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Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa

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Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa

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Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa
Additional title: Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image original documentation
Koumbassa, Youssouf (Interviewee)
Koumbassa, Youssouf (Performer)
Kamara, Dionne (Interviewer)
Webb, Carolyn (Carolyn Jeannette) (Project director)
Bernadi, François (Videographer)
Mertz Gilmore Foundation (Presenter)
New York Public Library. Dance Division (Presenter)

African Dance Video Archive

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2014-08-28
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDF 4096
Koumbassa, Youssouf
Landuma (African people)
Baga (African people)
Susu (African people)
Dance -- Guinea
Music -- Guinea
Filmed dance
Filmed performances
Statement of responsibility: conducted by Dionne Kamara ; project director, Carolyn Webb.
Content: Widescreen.
Statement of responsibility: This interview was made possible by the cooperation of the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library.
Creation/production credits: Videographer, François Bernadi.
Performers: Interviewee, Youssouf Koumbassa ; interviewer, Dionne Kamara.
Venue: Videotaped during interview at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York. N.Y., as part of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation funded African Dance Interview Project 2014 August 28.
Funding: This recording was made possible by Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
Funding: African Dance Interview Project funded by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 1 video file (55 min.) : sound, color
Youssouf Koumbassa discusses his childhood in Guinea; being inspired while watching dancers from professional companies and traditional villages throughout Guinea; the first rhythm to ignite his passion being the Doundounba dance of the strong men from the Malinke people; acknowledging the inspiration and mentoring of two master dancers, Sekuba Camara, former dancer with the Ballet National Djoliba, and Bangaly Bangoura, former dancer of Les Ballet Africains; explaining that no family members from his father's side, the Landouma people, were professional dancers but on his mother's side, the Baga and Susu people, her older brother danced with a company in Conakry; his youthful curiosity about the simplicity of a single traditional step and how it became embellished to several steps through the creativity of the company choreographers; expanding his dance vocabulary and knowledge by working with ballet masters of the company and his exposure to village cultural dance traditions; knowing he wanted to dance since the age of thirteen; performing in local and national dance school competitions and training companies in Conakry helped him become a member of the Ballet National Djoliba when he was 20 years old in 1979; his family's objections to dance and wanting him to become a mechanic; his admiration for the first President of the newly formed Republic of Guinea, Sékou Touré; the Presidents support of traditional culture and how he traveled with the company throughout Africa, Europe and Asia; the President presenting the company to dignitaries everywhere he went; Koumbassa now misses the family atmosphere that existed in the touring company; his family reconsidering their initial stance on dance after his career advanced and he began making money; his experiences with the Ballet National Djoliba; teaching dance at schools and villages throughout Guinea; moving to the United States in 1985; how different New York City is compared to Guinea; his marriage to Febronie, a Haitian American Woman he met in New York City; how she was instrumental in helping him establish his teaching base; his smooth transition from teaching in Guinea to teaching in New York City; first establishing regular classes at the Lezly Dance and Skate School in lower Manhattan where his classes started with 2-3 students and has grown to 50-60 students now; educating students in the dance traditions from various ethnic groups and styles including Soli, Cassa, Djole, Kuku, Lamban, Doundounba, and Sorsomme; his philosophy of teaching African dance to students by learning about music first; how the rhythms are language and the sounds are reflected in the music, and the need for students to know which steps belong with each rhythm; talking about how he teaches internationally and the strengths of students in different areas including the United States and Europe; demonstrating the Yankadee love dance that occurs only during a full moon, and singing the rhythm and teaching the movements; also demonstrates the Makarou which follows the Yankadee; the importance of traditional music and dance including the shared experiences that bring peope together for important life events such as baby naming ceremonies, planting, marriage, and other rites of passage; founding Les Ballet Bagata Dance Company in the late 1990's and the financial difficulties involved with having a dance company in NYC; his participation in the project Slow Dancing by David Michalek, a video installation shown on the New York Opera Building [New York State Theater, now the David H. Koch Theater] at Lincoln Center in 2007; explaining why he chose to perform the Soli dance for this video installation project; how he wants to restore African Dance in Guinea since all of the great dancers have moved away; creating the Nimba Center for Arts to preserve the African traditions as well as teaching students other dance genres and art forms; what it is like for his family when he returns to Guinea; how he would like to spend more time in Guinea and eventually live there again; what he wants people to remember about him; and concludes with a demonstration of the fundamental movements of the Doundounba, his favorite dance since boyhood.
Type of Resource
Moving image
RLIN/OCLC: 902811495
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20525084
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 8b146e10-9e8a-0132-9077-3c075448cc4b
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 2014: Created
  • 2022: Found by you!
  • 2023

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2014.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 26, 2022.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2014). Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa, (2014)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=May 26, 2022 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Youssouf Koumbassa