Batoto Yetu (Swahili for “Our Children”) engages inner city youth in African dance, music, and folklore within a caring community of talented artists and volunteers. Dedicated to fostering self-awareness, self-esteem, and the creative and social development of children through dance, our organization introduces African culture through our Africa in the School Residency, our Pre-Professional Training Program, and public performances.
Since our founding in 1990, we have worked with thousands of children in New York City and around the world. More than 75% of these students have stayed engaged in Batoto Yetu programs throughout their childhood. The exceptional dedication, artistry, and personal growth of these children opens many doors for them and the generations that follow, including opportunities to perform around the world—from New York City to Bahia (Brazil), London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Macau, and Luanda (Angola). Our children have performed with Folklorica at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and with musical legends Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Usher, and more.
The vast majority of our children (more than 85%) proceed to outstanding colleges, including Harvard, Brown, Syracuse University, and City College of New York. Our students defy every statistic of the under-resourced neighborhoods they call home. We know that their confidence, achievements, citizenship, and cultural awareness create a marvelous ripple effect in the world, evidenced by the many success stories we have witnessed over the years.
Júlio T. Leitão,
Júlio T. Leitão is a dancer, choreographer, and the founder of Batoto Yetu in the US and Portugal. Born in Luena, Angola, from which he was forced to flee when civil war erupted in 1975, Mr. Leitão grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, and received his initial dance training at Conservatório Nacional de Dança de Lisboa.
Esther Grant Walker
Esther Grant-Walker has been an integral personality in the West African Dance community for over 25 years. She has carved a niche in the folkloric dance instructor community of Harlem, by providing free intergenerational classes, community events, and workshops.
Erica is a native New Yorker currently residing in Queens. Her outgoing, nurturing and jovial personality is unsurpassed to her dedication in being in service of others. It is her passion to develop relationships and recognize the needs of others within her community that people are naturally drawn to her.
Dakota Holmes-Dodge has been dancing since the young age of three and has trained at Alvin Ailey School of Dance, Djoniba Dance Center, Batoto Yetu Dance Company and the Professional Performing Arts High School. His acting training began age seven with Biz Kidz where he is currently the assistant acting coach.
We thank you for your support.
Your generous contribution keeps our programs running and our children dancing.
We hope to see you soon at a Batoto Yetu event or performance.
Founder & Artistic Director