Black History Month would not be complete if the month of celebrations did not include African dance. Malcolm X College’s NAJWA Dance Corps is one of the nation’s most artistic and creative black dance companies.

The ensemble performed Feb. 17 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren. The theme was “Heritage: The Reasons We Dance.”

NAJWA is staged and directed by Mzee Soyini Najwa. The artistic director is Andrea “Najwi” Vinson. According to Mzee’s statement in their program, “The evening is very special because it debuted the new NAJWA Junior Corps. They are the reasons why we pass on our heritage.”

Malcolm X College provides office and performing space for the group, which is in its 16th year, said Sheila Walker Wilkins, the ensemble’s executive director.

“We normally have our annual concerts in the fall, but the last year we had it in February, Black History Month, and it’s been really, really a success,” Wilkins said, “so it’s very meaningful to us, and this is our favorite place. We’ve been able to really grow choreographically as a company.

“We do three self-produced events a year,” Wilkins added. “Our first one is our annual concert. We also host our poetry and dance festival in April, and we also have our student concerts, which feature our choreographers, our dance company members, [and] our students throughout the year.”

For Saturday’s performance, the ensemble opened with a routine called “The Upper Room.” The three ladies and two men performed an artistic dance, which was like watching beautiful swans gliding on water. The second number, “The Granny Suite,” included audience participation. This number celebrated the elders, mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

For more information, visit or e-mail to