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Life & Work with Amaniyea (Pamela) Payne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amaniyea (Pamela) Payne.

Hi Amaniyea, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
For over fifty years I have built an impressive career with a mission to preserve the traditions of Black Dance and more specifically African Centered Movements. I have served as a panelist for the National Endowment of the Arts and Arts Midwest. For three decades, I devoted my attention to the role of Artistic Director of the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, where I was the principal architect of the company’s technical growth, expanded repertoire, and national/international recognition

I began my training in Baltimore, MD at the recreational center (Schroder Rec) where they had Inner City Arts (CETA) Program under the direction of Mr. Norman Ross and a dynamic Recreation director Mr. Ernest Cromer who was a prolific artistic inspirator for many of the youths in the early 1970s.

In Jr. High School (Calverton) and Senior High School (Northwestern, I was very active with the theatre club that sparked my interest in theatre arts and dance. Of course, during that time there were many community groups I was active with, one in particular “The Weusi Umoja Performers”. which meant, “Freedom Now Performers”.

I attended Morgan State College, and the Community College of Baltimore in the field of Theater Arts, Dance/ Speech Communication.

Continuing my studies in dance and culture I resided in Washington, D.C. for 2 years working with Melvin Deal, Director, and Founder of African Heritage Ensemble and School of Education., which provided a great groundwork for continuum.

With an extended stay of 13 years in New York, The roster of artists I have studied/trained with is extensive, ranging from pioneering African Dance troupes such as International African American Ballet and many other professional venues that provided me with a foundation to continue my research in dance.

Master seminal teachers of the Diaspora and African American dance experts aided in the development of my vast knowledge and understanding of the aesthetics of African Centered Movements along with Mr. Theodore Jamison, from East St. Louis (assistant to Katherine Dunham) who assisted and helped to develop my administrative skills as an extended artist in residence/intern.

I‘ve studied and collaborated with international dance artists from Costa Rica, Columbia, Senegal, Mali, Cuba, Uganda, Guinea, Gambia, Liberia, Trinidad, Ghana, Jamaica, South Africa, and Brazil where I received special grants to travel and study abroad.

I have danced and toured with productions throughout the U.S. and abroad and have appeared in dance documentaries produced in Japan, New York, Jamaica, England, Mexico, and Ghana, West Africa.

My teaching credits include countless classes, workshops, and residencies with university dance-based programs, arts education programs, public schools, private organizations, pre-schools, and numerous African dance companies and festivals throughout the United States and abroad.

As a choreographer, I have choreographed many productions for universities and other venues including; Wayne State University, Chi-Arts Senior Student body, Columbia College School of Dance, University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee & Madison), “Black Heroes In the Hall of Fame”, touring London and North America, the award-winning musical by Oscar Brown Jr., “The Great Nitty Gritty”, Cab Calloway’s “North American and Canadian Revue”, Arthur Hall’s, “Fat Tuesday and All That Jazz”; featuring “The Olympia Brass Band”, Stevie Wonder’s “In A Square Circle Tour” and created & choreographed productions for Muntu Dance Theatre’s, annually themed programs of new works as well as the reconstruction and restaging of traditional and contemporary dances for 33 years.

Among my awards and recognition, I have received the prestigious Ruth Page Award (Lifetime Services and Dance Achievement Award), the African American Arts Alliance and Black Excellence Award for various categories (Best Choreography, Costuming including Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award) Mayfair Academy (Tommy Sutton Award), Wayne State University – Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance (The Copper Foot Award), Global Girls (Mentorship Award), JADAC Festival (Conscious Queens Award for research, teaching and preservation of dances of the African Diaspora and sharing dance with the people of Jamaica, West Indies, Muntu Dance Theatre Appreciation Award, Red Clay Community Hug Award for Mentorship and the Stomping Grounds Appreciation Award for Percussive Dance in Chicago Dance Leadership Award from Hedwig Dances, and the Mentor Appreciation Award from Ayodele Dance.

Presently I am now residing in Baltimore City after a 48-year absence, and I am thankful to reconnect and find a dance community that’s thriving and making strides to continue to tell the many stories yet untold.

Since in Baltimore, I’ve had the opportunity to teach classes at ConneXions Arts High School, Peabody School of Dance, The Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive, Eubie Blake Center, John Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Parks and Rec as well as serve as Program Dance Coordinator for Moving History, an Arts Education Program.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Over 50 years of artistic interactions of many sorts!!! Of course, it’s been a long road!! So with the challenges and obstacles, I try to keep an open perspective

With its ups downs ins and outs…
With a lack of funding, that’s really available but you’re not the chosen one.
With decisions that are hard but necessary,
With creative blocks and processes and recognition.
With deaths and victories…. along with failure and recovery
With the lack of understanding and appreciation of your product from the press
Life can be a struggle so we struggle and encounter and transform (not just ourselves) as we continue!
Having been Blessed as I feel, I’ve had great support along the way (that’s relief and respect)
People who believe and many who didn’t or don’t… it’s all good and necessary…
And remember, what’s new is really old, and keeping a student’s mind allows growth
And all that jazz and turning sorrowful moments into happy times never to be forgotten.
The comradery. that enforces that you’re not alone
The beautiful bodies and minds and masterful magical presentations…

You have to struggle to get to that point. It’s almost impossible not to. This brings about the compassion, the seriousness, the gratitude…. that projects how you sustain, obstacles and all, It’s truly about the LOVE of what you do!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Pamela Lynette Payne, known to the artistic community as Amaniyea Payne, has built a viable career as a choreographer, director, and performing/ and teaching artist for over fifty-plus years. Being committed to the field of dance, I have a deep sense of responsibility to preserve and honor the legacy of great expressions through dance and find it imperative to aid in the development of future generations of dancers.

I breathe and live my vocation.  During my early years of study, I was encouraged and inspired by many and accepted the teachings of my mentors as they opened the path of dance aesthetics.  This exposure formed in me the strength, creativity, and leadership capabilities from which a foundation was laid for the designing of teaching methods that are intended to keep young people stimulated and motivated. to learn.

In different genres of cultural expressions, (especially African Dance), I am considered a National Treasure, known for a wealth of knowledge on dances and cultures of Africa and of the African Diaspora and formed a reservoir, of resources from which a great portion of my teachings pool and flow from. However, my training has been quite diverse and includes many realms:  (Jazz, Theatre, Caribbean expression, Brazilian dance, and Traditional/Contemporary African Dance) all of which have aided in my passion and focused my mission, which is to preserve the traditions of Black Dance and even more specifically, African Centered Movements.

When working with students, I engage them in a cultural enrichment program that is designed for shaping the minds and hearts of young people from a holistic approach. The workshops, classes, and residencies that I provide focus on the development of the mind, body, and character, bringing awareness to history and developing personal consciousness.  The classes also help in building vocabulary that ignites discussions and conversations, which leads to formulating better social relations and helping to resolve conflicts. Most of all I love enhancing and developing and learning new skills that can be applied to the artistic expression of Dance Theatre as well as building self-esteem.

In this age of evolving technology, our young people are over-absorbed with gadgets leaving little space for the left side of the brain to develop totally (motor development and comprehension skills). Through expanding projects and the use of technology I find great value in incorporating performance art with research.

My teaching credits include countless classes, intensives, residencies, consultations, and conferences.  I have worked with along with numerous University-based dance programs, Arts Education organizations, Performing Arts High Schools, Public Schools throughout the U.S. and internationally (globally), Dance Organizations, and Companies young and well-established companies, and Dance Festivals around the world.

Teaching residencies at various venues afforded me the opportunity to partake in classes and allow me to upgrade and sustain my own learning abilities.

Knowing dance as a universal language, these experiences heightened my respect for all genres of dance as I developed skills and techniques under the eyes of some of the most notable of the dance world’s teachers, or as we dancers say, “our irreplaceable treasures.”

I like to approach dance with the intention to apply new strategies, methods, and different ways to translate dance (especially culturally specific) for the stage or the classroom, while also preserving and respecting traditional parameters for expression/performance. With this in mind as I present, teaching techniques, choreographic notions, and student engagement, I particularly love the inter-generational sessions that allow us memorable opportunities to transport and indulge one’s self in history, cultural awareness, and education.

Knowing dance as a universal language, these experiences heightened my respect for all genres of dance as I developed skills and techniques under the eyes of some of the most notable of the dance world’s teachers, or as we dancers say, “our irreplaceable treasures.”

I am an ordinary woman, a creative entity, and an arts educator, and my work demonstrates and reveals a life-affirming determination to; inspire, motivate, and captivate young and older minds of the universe, especially those who are willing to take the time to understand patience and completion pertaining to the arts.

My contributions to the world of dance have not gone unnoticed as scores of awards, citations, recognitions, and plaques from organizations globally cover wall space in my home.

My aspiration is to become more of an ambassador for the arts and aid in the ability to bring harmony to any given community. As an advocate and choreographer of dance, it is my duty to continue to develop the minds of young people, instilling in them the importance of health and a better appreciation and understanding of the word “discipline” and how it applies to all aspects of life.

I am a dancer who educates many and stands firm in the belief that the language of dance creates bridges to the world.  As a humanitarian, I have learned that respect, steadfastness, trust, and integrity are mandatory for being committed to preparing people/artists for leadership roles.  I am committed to this goal and My strength and My fortitude are boundless”.

I have a deep sense of responsibility to honor legacies and having worked as a dancer, choreographer, producer, costume designer, stage manager, art consultant, director, and arts educator as well as being the recipient of many awards which speaks to my career achievements, I feel that these experiences over the years have truly lent a hand in the development and preparation of a process in the making.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you.
Well, there’s that saying “God takes care of babies and fools”… many times I have been someone’s Baby and many times a Fool so when I think about how that phrase relates to me I must admit that I’ve truly taken care of.

Spiritually which has constantly led me on a path of development.

Taking chances and maybe it’s just timing – everything has its time and purpose in life.

Not being afraid of failure if any so I’ve always put my best foot forward.

Believing and Faith restore my heart and soul.

Guidance Persistence and never giving up.

Contact Info:

  • Facebook: Pamela Payne

Image Credits
Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

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