by MALIA THOMAS photography by KELLIE RAE PHOTOGRAPHY
The drummers begin to glide their sticks across the drumhead . The melody is like a calling card that beckons the dancers to rise to their feet .
You can feel the rhythm pulsating through their veins . As you witness the vibrations take over their bodies , you notice that their dancing is accompanied by tribal calls and movement that harkens emotion .
They aren ’ t just moving ; they ’ re speaking a language .
The Family Village of Aya aims to bridge cultural gaps by communicating with each other through dance , a dialogue that was sparked by founder and director Laneka Allen 7 years ago .
Allen , a Miami native , was first exposed to the world of dance in high school when she joined a performing and visual arts dance program . She learned a variety of dance styles , such as ballet , tap , jazz , and hip-hop , but it was the African tribal style that left a lasting impression on her .
“ It really stuck with me because no matter what rhythm I learned in high school , these dances were the same all over the world . I ’ m connecting and dancing with people who don ’ t even speak English . But we all recognize that same sound ; we recognize that same step . And we can dance together . And I was just hooked ever since then ,” she said .
She started her dance career at the Sahei African Music and Dance Ensemble of Macon while continuing her education at Fort Valley University .
“ I ’ m connecting and dancing with people who don ’ t even speak English . But we all recognize that same sound ; we recognize that same step . And we can dance together .”