Jean-Claude Biza Sompa and Bichini Bia Congo

Featured Song: “Sava Maiyaka,” from the DVD Bichini Bia Congo, c. 2004

Mr. Sompa teaches Congolese dance at a United States community college and university. He integrates the principles of community and extended family into his dance class. He maintains a hierarchy of respect based upon age, experience, and the life cycle. Students who respect this, according to Mr. Sompa, will progress even more quickly in the dance.

“Mr. Sompa commented -- What I try to do is tell people if they have children—that the children are welcome in the class (Congolese drum and dance class). Not many people teach what we teach. If I can expose them to this culture while they are 5, 6, 7, or 8, the chances are they will have fun and feel comfortable dancing. Believe it or not, they teach the older students better. They see them, and maybe they feel like I dance or play the drums too complicated or difficult, but they look at the children and they say: ‘If they can do it, maybe I can too…’ The kids try without any reservation. This is why the whole village must live and work and dance and play together. There is an African philosophy: If you plant the plant and put lots of energy into it, you reap the harvest. If you work hard, you get good results; if you don’t, you won’t. This is the same for our communities.” from “Our Musical World,” p. 322