UMOJA - UNITY in DANCE
Over 20 years ago, I started a dance program called SPIRIT DANCE WORKSHOP. The first teacher
hired was Karen Love. Since then I have seen her grow into one of the most sought out African and modern dance performers and instructors in New Jersey. Karen is a straightforward, sort of no-nonsense type of teacher. She admits that doesn’t always work for her but if you look at her track record, she has done well for herself.
Karen is the founder and director of UMOJA dance company. Her company has grown and morphed into a training space for the community. Although she is most associated with African dance, she admits modern is her favorite style of dance. Karen has been dancing since she was in the 5th or 6th grade. She started with jazz, then tap, then ballet. She enjoyed gymnastics but found it was too structured. “Dance was freeing. It gave me a sense of freedom.”
Umoja dance company has become one of the premier dance companies of New Jersey mainly because of the hard work of Karen Love.
In addition to being the artistic director for UMOJA, Karen is a full time dance teacher at Hillside high school, she directs the dance company there and the after school program for the district. She is also the founder of WOFABE, an annual dance and drum festival, similar to DANCE AFRICA in Brooklyn. As a protégé of Chuck Davis, Karen created WOFABE to give our community access to quality African dance and drum classes and performances. It is a cultural festival that lifts your spirits, energizes you and instills a sense of pride. WOFABE celebrated its 10th anniversary two years ago at NJPAC. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding the festival has been suspended.
Plagued with some injuries over the past few years, why she continues to dance has honestly been a question she ponders. Karen is at a place where she is trying to find her place. Lately she finds herself having conversations with my mom who passed some years ago. Her conversations help her to find inspiration from within. She admits she is doing a lot but she enjoys having some input into helping others be successful. Now she is taking time to put herself first (something we all need to do). Her advice for every dancer is the same for herself, “Accept where you are and find what brings you joy.”