By Rowena Richie

January 17, 2023, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

This is my third and last issue of In Dance as Guest Editor. Or, as I prefer, Quest Editor. Because it has been an adventure to seek writers from all corners of our community and help them clear the path their pieces want to take. 

My quest is urgent. 

That’s my answer to a question posed by Liv Schaffer, who wondered in the previous issue “what it’s like to make something…knowing it may be the last of its kind that you make”?  

I felt an urgency to explore a theme that I believe is vital to our dance community and beyond: intergenerational co-creation. So I asked the writers in this edition to consider the concept of Sankofa. 

Sankofa is a Ghanian symbol, a bird with its feet facing forward, its long neck craned back towards its tail. An egg floats under its open beak. Sankofa roughly translates to, “Go back and get it.” We owe it to the future as we owe it to the past. 

I first learned about Sankofa at a cogenerational fellowship retreat that Liv and I both attended. Sankofa served as a metaphor for our cogenerational fellowship. And I thought it could be a promising theme for this beginning-of-the-year issue. The writers, writers across six generations–from 20 something, to 70–indulged me. And they delivered. 

Some invoke Sankofa tangentially: “She is covered in a many-hued garnish of boas.”  

Others explicitly: “Another interpretation of the Sankofa bird says…if we mistakenly overlook the past, it is okay to retrace our steps and make amends.”  

I grew up with the movie Back to the Future from 1985.  

Marty McFly travels back in time to 1955 on a quest to change the course of history. At his parents’ high school dance Marty finds himself onstage with the band playing guitar. He launches into an 80s-style solo, on his knees, eyes squeezed shut, jamming with abandon. Everything stops. He opens his eyes to looks of shock. 

In reflecting on the power of Sankofa and the trailblazers among these pages, I can’t help but think of Marty McFly in his urgent, indulgent moment. When he realizes the room’s gone silent he blurts out this message of hope: “I guess you’re not ready for that. But your kids are gonna love it.”  

Ready or not, here we come. 

Rowena Richie's signature with a Sankofa drawing

This article appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of In Dance.

Rowena Richie is a dance theater artist and movement educator. She teaches life-long learners at City College of San Francisco, and is currently an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at UCSF.