Our Mission, Values and Artists

To cultivate respect for traditional forms, foster cultural exchange, effect social justice and engage in community building, Duniya performs and teaches traditional and innovative performance pieces from Guinea, West Africa and Punjab, India.

Formed in April 2007, Duniya Dance and Drum Company creates dance and music from Punjab, India, and Guinea, West Africa, as well as unique blends of these forms and beyond. The word duniya means “world” in a wide array of languages, including Punjabi, Arabic, Susu and Wolof. Duniya’s work embodies this word, as it explores the forces that have brought together the members of the company and their dance and drum styles, including, but not limited to, colonization, globalization, immigration, art, dance, music and love.

Bhangra Dance Performance

West African Dance Performance

Join the Company, Duniya is holding auditions

Joti Singh
Artistic Director

Joti Singh is a dance creator and dance innovator, sprung from the U.S. American south to parents from northern India. She is the Artistic Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company. Joti began her dance training in Punjabi circles, carrying through her body the culture that’s in her blood and memory. As an adult, West African dance entered Joti’s purview, transforming her body’s culture. Through this multilingual body, Joti explores where history intertwines with contemporary continuities of celebration and injustice. She has created works such as “Half and Halves,” about the Punjabi-Mexican communities of California with collaborator Zenon Barron, and “The Madness of the Elephant,” about Guinea’s first president, Sekou Toure. Joti has received funding from the Creative Work Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Dancers’ Group’s New Stages, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, and the American India Foundation. She participated in the CHIME mentorship program and has been an Artist-in-Residence at CounterPULSE twice, most recently in their Performing Diaspora program. During this residency, Joti created the piece “Red, Saffron and Green,” about the Gadar Party, based in San Francisco in the early 20th century, fighting for India’s independence from Britain.

Joti and her husband, musician Bongo Sidibe, lead annual trips to Guinea and recently opened the Duniya Center for Arts and Education in Conakry. She teaches all over the SF Bay Area, including Dance Mission Theater and the San Francisco School of the Arts. Joti holds an MA in South Asian Studies from UC Berkeley and a BA in English from Reed College.

Alpha Oumar ``Bongo`` Sidibe
Music Director

Alpha Oumar “Bongo” Sidibe is a traditional drummer from Conakry, Guinea in West Africa. He is Musical Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company. Bongo studied with Master Drummer Mamady Keita at his school, Tam Tam Mandigue, Guinea, and participated in his workshops in Conakry and Balandougou, Mamady’s village. He performed with Ballet Jah Karlo in Dakar, Senegal, and recorded the CD “N’dguel Fall” and toured with Orchestre Baye Fall. Before leaving Guinea, he was co-director of Balandougou Kan, a group of traditional percussionists and dancers. Since arriving in the U.S., Bongo has performed with Rhythm Village, Joan Baez, Mickey Hart, the Grateful Dead, and Black Nature from the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars. He is also the founder and lead singer of the international reggae group Wontanara.

Jamil Diop

Jamil Diop is truly an insane Doun Doun player, respected by many African musicians around the world. He is also a master Djembe player, though the Doun Douns are his first love. The Diop family are Sabar griots and grew up performing Djembe and Doun Douns with the National Ballet. He is a positive person and a patient and skilled teacher.

Sabrina Hager

Sabrina Hager is a Bay Area native, who has danced and performed various types of dance since her teens. She happily joined DDDCo in late 2009, and enjoys continuing to learn new forms of dance and movement. She is a physical therapist working at CPMC Outpatient Davies Campus working with neurologically and orthopedically impaired patients, and also teaches Pilates Mat for injury prevention.

Susan Hanley
Dancer, Managing Director

An east coast transplant with a degree in English and Spanish literature from Bowdoin College, Susan discovered dance as an adult when she stumbled upon San Francisco’s diverse dance scene. She has studied Brazilian, hip-hop, and house dance, as well as mind-body disciplines such as yoga, tai chi, and traditional Thai massage. She was an instructor for Rhythm and Motion and a member of Christiane Crawford’s hip hopjazz collective Rare Form before taking a hiatus to attend graduate school. Her current passions are bhangra and West African/Guinean dance. A member of Duniya Dance and Drum Company since 2008, she enjoys helping the artistic director stay sane.

Shabnam Sigman
Dancer, Communications Director

Shab lived in Germany, England, Iran, and Libya before moving through the American Midwest and East coast. She finally feels at home in the diversity and beauty of the Bay Area, where she works in nonprofit management and dances barefoot in as many different classes as possible. Shab has been studying Bhangra and Bollywood dances since 2007 and is excited to be a part of the Duniya community.

Gail Burks

Gail Burks is a Chicago native whose passion for dance began at an early age through watching music videos by Michael and Janet Jackson. Although initially afraid to dance in front of others, she overcame her fears during her adolescent years and went on to perform in various school recitals, study at Mayfair Academy of Fine Arts, and become a member of her high school’s Pom-Pom team. In college, Gail continued her dance training and also served as one of the Hip-Hop choreographers for a cultural show on campus. Her love of dance has now followed her to the Bay Area. While primarily practicing Waacking, Locking, and West African Dance, she has studied Jazz, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Katherine Dunham Dance Technique, Voguing, and B-Boying as well. Gail was honored to join Duniya Dance & Drum Company in late February 2012. In addition, she is a member of Mix’d Ingrdnts and Karlita’s Waacktastic Dancers.

Olivia Eng

Olivia Eng finds her greatest passions in dancing, music, photography, traveling, and creating art. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, focusing on Dance Performance and Sociology and is grateful to her early mentors Victor Moreno and Donald McKayle. She loves and continually studies an eclectic variety of dance forms including West African, hip hop, house, Brazilian, Bhangra, Bollywood, Capoeira, Cuban, Haitian, Salsa, contemporary, jazz, ballet, among other forms. She has performed and studied in Singapore, Mexico, Cuba, Africa and Europe with various companies and has danced with The Dance Monks, Liberation Dance Theater, and Paco Gomes and Dancers in San Francisco.

Olivia currently works with Duniya Dance Company, Aguas da Bahia, and well as various projects. “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

Mallika Prakash

Mallika Prakash was born in Delhi, a city which has strands of bygone empires running together in a mystic tapestry of ages and cultures. Legend has it that fire-formed spirits called Djinns have ensured Delhi’s vitality, no matter how many conflicts the city had to endure.
Mallika has in her Delhi’s soul, resolutely re-inventing herself for a more sublime future in the midst of the material present and the nostalgic past. Spinning fire, singing, strumming, sketching and painting have ensured romance in all her journeys through multiple countries, ages and careers.

Aimee Zawitz
Dancer, Booking Manager, Development Assistant

Aimee has extensive training in Haitian Folkloric dance but has a life long passion for all types of gyration and rhythmic movement. She has studied and is still learning Cuban Folklore, Salsa, Bachata, Bomba, Samba, Afro-Brazilian, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Hip Hop, House, Belly Dance, Disco Dancing,Thai traditional dance, as well as Bhangra, Bollywood, and West African. Aimee has danced with Valerie Watson’s Alafia Dance Ensamble, Djenane St. Juste’s Afoutayi, and Temistocles Fuentes Betancourt’s Grupo Nago Experimental, Katy Alanis Rous’ World Dance Fusion, Susana Arenas’ Dance Company, and currently working with Tanilee Amor’s Samba do Amor and Joti Singh’s Duniya Drum and Dance Co. Aimee continues to be a dance enthusiast and loves sharing her passion for dance through performance and experiences.

Stephanie Chen
Dancer, Technical Director

Stephanie Chen grew up doing ballet and gymnastics, she has since branched out to many other types of dance, having performed modern, tap, break dancing, Bharathanatyam, swing, and aerial dance. She has choreographed and performed at many venues throughout the Bay Area including the de Young Museum, Zaccho Dance Theater, Danceground Keriac, and the Russian Center. Stephanie also performs circus arts on flying trapeze and aerial hoop. She loves learning about other cultures through dance, and is really excited to dance with Duniya because of their mission and the diverse group of people. www.dancingsteph.com

Rachel Yamahiro

Rachel Yamahiro was born in San Francisco and started international folk dancing at the age of 5 with Khadra  Dance Theatre. She received her B.A in Anthropology and during her time in university spent one year  training and dancing in Istanbul, Turkey, with the Boğaziçi University Folklore Club, a performing group that  specializes in bringing the traditional music and dance forms found in Anatolia to the stage. Her area of  expertise is Turkish folk dance, but she has also been fortunate to have studied ballet, jazz, Jamaican dancehall, bhangra, belly dance and the varied folk dances of the Balkans. To date she has performed with  Collage Dance Ensemble, Kardeş Türküler, Presidio Dance Theater, World Dance Fusion, the Susan Hayward  School of Dance and is so happy to be dancing with Duniya!

Tina Laungani

Tina Laungani has been dancing since the young age of five, training in both Western and Eastern styles of dance. She started her dance career learning Jazz for two years and then trained in Tap and Hip Hop. She then expanded her dance repertoire to include Modern and Bhangra dance.

Tina is a self-taught Bollywood dancer and has been dancing and choreographing Bollywood dance routines throughout her youth. Tina competitively danced for UCLA’s Hindi Film Dance team, Nashaa, throughout her tenure at UCLA. She is now excited to be dancing with the prestigious Duniya Dance and Drum Company.

Vanessa Sanchez
Dancer, Technical Director

Vanessa Sanchez is a very passionate dancer, performer, and educator based in San Francisco. With classical training in ballet, tap, and jazz, she began dancing competitively at age 5 throughout California and the United States. While pursuing her love for education and dance at the university level, she discovered dance of the African Diaspora, immediately adding the Katherine Dunham Technique, Afro-Haitian, and Afro-Brazilian to her list of dance styles. Her love for both travel and dance led her to spend time in Bahia, Brazil, where she studied Afro-Brazilian Dance, and two years in Mexico, where she studied traditional Son Jarocho from Veracruz and Afro-Cuban Folklore. In addition to studying different dance styles, Vanessa has a strong passion for performing. Performances have included the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Bomplenazo (a Bomba y Plena festival in New York), Festival de Las Brujas (Catemaco, Mexico), and countless more around the Bay Area. Combining her training and love for rhythm, Vanessa is currently working on a project, “Una Fusion de Percusiones,” that fuses tap dancing and Afro-Latin rhythms and movement.

With a B.A. in Child Development, focusing on Early Childhood Education, Vanessa combines her years of experience as a Special Education and Regular Education preschool teacher to teach engaging, fun, and developmentally appropriate dance classes throughout San Francisco. She currently performs with Aguas Dance Company, Arenas Dance Company, Las Bomberas de la Bahia, and Duniya Dance and Drum Company.

Maura Whelehan

Maura Whelehan is a native of Rochester, New York, where she danced, performed, and taught for Bushmango Drum and Dance for 8 years. There she studied Guinee dance with Colleen Hendrick, Mamadouba Camara, and his wife Pam Lord Camara. She also performed and studied with Akoma Ntoaso, a collective that explored Afro-fusion and modern dance with members of Garth Fagan Dance. While studying movement, she also pursues West African drumming. After moving to the Bay Area over 4 years ago, she has been honored to study with the many local West African artists both as a dancer and a drummer. She began dancing with Duniya Dance and Drum Company in 2011, and after an injury, is ecstatic to return to the group.

Reina Heinz

Reina Heinz is a Bay Area native who grew up dancing traditional Polynesian dance. During college she stumbled upon drumming equally as loud as Tahitian percussion and has never questioned the heart-racing excitement of thundering African drumming since. She studies the rhythms and dance of the African Diaspora: Haitian, Guinean, Senegalese (Djembe and Sabar), Malian, Congolese and Samba. In the past, she danced with Hula Halau ‘O Makalapua Marama te Mafatu Nui and Vivien Bassouamina’s Pisa Za Congo. Reina’s passion for learning about different cultures, nature, spirit, and connection through dance draws her to primarily folkloric and traditional forms, but she is excited to learn new movement through studying Bhangra and Bollywood with Duniya. In her daytime life, she is a conservation biologist and teacher. When not dancing she can be found on an island, in the forest, tundra, or desert on an environmental crusade studying wildlife.

Rose Balderian

Rose Balderian was born and raised in the Philippines, spent 6 winters shoveling snow in New Jersey, and lived all over the Bay Area before happily calling Oakland home. In 2010, as one of her New Year’s resolutions, she signed up for a Latin Dance Grooves performance workshop. She immediately fell in love with the thrill and joy of being onstage and felt a deep connection with the amazing dance community. Since then she has performed with Latin Dance Grooves’ SF Carnaval contingent choreographed by Elizabeth Soberanes and Bianca Coleman, Tania Santiago’s San Diego Brazilian Day parade contingent, and Tika Morgan’s Reggaeton Fusion performance workshops. She feels extremely honored to be a part of Joti Singh’s Duniya Dance & Drum Company and is super happy to dance alongside the talented members. When her life schedule cooperates, she enjoys learning Salsa Rueda, Reggaeton, Dancehall, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Bollywood, and Bhangra.

Rebecca Wolfe

Rebecca has a deep love for arts and culture. She has worked at The Center for Art and Public Life at  California College of the Arts, the SF Arts Commission, and the SF Ethnic Dance Festival. She has also taught dance at a variety of after-school programs in the Bay Area. Rebecca has performed with companies including Aguas Da Bahia Afro-Brazilian dance company and Pearl Marill Dance Theater. She grew up in Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia and now is happy to call the Bay Area home. Rebecca holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology and East Asian studies with a minor in dance from UCSC and an MBA In Design Strategy from California College of the Arts.

Jamila Amarshi

Whether it’s background elevator music or the dhol on stage, if there’s a beat, Jamila can’t help but dance. Jamila’s introduction to dance was through ballet by way of competitive gymnastics. Soon, dance took over, and she added tap and jazz to her repertoire. Jamila credits her introduction to Bollywood and Bhangra dance to Dil Se, Stanford’s Hind Film Dance team. She danced competitively with Dil Se for 3 years, earning a spot on the national stage at Best of the Best in NYC. Always eager to explore new dance styles, she later competed in Ballroom dance (Swing and Waltz). Originally hailing from Canada and Arkansas, she’s delighted to have found a home in San Francisco with the Duniya community.

Jessica Pfisterer

Jessica is an East Bay native who has been dancing since she could walk.  As a child, she trained in Ballet, Jazz, Modern and Salsa, and as an adult she loves many different styles of dance.  After traveling to Brazil and falling in love with Samba and Afro-Brazilian dance, she spent seven years performing with Energia do Samba of San Francisco and Zezeh Brazil of Washington, DC.  Her current classes and training include West African/Guinean, Dancehall, Hip Hop, Bhangra, and Bollywood.  She has been dancing with Duniya since 2013.  Jessica is an attorney with a JD from Georgetown University, currently working in People Operations.

Andreina Maldonado

Dance is a book of possibilities. Andreina found dance through her Salsero father when she was five years old. She dances folkloric music from the Afro-Venezuelan tradition, salsa, merengue, bachata, boleros, and Caribbean and uses her native influences to create contemporary and modern movement. Andreina studied Anthropology and Dance at Indiana University where she discovered her love for African dance and contemporary modern. She has been a company member with the African American Dance Company, Bangogla Music and Dance Ensemble of Cote D’Ivoire, Saakumu Dance Troupe of Ghana and Flores do Samba of Brazil. She is currently a member of Duniya Dance and Drum Company, CherieHill Afro-modern Irie Dance and Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Creations, and has collaborated with independent Indigenous artists such as Rosy Simas Danse. Andreina has taught children and adults through her business Jiridon, which she co-founded with her partner musician Joshua Strodtman. She continues to work independently with Bay Area artists, community organizers, teachers, and visionaries.

Cherisse Eisenberg

Born and raised in San Francisco, Cherisse was born to dance. Cherisse is classically trained in ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary dance, however she truly enjoys studying all genres of dance. Having gone to School of the Arts High School in San Francisco, dance director Elvia Marta helped Cherisse hone in her new passion for Salsa dance. Cherisse has also trained extensively with Alonzo King’s pre-professional program. Following high school, Cherisse has danced with various companies in the Bay Area including ‘Push Dance Company’, Saki Suto’s ‘Scratch for Blooming’ and ‘Alafia Dance Ensemble’. After being a Zumba instructor for 2 years, Cherisse felt it necessary to go back to her roots and expand her range of dance abilities to recall the days of dancing for herself. Cherisse enjoys learning various dance styles and is thrilled to be dancing with Duniya Dance and Drum Company.

Nina Wu

Nina is a learning game designer by day and dancer in all other times. In addition to Duniya, she is also a company dancer for Sarah Bush Dance Project and Mix’d Ingrdnts. Nina studied math, visual art, and education at Duke University. Her pursuit for adventure took her from teaching 4th grade, to working in an NYC art gallery, to now designing math games, dancing and performing all the while. (www.ninawu.com)

Saachi Kanabar

Whenever music starts to play, her body begins to sway; such is Saachi’s passion for dance! Dancing since the age of 4, Saachi has done several stage performances as a Professional dancer with Young Talent Association (YTA). Having trained for 12 years on Katthak and 5 years on Hip Hop and Bollywood, she also choreographed and trained friends and family for competitive events.  Working in the HR industry, she is an infectious people person who loves to express herself through dance. Originally from India, Saachi is happy to have found her favourite mix of Dance and Career in San Francisco with the Duniya Family.

Stella Adelman

A San Francisco native, Stella Adelman holds a Bachelors in World Arts and Cultures and a Masters in Education. She also studied at El Instituto Superior del Arte (Cuba) before moving to New York to teach Middle School. Adelman is currently the Program Director at Dance Mission Theater, an artist-driven space dedicated to inclusiveness, fairness, and justice. Adelman co-produced the CubaCaribe Festival from 2007-2010 and has worked with Carnaval San Francisco since 2014.  As a performer/dancer, Adelman has had the honor of working with the legendary Rhodessa Jones and Krissy Keefer, and celebrated Caribbean dance companies, including Arenas Dance Company, Alayo Dance Company, Aguas, and Las Que Son Son, among others.

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Contact Us

Artistic Director Joti Singh 510.213.1537 joti@duniyadance.com