Youssouf Koumbassa is a former artist of Ballet Djoliba, the National Ballet of Guinea. Born and raised in Guinea, West Africa, Youssouf began dancing at the age of six by studying and emulating the members of the National Ballet and the leading dancers of the many local and regional dance companies in Guinea. Youssouf's father is from the Landuma people and his mother from the Baga/Susu people.
In Guinea he studied under Sekouba Camara, Artistic director of Ballet National Djoliba and also with Kemoko Sano, the acclaimed Artistic Director of Les Ballets Africains, developing his talents as a dancer, musician and choreographer.
In thirteen years with the Ballet National, Youssouf traveled extensively throughout West Africa, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Holland, Hungary, Russia, Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Since moving to the United States twenty two years ago Youssouf has established himself as the pre-eminent teacher of dance from Guinea, and now travels widely throughout the world as a much sought after master teacher at dance conferences, workshops, camps and schools. When at home in New York his classes are attended by a large and loyal following who are appreciative of his mercurial energy and grace.
In the 1990's Youssouf formed Les Ballets Bagata, comprised of sixty dancers and drummers. Performances by this company were spectacular mélanges of traditional culture and dance theater. Children of Bagata, a company he formed later, consisted of fifteen young dancers and musicians. Youssouf's mission has been and continues to be the exposure of the rich and varied cultures of Guinea to audiences around the world.
In his attempts to bring the energy, excitement and history of African dance to a wide audience, Youssouf is meticulous in acknowledging the source of this material and insists on a high level of understanding and respect for the form among his students. He travels to Guinea regularly, taking students on dance trips and returns to the United States with the latest developments in contemporary dance so that his teaching is always a mixture of traditional work and the dances that infuse popular culture.
Youssouf is happy to announce the release of "Landouma Fare", a dynamic 75 minute dance travelog/documentary, in which he travels home to Guinea on a personal journey to learn the dances of his father's Landouma people. Youssouf has created a series of instructional DVDs Wongai Vol 1 + Wongai Vol 2, in which he demonstrates both the music and dance of a wide selection of ethnic groups from Guinea. He has also produced an edited version of the famous concert by his exuberant dance company "Les Ballets Bagata" in NYC.
In July 2007, Youssouf was invited to participate in Slow Dancing, a video installation featuring 43 contemporary dancers from a wide range of dance backgrounds. The installation featured three video streams projected on panels on the New York State Opera building in NYC. Dancers were filmed for 5 seconds and the artist David Michalek, slowed the footage down so that the five second sequence was played back over 10 minutes. The installation is touring nationally and internationally over the next three years and is featured at the 2008 Venice Biennale. Information about the installation and its touring calendar can be found at slowdancingfilms