The concept of “Arriving on Action,” coined by Thomas Talawa Prestø, introduces a unique framework for understanding the intricate relationship between movement and sound in Africana dance, specifically between the dancer and the drummer. This concept transcends traditional interpretations of dance and music synchronization, proposing a more fluid and anticipatory dynamic that embodies a futuristic artistic practice.


Understanding “Arriving on Action”

“Arriving on Action” describes a state where the dancer and the drummer are not merely responding to each other in real-time but are instead deeply attuned to the anticipated actions and intentions of one another. In this dynamic interplay, the dancer is not simply moving to the rhythms played by the drummer, nor is the drummer merely providing a beat for the dancer’s movements. Rather, each is engaging in a predictive and intuitive exchange:

  • The Dancer’s Role: The dancer interprets and moves in alignment with the anticipated future rhythms and patterns that the drummer will play. This requires the dancer to possess a heightened sense of awareness and an intuitive grasp of the drummer’s intent.
  • The Drummer’s Role: The drummer, in turn, plays with an understanding of the dancer’s forthcoming movements. This involves a similar level of anticipation and intuitive connection, enabling the drummer to produce rhythms that resonate with the dancer’s imminent actions.


Creating the Moment of Convergence

The essence of “Arriving on Action” is the simultaneous convergence of movement and sound, where both the dancer and the drummer meet at a precise point of action. This convergence creates the illusion that the movement and the music are unfolding as one, erasing the perceived boundaries between the two. The result is an experience where the sound and the movement are so seamlessly integrated that they appear as a singular expression of artistic virtuosity.


Aesthetic Virtuosity and Ubuntu

Achieving this level of synchronization, where movement and music are indistinguishable, is described as reaching aesthetic virtuosity. This state is not just a technical achievement but a profound expression of artistic unity and synergy. It reflects a deep philosophical underpinning rooted in the concept of Ubuntu, which emphasizes interconnectedness, community, and shared humanity.

In the context of “Arriving on Action,” Ubuntu manifests as the mutual understanding and cooperation between the dancer and the drummer. The practice requires each participant to be acutely aware of and responsive to the other’s intentions, fostering a sense of unity and collective creation. This interconnectedness is not only a reflection of traditional Africana values but also a forward-looking approach to artistic collaboration.


The Futuristic and Poetic Dimensions

“Arriving on Action” represents a futuristic practice in the realm of Africana dance and music. It challenges conventional boundaries and invites participants to engage in a risky yet profoundly rewarding process. The potential for failure is ever-present, as the success of this practice depends on the perfect alignment of intention and action. However, when successful, it offers a poetic and powerful manifestation of artistic excellence.

The risk inherent in this practice underscores the innovative and avant-garde nature of “Arriving on Action.” It requires both the dancer and the drummer to step beyond traditional roles and engage in a form of creative symbiosis that pushes the boundaries of their respective disciplines. This daring approach is what makes “Arriving on Action” a groundbreaking concept, poised at the intersection of tradition and futurism.


“Arriving on Action” is a concept that affirms the relationship between dancer and drummer in Africana dance. By emphasizing anticipatory synchronization and the seamless convergence of movement and sound, it offers a new paradigm for artistic collaboration. This concept not only highlights the technical and aesthetic potentials of dance and music but also embodies deeper philosophical principles of interconnectedness and community, making it a significant contribution to both the practice and theory of Africana performance arts.

Polycentric movement, Polyquality and Polyrhythm is the multiplication of choice. The core of Black aesthetic is the navigation of choice and your ability to communicate choice with intention, so that audience, (call and response), drummers and other practitioners can arrive on action with you.- Thomas Talawa Prestø 2019.

For nearly three decades, my dance journey has borne witness to the intricate relationship of steps, beats, and the silent, energetic dialogues that form between dancers and drummers. This sacred symbiosis between rhythm and movement was brought into sharper focus during my interactions with Caribbean dance luminary, Dr. Yanique Hume and Makeda Thomas during a dance residencey curated by Makeda Thomas in Trinidad summer of 2023. The need for a terminology around this concept was already evident from my own reading, a lifetime of rhythmic dancing as well as it was further accentuated after working with and discoursing with the virtuosity of Master Drummer Sidiki Camara from Mali. The interactions during the residency and the deep knowledge of Sidiki who specializes in playing for the dance as I specialize in dancing with the drum further crystalized my understanding of what I call Arriving on Action- “Actionable Rhythmic Intentionality.” Traditional African drum and dance serve as a looking glass, providing glimpses into both its historical significance and its contemporary interpretations. Through Arriving on Action this interplay is vividly brought to life, grounding it firmly within the rich traditions of African and Caribbean cultures while enabling it to transcend the boundaries of mere performance.

Defining the Essence:

Arriving on Action- Actionable Rhythmic Intentionality” (ARI) is the concept of dancers and drummers/musicians weaving and communicating intent in such a way as to arrive upon action together. Both parties actively manifest each other’s intentions, guiding each other from their etheric realms, shaping future actions.



At its core, Arriving on Action which encompasses “Actionable Rhythmic Intentionality” (ARI) delves into the dancers’ and drummers’ unique ability to interweave and communicate intent. This process allows them to collaboratively find common ground and act in unison. It’s not just about performing but about manifesting the unspoken desires of the other, ushering actions from their etheric realms, and subsequently shaping the course of the performance.

“Actionable Rhythmic Intentionality” (ARI) goes beyond the surface-level understanding of music and dance. It captures the essence of dancers and drummers/musicians weaving a fabric of communication, allowing both entities to move in tandem and act as one. By navigating each other’s intentions, both participants fluidly move within and shape their etheric realms, foreseeing and dictating future rhythmic conversations.

Within the tapestry of traditional African drum and dance, ARI stands out as a beacon connecting ancestral roots to contemporary interpretations. More than just a performance technique, ARI represents an ongoing rhythmic dialogue, an intimate conversation between drummer and dancer, where intentions are felt, shared, and reciprocated.


Echolocative Dynamics and the Vision of Unity

The phenomenon of echolocation showcases how nature communicates through frequencies. Bats send out signals into their surroundings, and the echo helps them interpret and navigate their environment. Similarly, ARI mimics this strategy but in a more nuanced manner. ARI emulates a system of sending and receiving signals. The drummer and dancer release their intentional ‘signals’ into the ether, decoding and assimilating them, and then arriving together in shared rhythmic spaces. This is not merely a dance or a set rhythm; it’s an entire ecosystem of trust, respect, and mutual action. Beyond the physical movements and the audible beats, ARI paints a picture of aligned intentions. The objective is not just to respond to a rhythm but to weave together a shared tapestry of intentions, guiding each other towards a synchronized course.

Using the concept of  “Kassé” or rhythmical “breaks” or breakdown as an example. “Kassé” (often also spelled as “cassé”) refers to a break or a rhythmic cue. These breaks often signal transitions, changes, or punctuated moments in both the drumming and accompanying dance. In essence, they serve as directive cues.

In the vast rhythmic landscape of African and African Diaspora drumming, Kassé acts as a bridge or a connector. It can initiate or conclude a musical or dance section, thereby giving the performers a shared point of reference amidst intricate layered rhythms. The drummers utilize this shared rhythmic cue to synchronize, signaling changes or affirming the continuity of the current rhythm.

Dancers, well-versed in these rhythms, anticipate the Kassé. Their movements might intensify, pause, or shift entirely upon hearing this cue. It’s a moment of heightened interaction, where drummers and dancers converge in intent and action, illustrating the concept of “Actionable Rhythmic Intentionality” — they arrive together, shaping future action from each other’s etheric realm.

Break Dancing has its name from the practice of expanding these polyrhythmic breakdowns in Funk music and dancing on them. This practice was not new, but entered the real of pre-recorded music and as such became accessible to communities that were not previously versed in drum-based dance practice.

Looking at the rhythms of West Africa as a lens, its ‘breaks’ symbolize pauses that invite both dancer and drummer to traverse the boundaries of the main rhythm. This journey becomes a mutual exploration of interpretation, eventually arriving together in a crescendo of understanding. This is not a mere execution of choreographed steps; it’s a sophisticated dialogue where every beat and move is an active response to the other.

ARI suggests that the true essence of a performance is neither in the steps nor the beats, but in the aligned intentions that guide them. It’s more than reacting to a rhythm; it’s about aligning intentions to converge on an action of arriving together.

In this video example the dancer is the main protagonist and the drummer is focusing on manifesting the dancers intentions:



Embodying Future Intentions: Afrifuturism in Motion

Time becomes a third partner in this dance. ARI embodies the future, urging both participants to always anticipate, be a step or beat ahead, magnetizing each other towards a seamless junction of rhythm and movement.

To term ARI as “futuristic” is to recognize its essence of proactive foresight. Within this framework, drummers and dancers aren’t merely present; they are predictive, foreseeing and shaping each other’s next moves. This resonates with the ethos of Afrifuturism: a melding of African history with future vision. In this sphere, the participants don’t merely react; they inhabit and influence each other’s imaginative realms.

Living Fantasies and Collective Embodiment

Central to ARI is the manifestation of shared imagination. The dancer and drummer both live in each other’s intent to move or to play. As such they shape each other inner and outer reality. The dancer is not dancing to what the drummer is playing in the moment but rather already moving towards what the drummer intends to play. Similarly, the drummer is not playing what the dancer is doing in the moment, but rather what the dancer intends to do in the next. As such they manifest each other’s dreams and desires before they have been uttered, and through this course of co-action, are manifesting the future, together. This dance is a bridge between reality and imagination, grounded in ancestral legacies and elevated by contemporary dreams. The body in this performative act is an archive, a living repository of collective memory and shared cultural narratives. It is a canvas that has been continually written upon by the ink of communal experience and ancestral wisdom. This polyphonic memory is activated and made tangible through the act of performance, offering an intimate interaction with the archive not as something static, but as a living, breathing entity.

Aesthetic Reverberations: The aesthetics shaped by Action Rhythmic Intentionality aren’t just about pleasing visuals or harmonious sounds; they are deeply rooted in clarity and purpose. In a dance or musical realm where improvisation is celebrated, there exists an undercurrent of intentionality that provides an anchor. It’s this intentional underpinning that ensures that even the most spontaneous expressions lack neither direction nor meaning.

This practice, as a central aspect of African and African diaspora practices, also has an impact on aesthetics. This practice is a fundamental component of both African and African diaspora traditions. Its influence extends to aesthetics as well. The emphasis on intention ensures that even though improvisation and exploration are dynamic processes, they never come across as aimless or lacking direction. Each movement is purposeful, a tangible expression of the performer’s inner state and feelings.

This quality makes it possible to weave dance from the “now of now” and seem like one has rehearsed it for years, even if the conditions of the moment are so unique that the dance that unfolds could only belong to that particular moment. As mentioned before, a dance that could only be made in this moment, weaving its existence out of the specifics of now, is considered the height of virtuosity. This is also because that would only be possible if one can predict the convergence of that moment before it has happened. In other words, it is the intentional manifestation of futurity.

The Role of Improvisation and Investigation: At first glance, improvisation might seem like a free-form, unstructured exploration. But in the context of African and African diaspora practices, improvisation is a dynamic journey led by intention. Every footfall, every beat, every movement, and pause is a deliberate embodiment of an inner narrative, a story that seeks to manifest outwardly. There’s no room for confusion, only purposeful exploration.

Dance: The Confluence of Past, Present, and Future: There’s a magical quality to watching a dancer who, anchored in the “now of now,” seems to be drawing from a well of timeless wisdom. Such performances resonate with a rehearsed precision, yet they are birthed spontaneously, forged in the unique crucible of the present moment. This dance, born of now, can never be replicated, for its essence is interwoven with the specificities of its time of creation.


Virtuosity in the Moment: In many cultures, virtuosity might be associated with technical mastery or the perfect replication of established forms. However, in the realm influenced by Action Rhythmic Intentionality, the pinnacle of virtuosity is the ability to create in the present, drawing from a reservoir of intention and anticipation. The dancer or musician isn’t just reacting to the moment but also anticipating its unfolding, allowing them to dance or play at the convergence of past experience, present intention, and future manifestation.

The Dance of Futurity: At the heart of this practice lies a profound understanding of time – not as a linear progression but as a malleable entity where past, present, and future dance in harmony. To be able to predict the convergence of a moment, to stand at the intersection of intention and manifestation, is to engage with futurity intentionally. It’s not just about foreseeing the future but also about molding it with purpose, one beat, one step, one intention at a time.

In essence, Action Rhythmic Intentionality provides a lens through which one can understand the rich tapestry of African and African diaspora aesthetics – a world where intention drives action, where the present is a playground for the past and the future, and where every movement is a deliberate dance of existence.

Yesterday must arrive today to bring tomorrow- Dr Harold Charles-Harris

https://vimeo.com/861036582/6535969c87?share=copy (luciano dancing Long way to go for Sidiki to record)