The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation has announced that Stephen Kuusisto, University Professor in the School of Education and director of interdisciplinary programs and outreach at the Burton Blatt Institute in the College of Law, has been awarded a 2021 Guggenheim…
Campus Community Invited to Wacheva’s 10th Anniversary Open House July 20
Members of the campus community are helping Wacheva Cultural Arts mark its 10th anniversary in Syracuse with a special open house fundraiser on Saturday, July 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
They include Latin dance instructors Samantha Marji ’13, G’18 and Roberto Perez ’07, the latter of whom is a Spanish teaching assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Biboti Ouikahilo, Wacheva’s executive and artistic director, also teaches and performs on campus. He is a world-renowned African dancer, drummer and choreographer.
Located in the historic Westcott neighborhood, Wacheva will offer mini-classes in dance, drumming and fitness for people of all ages and abilities.
Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. (Families of three or more are $30 in advance, $36 at the door.) Children ages 5 and under are free. Proceeds benefit Wacheva’s classes and public outreach programs.
Ouikahilo anticipates an afternoon of “dance, drum and fun” for the whole family. “The event is not just an expression of creativity; it is a celebration of our community’s rich diversity,” says Ouikahilo, who will teach mini-classes in African dance and drumming.
Joining him is Perez, who will lead mini-classes in cardio salsa, a type of high-energy dance that is popular at gyms and fitness clubs—and Wacheva. The Cuban refugee is founder of La Familia de la Salsa, the oldest and largest Latin dance organization in Central New York. “I want to be an ambassador of Cuban music. It was my mission when I came to the United States [in 2000],” says Perez, who also has taught in the School of Education’s Department of Exercise Science.
The open house includes mini-classes in Latin dance and ladies styling (taught by Marji); salsa footwork and dips (Kanat Bolazar); mindful movement (Anita Bueno) and Zumba (Ebony Pengel).
Each ticketholder may enjoy a delicious spread of food, and is eligible for various door prizes. Sponsors include Advance Cyclery, Boom Babies, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Recess Coffee, Salt City Hardware, Starbucks, Syracuse Cooperative Market and Wegmans.
Board president Paula Dodd says the open house reaffirms Wacheva’s mission—to promote the creative and educational development of children and adults. “All of our events involve people from different backgrounds, uniting together to share one another’s creativity and culture,” she adds.
Ouikahilo founded Wacheva in the Ivory Coast region of West Africa in 1994. (“Wacheva” means “unity” in his native Guro language.) He revived the organization in 2003, after relocating to Syracuse, and elevated it to nonprofit status.
Since opening doors in 2009, Wacheva has been synonymous with multicultural dance, drumming and fitness. The organization regularly hosts a wide range of classes, workshops and performances, spanning African dance and drumming, yoga, salsa and dance fitness.
Ouikahilo and his colleagues maintain a busy teaching and performing schedule, regularly appearing at schools, colleges and universities (including Syracuse) and headlining such events as the Great New York State Fair, the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, Syracuse’s Juneteenth Festival and Mayfest.
“Our goal is to offer low-cost classes that everyone can afford,” says Ouikahilo, a 17-year veteran of the Ivory Coast National Dance and Drum Company. “I like to think our work infuses the community with positive, creative energy—inviting people to step out of their comfort zones.”
Prior to Syracuse, Ouikahilo spent six years in New York City, teaching at Lehman College and the Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre. He eventually caught the attention of Jimmy Buffett, with whom he toured in 2000-01, and actor Bruce Willis, who featured him in the 2003 war-drama “Tears of the Sun.”
Today, Ouikahilo calls Syracuse “home,” and is optimistic about what the future holds.
“In addition to offering more opportunities for children and adults, Wacheva hopes to continue providing space for other organizations to host events. I see us as a community asset and resource—a proud partner of Syracuse University,” he adds.