Artistic Team

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Idris Daniel

Associate Director

 

Idris Daniel is an accomplished drummer and dancer born into a vibrant arts community on Chicago's southside. He developed a love for many styles of African diasporic performing arts at a young age. At the age of 10, he became a founding member of SPIRITS S.O.A., a "Rights of Passage" training program for young men. SPIRITS S.O.A. provided young men with the tools needed to navigate life in inner-city environments by introducing them to traditional and spiritual West African practices. While training with SPIRITS S.O.A., he mastered the sacred west African masquerade and stilt walking technique and learned how to play & repair/build many traditional West African instruments.

 

Idris began studying with Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago in 1997 under world-renowned director Amaniyea Payne. He has worked with them to develop various programs for After School Matters, Gallery 37, and other organizations teaching the youth in numerous schools throughout the United States. Currently, he serves as the Associate Artistic Director of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago.

Over the last 20 years, Idris has expanded his studies of various traditional music forms throughout the African diaspora. Idris travels to Brazil, Senegal, Gambia, Colombia, Cuba, Barbados, and Mexico frequently to train, study, and continuously immerse himself in the culture. He desires to educate and enlighten children in the Chicago inner-city by exposing them to the many contributions that people of the African diaspora have made to the world through dance, music, and other art forms.

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Osunkoya Odum

Assistant Artistic Director

Odum, a  Nashville Tennessee native  was labeled a busybody as a child. Odum’s  mother decided to focus this energy and enrolled her in dance at the age of seven. Odum began her dance studies with Jazz, ballet, and modern. At the age of  ten, Odum was introduced to the world of African dance.

Odum began training and eventually became a member of the Village Drum and Dance Ensemble  in Nashville Tennessee under the direction of Musa Smith and Kelly OsunSoore Armstead. Village Drum and Dance focus was  African dances of the diaspora , West African dance,  Caribbean,  modern and Dunham Technique .   

 

Odum attended Nashville School of the Arts high school 1998-2002, majoring in dance. Odum also was the recipient of a Summer Dance Scholarship in 2000 with The Yard and 2001-Jacob pillow(Cultural dance) both camps are located in Massachusetts. 

 

Odum originally  relocated to Chicago at the age of nineteen to attend Kennedy-King College nursing program but realized her real passion was dance. Odum, changed her focus and began attending  Northeastern University Center for Inner city studies on a partial scholarship. Odum’s move to Chicago proved to be a successful venture and led her to dance as a principal dancer with many of the Chicago based companies: Minianka West African Drum and Dance (Principal), Le Bagatae, West Indian Folk Dance, Muntu Dance Theatre (Principal/Instructor) and Ayodele Drum and Dance(Founding Member/Principal dancer/Instructor).

 

Odum has studied with a wide variety of    choreographers and directors. Some notable names include: Avery Long, Kelly OsunSoore Armstead , Rossi Turner, Awri Mckee, Sacy Flood-Pop, Nahgeree Sutton-Silas, Mariama Curry, SuQuan Diop, Danny Hinds, 

Theodore “Theo” Jamison , Papa Abdoulaye Camara, M’bemba Bangoura, Alfred Baker, Youssouf Kaoumbassa, Amaniyea Payne, Moustapha Bangoura, Idy Ciss and Tosha “Ayo” Alston

 

  

Odum has also served as a coach and Lead teaching artist. For many Chicago arts and after school organizations including:After School Matters,Majorette Coach, Studio One Dance Studio, Jack & Jill Corporation of America, Chicago Public Schools, Gallery 37, 

Old Town School of Folk Music, YMCA, Chicago State University, Chicago Public Library,Chicago City Colleges and Loyola University and the  Chicago Park District.

 

Odum currently serves as Muntu Dance Theatre’s Assistant Artistic Director. Odum has also been a teacher  at Betty Shabazz/ Barbara A Sizemore international charter school for over 15 years. Odum has served many different roles over the years: teacher assistance, teacher, and  Dance instructor. Currently, Odum is the Director for Arts and Humanities.

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Naomi Kinslow 

Dance Captain

“Dance is my difference between living and existing!” ~ Naomi Kinslow

 

Kinslow’s passion for dance began at the young tender age of eight years old, after witnessing a powerful performance by Sundance Production during a DanceAfrica Chicago in the mid nineties. Kinslow began training with Sundance under the leadership of Danny Hinds,  studying  percussion, ballet, tap, jazz, Caribbean, West African and vocal training. Kinslow would progress to become one  of Danny’s strongest dance prodigies. 

 

Kinslow, still being a young prodigy, was  personally invited by Mama Amaniyea Payne to train with the Workshop component of Muntu Dance Theatre. During this time, Kinslow’s training with MDT enhanced her dance vocabulary and performance skills under the tutelage of Payne along with Vaune Blalock, Idy Ciss, Moustapha Bangoura, Aissatou Bey, and Harry Detry. Kinslow expanded her knowledge  to include Swing (Lindy Hop), Modern and furthered her development  West African, and Caribbean dance. After Kinslow graduated high school, she  was promoted to principal dancer of MDT. Kinslow’s experience with MDT would afford her opportunities to study with well known choreographers such as  Jeffrey L. Page, Asiel Hardison, Ron K. Brown, Abdel Salaam, Kwame Opare, Diedre Dawkins, Rosangela Silvestre, Cleo Parker Robinson, and many more. Kinslow  also got the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally; with one of the highlights being a trip to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil to collaborate with Olodum, a world-renowned Afro-Brazilian percussion band. Kinslow also performed in front of a 5000+ audience, backing American singer/songwriter Ben Harper.

 

Kinslow, while in Muntu, further advanced her studies of West African drumming with percussionist: Aly M’baye, Sekou Conde, and Tosha “Ayo” Alston. In 2007, while being a mother, full-time student, full-time company member of Muntu, dance instructor for After School Matters, and the executive assistant of the Talented Artist Foundation; Kinslow  became a founding member of Ayodele Drum and Dance under the direction of Tosha “Ayo” Alston. She broadened her studies in Brazilian dance (Silvestre technique & Orisha dance), Guinean-style dance, doun dance, and djembe. Kinslow continued to study with: Ayo, Mouminatou Camara, Weedie Braimah, Bolokada Conde, and many more. 


 

After building a platform in the African dance community, with the support of the community, she began a new journey, expanding her professional career to a mainstream entertainment  level. Kinslow was invited by Joseph Russo to dance full-time at the Shrine, Chicago,  a popular club venue, (named for the famous Fela Kuti performance venue in Lagos, Nigeria) along with Stacy L. Smith, also a MDT alum.  The two would become well-known for incorporating their diverse dance background and customizing a fusion between African, Afrobeat, Caribbean, and dancehall. Kinslow’s professional credits include dancing for major artists like Serani, Elephant Man, Mr. Vegas, Tarrus Riley, Twista, Juvenile, MC Lyte, and ObiSoulstar. She was also showcased as a featured dancer in a collaborative performance with the famous Les Twins of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run tour. 

 

In 2020, Kinslow  launched a dance network dedicated to the showcasing and advancement of Chicago professional and aspiring dancers. 

 

One of Kinslow’s mantra is a quote by Amaniyea Payne-“When it comes to the floor, you have to be ready for anything.'' While carrying these words throughout the years, Kinslow has studied and trained in several genres of dance through attending conferences, conventions, and regular class. She understands the importance of being a student and perfecting her craft. Kinslow has returned to Muntu and is currently serving as dance captain which is a very meaningful and monumental moment for her. Muntu is home, her foundation. Muntu has poured into her gifts and shaped her into the performer/technician she is today. After almost 20 years of training and professionally performing, Kinslow is fully committed to preserving the excellence and legacy of Muntu Dance Theatre and Black & African diasporic dance.

Mark Vaughn

Dance Captain

 

Mark Vaughn began his dancing career with the Country Theater Workshop in Barbados in 1978, where he studied Afro-Caribbean, modern and Jazz dance. By 1981, he was teaching dance at both primary and secondary schools, in addition to a number of dance companies on the island. He was also commissioned to teach for the National Cultural Foundation of Barbados in 1988. 

In 1985, under sponsorship from the Country Theater Workshop, Mark attended a four- week dance drum and History workshop in Senegal West Africa. In September of that year he was made Assistant Artistic Director of the Country Theater Workshop. In 1988, under sponsorship from the National Cultural Foundation and other organizations in the country, Mark returned to Senegal to further his knowledge in African culture. That same year he was invited by the Inner City Children's Touring Dance Company of Miami to conduct African Dance classes. During his career as a dancer in Barbados, Mark was twice national dance champion on the island. 

Mark migrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1989 at the invitation of the Najwa Dance Corps, one of the premier dance companies in Chicago. As the years progressed, Mark found himself working with some of the top dance companies in Chicago including, Darlene Blackburn Dance Troupe, Wato Seta Dance Company, Muntu Dance Theater, and The West Indian Folk Dance Company, where he was lead dancer for many years and also served as Musical Director for about three years. Mark appeared in national plays and music videos in Barbados, and in 1990, he appeared in Oprah Winfrey's television series "The Women of Brewster's Place", in Chicago.

In 1994, Mark toured with the international acclaimed Musical from London, "Black Heroes in The Hall of Fame" throughout the U.S. He has taught at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb Illinois, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Morgan State University in Baltimore Maryland, Columbia College in Chicago, Purdue University in West Lafayette Indiana, where he was Artist in Residence for four years, Simeon High School in Chicago, as well as numerous other schools in the Chicago-land area. He served as Lead Artist for Mayor Daley's Gallery 37 After-School Program for about five years, teaching dance, music and craft at various high schools throughout the City of Chicago, as well as Lead Artist for After School Matters Chicago for over five years, and music teacher for Columbia College After School Program at various schools across the city. Mark was also Musical Director for Urban Credo, Spirited Voices Echoed Visions, a performing company sponsored by Columbia College and Dance Africa Chicago. He has been serving as both dance and music instructor for Ailey Camp Chicago for the past four years during the summer break; and has studied with some of the top African dance and music teachers from the continent. These studies include Senegalese, Guinean, South African and Ghanaian dance and music. Mark holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2010).

At present, Mark teaches music for Columbia College Chicago at various Elementary schools in Chicago, teaches dance for StudioOne Dance Theater and Hyde Park School of Dance where he is also an Accompanist. A well accomplished musician, dancer, costume designer, drum maker, jeweler and leather craftsman, his philosophy of life is “To whom much is given much is required,” and with all the blessings he has received, his desire is to pass on as much as he can to all those who are willing to accept.