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 innovator, sprung from the U.S. American south to parents from northern India. She is the Co- 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 imagination. Through this multilingual body, Joti explores where history intertwines with contemporary continuities of celebration and injustice. She created the performance “Half and Halves,” about the Punjabi-Mexican communities of California with collaborator Zenon Barron. She also choreographed for Michael Franti's "Once A Day" video. Joti has received support from the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Council, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, and more. Currently, Joti is creating the piece “Ghadar Geet: Blood and Ink,” about her great grandfather, Bhagwan Singh Gyanee's role in the Ghadar Party, based in San Francisco in the early 20th century, fighting for India’s independence from Britain.

Joti and her partner, musician Bongo Sidibe, lead bi-annual trips to Guinea and in 2012, opened the Duniya Center for Arts and Education in Conakry. She teaches Bhangra all over the SF Bay Area, including at Dance Mission Theater. Joti founded the World Dance program at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in 2016. She holds an MA in South Asian Studies from UC Berkeley and a BA in English from Reed College.

Alpha Oumar ``Bongo`` Sidibe

Artistic 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, Black Nature from the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars and appeared in Michael Franti's "Once A Day" video. 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.

Screen Shot 2020-06-04 at 11.47.16 AM.pn
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 San Francisco, 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.

Shabnam Sigman-duniya.jpg

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
Divya Gopisetty-Duniya.jpg

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
duniya-gailburks2.jpg
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.

TIYAMIKE
Tisatayane

Dancer, West African

My name is Tiyamike and I grew up in Malawi in a small town called Kasungu. As a child I grew up seeking my mother and members of our village dance every where and from there I have not been able to stop. Dancing has helped me through both difficult and exciting times and overall helps connect me to not only my culture but as well as others. I am so excited to being part of duniya as it reminds me of my childhood and connect with different cultures through movement.

BRESLIN
WEBB

Dancer, West African

Born and raised in the heart of San Francisco, Breslin Webb is no stranger to dance. Growing up learning freestyle and Hip Hop he’s broaden his range in the last four years. Using his media and dance skills he has created posts with over 3 million views alongside being a social media manager. While studying at Ruth Asawa School of The Arts he’s been training in the dances of West African, Afro Brazilian, Dancehall, and so much more. Being accepted into Columbia College Chicago, the young man will start a new chapter of his life as a Dance Major.

maura-whelmen-duniya.jpg
Maura
Whelehan
hamsa-headshot-dddc.jpg
Hamsa Ramesha

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Hamsa grew up in the Bay Area, jamming to Bollywood classics before her parents decided to channel her wild grooves into learning Bharatanatyam. She continued to dance through college, performing in a variety of Indian dance styles and finding joy in connecting with other dance nerds. Since then, Hamsa has stayed connected to her love of dancing by taking classes in many different styles and actively participating in the local dance community. She is excited to join the Duniya community and continue her dance journey!

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-Duniya.jpg
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!

Deepika Tamuly for DDDC.JPG
Deepika Tamuly

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Deepika has been dancing since the age of 5 years. Growing up in India, she has trained in Bharatnatyam from Nrityanjali Dance School in Pune, India and completed her Arangetram (Graduation) when she was 15 years old. She has performed Bharatnatyam, Bollywood, Semi-Classical and Folk dances styles via her Dance School, High School and College in different cities in India and Sri Lanka, and had the privilege to perform alongside the Bollywood Actor Meenakshi Sheshadri.

She moved to the US 13 years ago to pursue her Graduate Degree, wherein she has been continuing her dance journey and nurturing her passion for dance, by training in and performing a variety of dance styles - Bollywood, Semi-classical, Indian Contemporary and most recently Bhangra & Bollywood with Duniya.

She felt a strong drawing to Joti's dancing, leadership and style and is very excited and honored to be part of the Duniya family and continue to learn and grow her dance experience!

raminder.jpg
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.

DUNIYA-Jamila Amarshi.jpg
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.

Anubha Bhargava.jpeg
Anubha Bhargava

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

Anubha was born and raised in Boston, where she trained in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi for 12 years. She co-founded her college’s bhangra team “Gajjde Sher.” Post college, Anubha kept up her passion for dance by teaching Bharatanatyam classes and taking dance classes in NYC. She recently moved to SF and is excited to be a part of Duniya. Outside of dance, Anubha works as a machine learning engineer and enjoys meeting new people, traveling, hiking and crafting.

Stephanie Chen Dancer, Technical Director
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-duniya1.jpg
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-duniya.jpg
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.

VanessaSanchez-duniya.jpg
Vanessa
Sanchez

Dancer, Bhangra & Bollywood

While pursuing her love for education and dance at the university level, Vanessa discovered 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-duniya.jpg
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-Duniya2.jpg
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.

Duniya-Neha.jpg
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.

OliviaEng-Duniya.jpg
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.

photo of riddhi kapoor
Riddhi Kapoor

Dancer and Choreographer

 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 am a complete foodie!

 

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

387590_orig-e1493772158720.gif

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-Duniya.jpg
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-duniya3.jpg
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.

Drummers
Alisco-Duniya2.jpg
Alisco

Drummer

Fasica-duniya4.jpg
Fasica
Alemayehu

Drummer

Chelsea Brown

Managing Director

Originally from Maryland, Chelsea has lived in the Bay Area since 2017 and began working for Duniya shortly thereafter. 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
debbie oniybe

Social Media Manager

An avid storyteller and creative genius, Debbie is a force to be withheld. She recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a Summa Cum Laude distinction and was the salutatorian of her class. She has worked on several projects for Global and local organizations, and is constantly driven by her passion for humanity and excellence..