By Danielle Miller
Following their performance for the 34th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts, the local dance company ONFYAH celebrated their third birthday in time to go on tour.
“A lot of these shows they did last year were a lot of community organizations, grassroots, said Co-Founder and Director of ONFYAH, Akinyomi Courtney. “This year, you can look at the names and say, ‘hey there must be some contracts.’”
ONFYAH (Our Nation For Youth Arts and Healing) was created in 2016 by Courtney and Jo’Niece Monk, who have created a second family for children ages three to 19 and their parents within the community.
ONFYAH will be performing around college campuses such as UW-Milwaukee, Carroll University, and St. Norbert College, as well as other community centers and schools, adding up to 15 major performances in February alone.
“They get more excited for this than anything else,” Courtney said about the semi-annual shows the children participate in. Last year, the ONFYAH Company performed in 18 shows over the course of 28 days.
The company will be joined by hip-hop dancer, Chris Gilbert as well as members from the community to help support the children during the second half of the scheduled events.
ONFYAH stepped up into a new world after booking the Marcus Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Courtney said their troop has had multiple bookings in only a short amount of time.
“It’s been call after call and it’s like, finally!” Courtney said. “This is our third year now and we have done over a hundred shows.”
ONFYAH had the chance to perform in front of a crowd of thousands for Bernie Sander’s Madison and Milwaukee rallies back in 2016, as well as events that take them to Washington D.C. to perform.
“It just shows you how much of our culture people are enjoying,” Courtney said about the positivity surrounding ONFYAH and its African dance roots.
The dance company during it’s first year started out with the children preforming at local churches in the area, which Courtney said many of the churches wouldn’t have allowed such performances when he was younger.
“Last year, I was in a culture shock in my own culture [because] all the black churches wanted us now, and I was like ‘wow, this is such a turn around,’” Courtney said.
ONFYAH had been preparing for their tour, which started on the first of February, by finding transportation for the group to travel to and from events as far as De Pere.
“Our kids are so professional and so on point,” Courtney said. “It’s awesome having a professional children’s company.”
On Feb. 1, the company performed at the County Courthouse, as well as UWM and G.E and United Healthcare.
“Honestly, I just love the kids, I am just genuine with them. I listen to them and they listen to me.” Courtney said.