“I’m a weaver. It’s all about weaving the story, weaving the movement, weaving the notes …so at the end the story is allowed to unfold”… -Robin Hibbert
Dancer Robin M. (RamaTueye) Hibbert has been awarded the WNY Choreographer’s Initiative Grant from Dance Force for her award winning choreography. She is probably one of the most uniquely talented artists to have ever been selected in addition to possibly being the first African American.
It was her friend and fellow artist, the iconic singer/songwriter Drea D’Nur, who encouraged her to apply. Receiving the news that she had won left her stunned.
“I was shocked!” She said, “because I didn’t think the panel would understand my art form. I couldn’t believe a Black artist like me…an elder…had left a footprint.”
It was the artistic dancing Robin created called “ASPA” (African Steps Part American), which premiered in the production of Drea’s blockbuster production “Spirit of Nina Simone,” that landed her the long overdue honor.
Robin admitted that had she entered a “totally traditional (African) piece” she would not have stood a chance. But she was still able, through the videos she submitted and the grant she wrote, to show the importance of African drum and dance.
“Africa as the foundation of everything we do,” she said. Surely Nina’s spirit was with her throughout the process.
What few people know is that years ago Robin actually had the opportunity to work and perform for Nina Simone with the Gemini dance Theatre directed by the late Mr. Steve Porter. It is one of her most cherished memories.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Robin has danced and performed since the tender age of 8. Her entire family, including her brother and mother, still reside there. She was trained in a broad variety of dance techniques including ballet, jazz, modern, tap, traditional West and South African dance, which would come to benefit her later in life.
At the young age of 17, she came to Buffalo to begin college.
Robin is a dancer with degrees, three to be exact, in Psychology, Human Services (with a concentration in Early Childhood and Geriatrics) and a special major in Dance – all from the University at Buffalo.
She has worked as a bouncer, certified trainer and private body guard and for the NYS Division for youth. She currently works as a certified Dementia Practitioner and activities director. She is also a Teaching Artist for Young Audiences; a position she’s held since 2009, and is one of the most sought after instructors in the program. In addition she sits on the organization’s executive board.
Throughout her career choices, Robin never stopped dancing.
Her dance journey has been impressive; one which began at such prominent institutions as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her study of modern dance techniques are equally as impressive and she has studied the “Dunham” dance technique with the late Pearl Reynolds as well as performed and studied with the late Dr. Pearl Primus the “Pioneer of West African Dance” (she was Dr. Primus teaching performed and toured with the late Babatunde Olatunji and the United Ballet Du Senegal.
Locally Robin is well known for her dancing and choreography. She has been called the “Keeper of Cultural Traditions” and her love for African culture and its preservation is evident. She has received extensive knowledge and training from numerous master drummers and dancers from West and South Africa including her mentors Alassane Sarr and the late Emile (Mbopha) Latimer also Baba Ramon Sylla, M’Baye Diagne and Snyder Haynesworth.
“Often when I’m dancing, people say, ‘oh why are you dancing so hard?’ I’m having a (spiritual) conversation. I’ve never been a dancer who moved like anybody else in Buffalo.”
Robin stopped dancing on stage a few years ago and is concentrating on choreography and instructing. She has perfected a style of teaching and communicating that allows her students to develop and understand that it’s not so much “how” but “why” African and other ethnic groups dance the way they do.
Her last on stage performance she said, was with Drea D’Nur four years ago.
“People ask me ‘Robin why did you stop?’ And I tell them, the culture has become such a pathology of lies schemes and scams…there is no reciprocity among us. People want to take but they don’t want to give.. It’s my job to share the blessing…It’s a shame that we don’t have a community that works together.”
One of the stipulations of the newly won grant is that she provide opportunity for dancers to experience and learn. She has carefully chosen five dancers from different genres who will be mentored under her and her mentor, Alassane Sarr, a 4th generation griot from Senegal. The grant also allows her to travel, study and share.
“I have always been a dancer,” she reflected. “Dance is a nonverbal form of communication, so I had to be able to express and demonstrate what I’m trying to tell. I’m the dancer who weaves the movements thru the musical notes where the story is going to come out in the end. I’m a weaver. It’s all about weaving the story, weaving the movement, weaving the notes …so at the end the story is allowed to unfold, causing one to insperience (spiritual intercourse) a return to that which is in all things.”- a.b.
(Robin acknowledges her advisors, Celeste Lawson and Wendy Pierce and her mentor Alassane Sarr; also the “elders of the Village” including Miss Barbara, Janet Reed, Sis. Karima, Sharon Holley, Yonne Brown, Frances Hare, Mama Charlene, Sis.Alnisa, Baba Emile Latimer and Gey Lyons. She also paid high respect to “the generation who keeps her relevant” including Drea D’Nur, Rishon Odell Northington, Will Holton, Naiheem Shabazz, and her” business husband” Ras Jomo Akono.) All photos by Yves Richard Blanc