Balafon is a performing ensemble that also offers immersive movement and musical programs. Experience African culture up close. Explore rich Guinean traditions, and a taste of classical arts from other areas of West Africa and beyond.

Workshops &
Dance Training

Group classes and dance training for all ages and levels.

Arts Education & Residencies

Dance and music programs for youth and community groups to explore West African arts and culture.

Demonstrations & Hands-On Activities

Experience West African culture for yourself with dance, drumming, and cuisine with Balafon.

Board of Directors

Peggy Harris, President :: President & CEO, Three Rivers Youth

Linsey McDaniel, Secretary :: Nonprofit Development

Darrel Baldwin, Treasurer :: Co-Founder Sankofa Village of the Arts

Laverne Baker Hotep :: Co-Founder Sankofa Village of the Arts

Kadiatou Conte-Forte :: Founder, Artistic Director

Shabaka Perkins :: Co-Founder Sankofa Village for the Arts

Mensah Wali :: Kente Arts Alliance 



Balafon was born in Washington D.C. in 1997 out of the passion for dance that Kadiatou Conte shared with her core of dedicated students. Approaching dance as a way to share the joy of African arts and offer culturally responsive health and wellness, the performance company was involved in youth and community engagement while also mastering classic dance styles often shared on the Kennedy Center stage.

Today based out of Pittsburgh, PA, Balafon works in partnership with local artists, alumni dancers from all over the country, and master dancers and musicians from around the world. From school to communities to the theater, Balafon programs offer ways for people of all generations, backgrounds and physical abilities to discover a love for African culture and experience dancing out loud.

Bringing Mama Kadiatou’s theatrical flair gained from years touring with Guinea’s national dance company, and her desire to break the mold as one of the few women-led directors of an ensemble, Balafon skillfully blends the classic traditions of West African culture with contemporary arts and social consciousness. Elaborately colorful costumes, heart stirring live music, and high energy movement captivate, inspire and energize audiences from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Photo of a Balafon

What's does Balafon mean?

Balafon West African Dance Ensemble is named after the balafon, is an ancestor to instruments such as the marimba and xylophone. This traditional West African instrument has carried on the melody of the ancient Mali empire region of West Africa for over 700 years. With our dedicated to passing down rich cultural and musical traditions, we give honor to the rich musical legacy we’ve inherited.