|The beautifully restored turn-of-the-century Arts
Center is one of the area's busiest performing arts facilities. Patrons
can participate in a variety of arts programs or rent spaces for arts
events and activities. The center basically provides low-rent shelter to
local dance, drama and other performing-arts organizations in exchange
for superb demonstrations of their talent.
Spaces available for rent include a 400-seat theater, five dance studios, meeting rooms and rehearsal spaces. Four long-standing Oakland arts institutions - Oakland Ballet, Citicentre Dance Theater, Dimensions Dance Theater and Oakland Ensemble Theater - are founding resident companies. Numerous other art groups present activities or have offices at the Arts Center...
Passers-through can apply for artistic residence at the hotel funded by the art center, while locals look forward to various Alice-sponsored festivals, which arrive annually both in Oakland and the city.
Every Saturday for 25 years, until he was killed in a tragic freeway accident on Father's Day 2003, he taught African dance in Oakland. His longest tenure was at the Alice Arts Center, and when there was a threat to close Alice Arts Center, Casquelourd in 2002-03, he led the public crusade to keep its doors open through parades, letter campaigns and marches.
"My father had a long history in not only just the dance and arts community but in giving to the arts community," said Casquelourd's oldest son, Kiazi Malonga.
"It is quite fitting that the place where he dedicated his life should honor him," Malonga said. "He is a pioneer, and an ambassador." said Muisi-Kongo Malonga, Casquelourd's daughter, who also pointed out that her father had worked tirelessly to ensure that the center remained open to the public.
Casquelourd moved his dance company to the Alice Arts Center when it opened in 1987 and back in 1993 after a renovation.
He was born in Douala, Cameroon, and spent years apprenticing at Community Fetes, learning Congolese cultural traditions. He became a principal dancer of the National Congolese Dance Company, then resident choreographer and principal performer with Le Ballet Diaboua, a Congolese repertory company in Paris.
Casquelourd helped found Citicenter Dance Theater in downtown Oakland, which is still at the Alice Arts Center. Over the years he brought dignitaries from around the world to teach and speak at Alice.
"Whenever they came here he would set up workshops so they could share the culture with the community," said Casquelourd's widow, Cynthia Phillips.
He also established Fua Dia Congo, a nonprofit performing arts company, the Congolese Dance and Drum Camp, and Ballet Kizingu, the youth division of Fua Dia Congo. He taught at San Francisco State University for 26 years.
Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), sponsored the latest name change after nearly 300 members of the Oakland dance and arts community signed a petition in support.
"His name is synonymous with pride
and fearlessness" said Rashida Knox, 29, one of Casquelourd's
students, who also said the center's new name would send a message of hope
and inclusiveness to the community
Sources for this report
Campaign to Rename Alice Arts Center
Arts center's new moniker a tribute to dancer
Alameda Times-Star, CA - Jun 3, 2004