Formed in April 2007, Duniya Dance and Drum Company creates dance and music from Punjab, India, and Guinea, West Africa, as well as unique blends of these forms and beyond. The word duniya means “world” in a wide array of languages, including Punjabi, Arabic, Susu and Wolof. Duniya’s work embodies this word, as it explores the forces that have brought together the members of the company and their dance and drum styles, including, but not limited to, colonization, globalization, immigration, art, dance, music and love.

Meet Duniya

Joti Singh

Artistic Director


Joti Singh is a dance creator and dance innovator, sprung from the U.S. American south to parents from northern India. She is the Artistic Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company. Joti began her dance training in Punjabi circles, carrying through her body the culture that’s in her blood and memory. As an adult, West African dance entered Joti’s purview, transforming her body’s culture. Through this multilingual body, Joti explores where history intertwines with contemporary continuities of celebration and injustice. She has created works such as “Half and Halves,” about the Punjabi-Mexican communities of California with collaborator Zenon Barron, and “The Madness of the Elephant,” about Guinea’s first president, Sekou Toure. Joti has received funding from the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Dancers’ Group’s New Stages, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, and the American India Foundation. She participated in the CHIME mentorship program and has been an Artist-in-Residence at CounterPULSE twice, most recently in their Performing Diaspora program. During this residency, Joti created the piece “Red, Saffron and Green,” about the Gadar Party, based in San Francisco in the early 20th century, fighting for India’s independence from Britain.

Joti and her husband, musician Bongo Sidibe, lead annual trips to Guinea and in 2012, opened the Duniya Center for Arts and Education in Conakry. She teaches all over the SF Bay Area, including Dance Mission Theater and the San Francisco School of the Arts. Joti holds an MA in South Asian Studies from UC Berkeley and a BA in English from Reed College.

Alpha Oumar ``Bongo`` Sidibe

Music Director

Bongo Sidibe is from Guinea, West Africa where he lived until 2008 when he moved to San Francisco. Bongo studied drumming from master drummer Mamady Keita and was a youth leader in his Conakry neighborhood. As the Music Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company, Bongo directs evening-length West African music and dance performances, including “The Madness of the Elephant” about Guinea’s first president, Sekou Touré. He has performed with Joan Baez, Mickey Hart, Cass McCombs and Black Nature from the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars. Bongo teaches West African drumming with the San Francisco Ballet, Loco Bloco, Ruth Asawa SF School of the Arts, LEAP, San Francisco Arts Education and others. He drums for a weekly West African dance class at Dance Mission, and does many performances for cultural events. Bongo has collaborated with the African Advocacy Network to present the African Arts Festival in 2013, 2016 and 2019. The festival has received support from the California Arts Council, Wattis Foundation, Haas Foundation and others. Bongo has received the Creative Work Fund and San Francisco Arts Commission funds to support his work in the African communities of the Bay Area and focuses on providing paid artistic work for the many Guinean and Senegalese artists that live in the Bay Area. Bongo and his wife, Duniya’s Artistic Director Joti Singh, lead a bi-annual trip to Guinea, West Africa and founded the Duniya Center for Arts and Education in Conakry, where Guinean artists learn marketing, computer skills and English language. In addition to being a drummer, Bongo is a vocalist and is releasing his first album in early 2021.

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Alhassane
"papin"
da camara

West African Choreographer


Alhassane “Papin” Camara was born in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa. His mother, Dah Camara, was a dancer. Alhassane has been blessed with the same innate talent. He followed this calling, and by 11 years of age, he was fully immersed in Ballet Tayely in Guinea, studying, and performing traditional Guinea dances. Alhassane continued to excel, not only as a dancer, but as a fully trained musician, knowing all of the musical rhythms of the drums and accompanying instruments of the traditional Guinea dances. He proceeded to become the lead dancer and choreographer of his ballet company.

Watch his class here.

Alhassane is forever grateful for his mentor ~ world-renowned, Youssouf Koumbassa. Youssouf took Alhassane under his wing, embraced his talent, and appreciated his dedication and determination. Alhassane has worked extensively with Youssouf and is honored to be considered to be Youssouf’s protege. Alhassane “Papin” has lived in the United States since May 2009. He now lives in Oakland, CA.

Uzo
nwankpa

Dancer, West African

Originally from Enugu, Nigeria, West Africa, Uzo has infused her education as a Registered Nurse with her passion for music and dance to create opportunities that promote health. Uzo is a storyteller, dancer, choreographer, researcher and an advocate for healing through indigenous practices. She is an advocate for using the arts as a healing tool for individuals and communities.

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Shabnam Sigman lived in Germany, England, Iran, and Libya before moving through the American Midwest and East coast. She finally feels at home in the diversity and beauty of the Bay Area, where she works in nonprofit management and dances barefoot in as many different classes as possible. Shab has been studying Bhangra and Bollywood dances since 2007 and is excited to be a part of the Duniya community.

Shabnam
Sigman

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Born to the beat of Gloria Estefan’s Conga, Divya doesn’t go a day without dancing. She began her training with twelve years of Bharatanatyam, embracing her South Indian roots. In college, Divya led a nationally competitive Garba Raas team. Her love for movement followed her to San Francisco, where she is excited to be a part of Duniya’s amazing community!

Divya
Gopisetty
GAIL
BURKS

Dancer, West African

Gail Burks is a Chicago native whose passion for dance began early. In college, Gail continued her dance training and also served as one of the Hip-Hop choreographers for a cultural show on campus.. While primarily practicing Waacking, Locking, and West African Dance, she has studied Jazz, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Katherine Dunham Dance Technique, Voguing, and B-Boying as well. Gail was honored to join Duniya Dance & Drum Company in late February 2012. She is also a member of Mix’d Ingrdnts and Karlita’s Waacktastic Dancers.

Stella
Adelman

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

A San Francisco native, Stella Adelman holds a Bachelors in World Arts and Cultures and a Masters in Education. She also studied at El Instituto Superior del Arte (Cuba) before moving to New York to teach Middle School. Adelman is currently the Program Director at Dance Mission Theater, an artist-driven space dedicated to inclusiveness, fairness, and justice. Adelman co-produced the CubaCaribe Festival from 2007-2010 and has worked with Carnaval San Francisco since 2014.

Andreina
Maldonado

Dancer, West African

Andreina Maldonado found dance through her Salsero father when she was five. She dances folkloric music from the Afro-Venezuelan tradition, salsa, merengue, bachata, boleros, and Caribbean. Andreina studied Anthropology and Dance at Indiana University where she discovered her love for African dance and contemporary modern. Andreina has taught children and adults through her business Jiridon, which she co-founded with her partner musician Joshua Strodtman. She continues to work independently with Bay Area artists, community organizers, teachers, and visionaries.

Maura
Whelehan
Srushti
Dupare

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

A Mumbai gal at heart, Srushti has been dancing for as long as she can remember. Her passion led her to explore everything from indian folk dances to western forms. Her current interests include Hip-Hop, Waacking, Urban, Bhangra, Bollywood and Salsa. When she is not busy dancing, Srushti works as an engineer at a global engineering firm. She is extremely passionate about cultural diversity and actively organizes events at her workplace to promote it.

Dancer, Bhangra, Bollywood & West African

Maura Whelehan is a native of Rochester, New York, where she danced, drummed, and taught for Bushmango Drum and Dance for 8 years. After moving to the Bay Area in 2009, she studied with local artists from West Africa and joined Duniya Dance and Drum Company, with whom she performs and teaches students of all ages. Maura has been a Teaching Artist for The San Francisco Ballet’s Dances in Schools and Communities program (DISC) since 2013. She also teaches at the Bay Club SF where she offers West African inspired dance classes weekly.

Jessica
Pfisterer

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Jessica Pfisterer has been dancing with Duniya since 2013. Growing up, she trained in Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Salsa, and Musical Theater.  Before joining DDDC, she performed Brazilian Samba for several years with Energia do Samba and Zezeh Brazil. Her focus is on dances of the African Diaspora and India, including Samba, West African, and Bhangra.  Jessica has a JD from Georgetown, and works in People Operations when she’s not dancing!

Raminder
singh

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Raminder was born and raised in Ohio, moved to DC for her studies, before finally finding home in the Bay Area over five years ago. She first discovered her love for Bhangra in the typical Punjabi way - through the dance floor at many Indian weddings. Through countless classes ranging from Joti’s wonderful bhangra and bollywood to Bay area hip-hop, dance became part of her identity. She is excited to be a part of the Duniya community!

 

She also works in tech with a focus on Customer Success. When not dancing, she enjoys hiking the beautiful Bay Area trails and exploring new cities with her husband.

Lorena
Valenzuela
Tabije

Dancer, West African

Jamila
Amarshi

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Jamila’s introduction to dance was through ballet by way of competitive gymnastics, then she added tap and jazz to her repertoire. Jamila credits her introduction to Bollywood and Bhangra dance to Dil Se, Stanford’s Hind Film Dance team. She danced competitively with Dil Se for 3 years, earning a spot on the national stage at Best of the Best in NYC. She later competed in Ballroom. Originally from Canada and Arkansas, she’s delighted to have found a home in San Francisco with the Duniya community.

Riddhi
Kapoor

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Dancing makes me the ‘happiest’. My motivation to learn dance started at the age of three. My mother’s need to instill a sense of hobby in me led me to embrace dancing as a creative form to express my emotions. Dancing is the greatest connect one can have with the self and it gives me the adrenalin to learn, perform and grow every day. I have been teaching  Bollywood dance in the Bay Area for more than four years and to me dance is a way of celebration, frolic and happiness!!

 

Apart from dancing I love making earrings and a complete foodie!

 

Originally from Bangalore (India) and been in the bay area for over 5 years now.

Stephanie
Chen

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Stephanie Chen grew up doing ballet and gymnastics, she has since branched out to many other types of dance, having performed modern, tap, break dancing, Bharathanatyam, swing, and aerial dance. She has choreographed and performed at many venues throughout the Bay Area including the de Young Museum, Zaccho Dance Theater, Danceground Keriac, and the Russian Center. Stephanie also performs circus arts on flying trapeze and aerial hoop. 

Visali
Ramanathan

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Visali trained in Bharatha Natyam as a child growing up in Lexington, MA. Since then, dance has created a sense of home in each city Visali has lived in from her introduction to Bhangra, Bollywood, and Hip Hop as an undergrad, to being a member of Navatman Dance Company in NY, to now being a part of the Duniya family in SF.

Lily
liang

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Lily Liang put on her first pair of ballet slippers when she was 3. She has since fallen in love with cultural dance, taking her studies to NYC and SF, and around the world: Chinese Folkloric (Taipei), Afro-Brazilian (Salvador), Cuban Folkloric & Salsa (cuba) and Flamenco (Spain). She is the CEO of Bopsidy, a site to discover dance teachers in your city.

Vanessa
Sanchez

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

While pursuing her love for education and dance at the university level, Vanessadiscovered dance of the African Diaspora, immediately adding the Katherine Dunham Technique, Afro-Haitian, and Afro-Brazilian to her list of dance styles. Her love for both travel and dance led her to spend time in Bahia, Brazil, where she studied Afro-Brazilian Dance, and two years in Mexico, where she studied traditional Son Jarocho from Veracruz and Afro-Cuban Folklore.

tiombe
valone

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Tiombe began training in dance at a young age, staying true to her original dance forms of tap, jazz and ballet; She added Afro-Brazilian, capoeira Angola, Samba, Afro-Haitian and now Bhangra and West African to her dance world. Tiombe has performed with Aguas dance company, Urban Jazz Dance, Almazônica and Alafia Dance Ensemble. She loves science and the arts.

SABRINA
HAGER

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Sabrina Hager is a Bay Area native, who has danced and performed various types of dance since her teens. She happily joined DDDCo in late 2009, and enjoys continuing to learn new forms of dance and movement. She is a Physical Therapist working in Home Health in the East Bay. In addition to her Physical Therapy training, she is also Pilates trained and enjoys integrating and teaching strengthening and safe body mechanics for injury prevention.

Neha
Giridharan

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Neha is from Arizona, where she graduated from the Arathi School of Indian Dance. In college, she co-founded “Om Shanti,” a Bollywood dance team and had the best time competing across America. Since, Neha has judged dance competitions, was on the Bollywood America Board, and has been teaching dance in the Bay Area. She is also a hospital pharmacist and loves traveling the world with her husband.

OLIVIA
ENG

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Olivia’s greatest passions are dancing, music, photography, travel, and creating art that serves to heal and empower. She studied Dance and Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and is grateful to her early mentors Victor Moreno and Donald McKayle. She continually studies urban/street styles, modern, and dances of the African and Latin diasporas, among other forms. Olivia also dances with See Through Soul in Oakland, Ca. as well as in various independent projects.

Drummer

Jamil Diop is truly an insane Doun Doun player, respected by many African musicians around the world. He is also a master Djembe player, though the Doun Douns are his first love. The Diop family are Sabar griots and grew up performing Djembe and Doun Douns with the National Ballet. He is a positive person and a patient and skilled teacher.

Jamil
Diop
Benjamin Stephon Jarne Roberts

Drummer

Benjamin Stephon Jarne Roberts is a Bay Area native, whose musical inclination began at Pentecostal Way of Truth Organization at age 6. There, Benjamin became culturally immersed and developed his skill in West African Drumming. Though Benjamin has toured country-wide and internationally, Duniya Dance has provided one of the most enjoyable West-African culture experiences he has ever experiences.

Richmond
Wiggins

Drummer

Richmond Wiggins has been a drummer for 20+ years, he is skilled in different genres such as traditional Djembe percussion, Jazz, hip-hop, RnB and more. Richmond Wiggins became a  member of Duniya Dance & Drum Company in 2017. One of Richmond's favorite experiences of being a drummer, is the beauty of bringing joy to others as he plays his drum. Richmond Wiggins is a firm believer in God in whom he believes has given him the gift of drumming, he finds it very important to give credit to God in blessing him to share the grace he gets through drumming, His pastor, Bishop Leslie Edwards, spiritual leader of Pentecostal Way of Truth Church, bought Richmond his first drum and has continued to be encouraging as Richmond continues his spiritual and musical journey.

Fasica
Alemayehu
Camron

Drummer

Alisco

Drummer

Chelsea Brown

Managing Director

Chelsea Brown is originally from Maryland and moved to the East Bay in 2017. She is trained in a variety of dance styles and has a deep appreciation for cross-cultural exchanges through dance and music. She is dedicated to dismantling white supremacy and systemic oppression within the arts and beyond. Chelsea has a background in arts administration, event planning, and dance education. She is grateful to work for Duniya and all of the amazing artists in this community!

TaraLaymanPhotography.jpg

Drummer

© 2020 Duniya Dance and Drum Company