Marianne Harkless Diabate

Assistant Professor of Dance
Affiliated Departments
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I believe that moving to rhythm integrates mind, body, and spirit and keeps us centered. Every culture has rhythm and dance. It is an essential part of human existence. I believe that African dance is important to the training of contemporary dancers today.

Marianne Harkless Diabate joined the Conservatory in 2015 as an instructor of African dance, and is an assistant professor of dance.

Harkless has been performing and teaching dance for more than 35 years. She danced with the Art of Black Dance & Music, Ballet Theatre of Boston (Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre), Danny Sloan Dance Company, Boston Dance Collective, Brasileiro, Inc., Grupo Bandança Afro-Brazilian Dancers & Drummers, Under the Sun Dance & Drum, the Spirit of Africa, and Impulse Dance Company, among others. During this time, Harkless toured the United States, France, Switzerland, and Jamaica, performing and guest teaching at schools, theaters, and festivals. Harkless's performances include numerous television appearances in Boston and special guest appearances in Providence and Jamaica. She performed in the plays Tongues of Fire, directed by Brenda Wolcott at MIT, and The Dancers, directed by Marla Blakey at Boston Center for the Arts.

Harkless has taught dance at Radcliffe College, Boston University, Dean College School of Dance, Wellesley College, Commonwealth School, the Cambridge School of Weston, Ballet Arts Centre of Winchester, Boston Arts Academy and other Boston Public Schools, the International Academy of Ethnic Dance, Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, the Institute for Contemporary Dance, public and private schools in Cambridge, and dance studios in Greater Boston. Harkless is a former member of the board of trustees for the Boston Dance Alliance. She received the Dance Belt Award (city of Cambridge, 1996) and an award from the Art of Black Dance and Music (2013).

Harkless trained primarily in Boston at the Boston Ballet, Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, and the Institute for Contemporary Dance, and in New York at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and the International Afrikan American Ballet. Her primary African dance teachers were De Ama Battle, Nitanju Bolade, Fatou-Carol and Raymond Sylla, Sadio Rosche, and Joh Camara.  

Harkless currently resides in Cambridge. She and her husband, Sory Diabate, codirect Benkadi Drum & Dance, a Cambridge-based African dance company that has been in existence since 2008.

Professional Awards and Recognitions

  • Dance Belt Award—City of Cambridge (1996)
  • Art of Black Dance and Music award (2013)

Notable Recent Works

  • Soulbird Rise (original work, The Dance Complex, 2016)—Choreographer
  • The Awakening (Benkadi Drum & Dance, 2012)—Choreographer
  • Sunu (Malian dance, Benkadi Drum & Dance, 2013)—Choreographer
  • Dansa (Malian dance, Benkadi Drum & Dance, 2010)—Choreographer
  • Economic Crisis (original work, Beat Tree Dance, 2007)—Choreographer