It started with a dream of dancing.

As a young girl in Liberia, Rolia Manyongai-Jones dreamed of teaching African dance in the United States. She wanted to share the rich history of her culture to a multiracial audience through music.

And finally, in 1983, she had the opportunity to fulfill her dream by founding Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe in Oregon. This week at PRP we are digging into our archives to feature Kúkátónón as part of our award-winning Community Voices series.

The Troupe works with regional schools and local artists to develop award-winning dance programs. Children in the program showcase their dances at 12- 14 performances every year at Trail Blazers playoff games, universities, schools and community events.

Kúkátónón’s primary mission holds true to Manyongai-Jones’ original vision of sharing her African heritage through joyful dance. But it’s come to have other purposes, such as promoting health, inspiring happiness and cultivating self-confidence among the Troupe’s students.

On average the Troupe has of 35 dancers between the ages of 7 and 14 from around the city, and auditions are held in the fall. The children rehearse twice-weekly throughout the school year to live drumming, which is a key part of traditional West African dance.

Kúkátónón takes its name from the word that means “we are one” in the Kpelle language of Liberia, and by learning traditional African dances, children involved with the Troupe can broaden their cultural horizons.

You can listen below to interviews held with key members of the organization.

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