Swahili word for "mighty" or "powerful."

While at Bucknell, India Branch '03 along with three other student-dancers, created a dance group that bore this potent name. The exultant syllables might well be a mantra for Branch's career in New York City's arts community today. Born in Harlem, she learned about Bucknell through one of her high school mentors at the Institute of Collaborative Education, a progressive high school, located on 14th Street in Manhattan.

She believed Bucknell could extend the educationally rich and personalized atmosphere of her high school.

For Branch, who is the marketing manager at New City Center in Manhattan, dance is life. While at Bucknell, she was able to combine her love of dance with the practicality of economics and marketing. She felt it was very important to participate in a serious and challenging dance program, and that is what she found in Bucknell. However, when she began her studies, African dance was not a part of the University's offerings.

To Branch, the movements of African dance are "fluid and low to the ground, showing respect for the Earth, the environment." She feels that this style of dance has much in common with ballet, as it tells stories of everyday life.

Serendipitously, Branch forged a way to share her own knowledge of West African dance with a community eager for cultural expansion.With a collaborative effort from fellow students, Jelani presented its creative work at the Black Box Theater in 2002. Since her Bucknell days, Branch has continued her dance outreach through The Fall for Dance Festival every September, during which time 20 dance companies perform six programs over a period of 10 evenings. A ticket for each performance costs only $10, a real New York bargain, says Branch, who is both a skilled dancer and marketer.

Posted May 2010

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