In the Bantu language, "muntu" means "the essence of humanity." It's what the Company seeks to express in its work and to touch in its audiences.

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Through its performances, Muntu strives to create an atmosphere of communal participation, encouraging and inspiring audiences and participants to join in the celebration! 

Founded in 1972, The Chicago-based Muntu Dance Theatre performs authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and ancient African and African-American dance, music, and folklore. A colorful and dynamic Company, Muntu brings its audiences out of their seats and into the aisles with its unique synthesis of dance, rhythm and song. 

The Company is highly regarded for its innovative repertory, preserving traditional African dance while creating new works that build on African, Caribbean and African-American cultural traditions. We carefully research the cultural and historical significance of the dances and the societies from which they originate. As a result, Muntu is more than just a performing company. We are also a company of teachers: an essential element to the perpetuation of our art form and its accurate transmittal to our audiences. Muntu's core programs include professional performances both at home and abroad, comprehensive community arts programs, classes for the public and professional training for emerging new young artists.

We understand that there is merit in all cultures. We seek to appreciate the differences in order to amplify the similarities

Our Mission

The mission of Muntu Dance Theatre is to preserve and perpetuate the African aesthetic and its influence on world cultures, through the education and professional presentation of dance, music and folklore. Our goal is to share these important works with the broadest possible audience.

Muntu's core programs include professional performances both at home and abroad, comprehensive community arts programs, classes for the public and professional training for emerging new young artists.

Our Core Values


Our dance and art will always be an authentic and genuine representation of the cultural forms we present.


Our organizational and people management will be sound and responsible to ensure institutional credibility and viability and to maximize individual contribution. Our relationships with audiences, communities, supporters and business partners will be forthright and of the highest integrity.


Our productions, performances, programs, and services will be developed for the collective good of Muntu and the diverse communities we serve.


We will engage in continuous improvement and development to ensure that we provide the highest quality product for our communities and audiences.

about the artistic director

Amaniyea HeadshotP. Amaniyea Payne has built an impressive thirty year career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. She studied extensively with groups including National Dance Company of Senegal, International Afrikan-American Ballet, Ballet D'Afrique Noire De Toubacouta and Djolibah & Les Ballet Africans from Guinea. Ms. Payne has worked with seminal African dance artists such as Baba Ishangi Razak, Djibril Gueye, Assane Konte, Arthur Hall and former Muntu Artistic Directors Alyo Tolbert and Abdoulaye Camara. She also studied with African American dance experts including Frankie Manning, Micki Davison, Lenwood Sloane, Pepsi Bethel and Norma Miller as well as dance artists from Costa Rica, Brazil, Columbia, Cuba and South Africa.

Ms. Payne began her tenure as Muntu's Artistic Director in 1987, after serving as guest choreographer, setting the work "African Swing" on the Company. Since that time she has been the principal architect of the company's technical growth, expanded repertory and national reputation. She has brought to the Company a commitment to authentic presentations of traditional African dance and a vision of developing and nurturing new work rooted in African, African American and Caribbean traditions. Her signature works with Muntu include, "Through Mandela's Eyes"," Yanga" and 2011's "Roff", a collaboration with Assistant Artistic Director Idy Ciss. Her style is centered in natural rhythmic movements based in and informed by traditional African dance and movement of the African Diaspora, with an emphasis on the Caribbean, as well as traditional jazz and dance theater.

17.Dance.TurningMs. Payne's many credits, include touring with productions of Cab Calloway, Stevie Wonder, Redd Foxx, John Hendricks and Lindy Hop innovators Mama Lu Parks and Norma Miller. Her choreographic credits include the production ''Black Heroes and the Hall of Fame,'' which later toured the US and England and the restaging of Oscar Brown Jr.'s award winning musical ''The Great Nitty Gritty.'' She is included in dance documentaries produced by Nippon Television (Japan NY), by the BBC and has received the prestigious Ruth Page award two times, in 1994 for Dance Achievement and in 2001 for Lifetime Service.

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