The dance company first came into existence in 1972. Since its emergence, it came to be known for its work in preserving traditional African styles of dance, all the while creating new ones based on them. These new styles were built on influences from Caribbean, African, and American traditions. The company became known for its thorough research as well and for delving into the historical significance of every society that the form of dance came from. With all these values at its core, Muntu became more than simply a dance company. It also became a place where traditional values were taught and passed on. It evolved into a harbor of teachers because they believed that the only way they could truly ensure a precise transmittal of authentic movements onto their students. Moreover, they have developed a comprehensive program which enables their students to perform both locally and internationally. These also include art programs that are held community wide, providing coaching and professional training to the public and the up and coming young dancers. Their harshest critics have blamed them for being too ethnocentric and for widening the white-black gap. They have always retaliated by saying that while every culture is beautiful, they want to celebrate their own and appreciate the diversity if they want to highlight the similarities.
The dance company’s current artistic director is P. Amaniyea Payne. She has been a dancer and choreographer in the past and has even spent some time as a dance instructor. All in all, she has thirty years of experience in the field which makes her a suitable person to creatively lead the company. She is well trained in the discipline, having received an education from the “National Dance Company of Senegal”, the “Ballet D’Afrique Noire De Toubatcouta” and the “International Afrikan-American Ballet” amongst others. Throughout her career, she has collaborated with other influential African American dancers and choreographers who have influenced her work and her creative style today. These people include Micki Davison, Frankie Manning, Davison Lenwood, Norma Miller and Pepsi Bethel. In addition to these well known names, she has worked with artists from Cuba, Columbia, Brazil and Costa Rica which has given her the Latin American perspective in her art form as well. This has helped her in developing the unique genres of dance that have become signature to the company. Their deep understanding of these various cultures is also what helps them in selling Muntu tickets
Payne began her duties as the artistic director for Muntu in 1987. She had worked with it before as well when she had served as the guest choreographer for their production of that year, “African Swing”. That work was so influential and so keenly appreciated by critics for featuring dance genres like African Jazz and swing that the company decided to put the future of their artistic growth in her hands. In the years to come, she became responsible for the technical development of Muntu, in which they even expanded throughout the country and attained a reputation of being a legitimate national dance organization. The most important works that she has done with the company since taking over have been “Through Mandela’s Eyes”, the most recent “Roff” and “Yanga”. For “Roff” she collaborated, for the first time, with Idy Criss,
her assistant director. Through all of these works, the constant theme was that of rhythmic movements which showcased the ancient African Diaspora, and the styling of the Caribbean, from where she had gained her earliest training.
To this date, she draws her inspiration from musicians such as Stevie Wonder and Cob Colloway to create inspiring pieces. Cheap Muntu tickets are also on sale for people who want to give her work a test run.