Described as a company that "makes you sit up and take notice for all the right reasons" (Deirdre Kelly, Globe & Mail), COBA has carved a niche for itself as a performance collective that both educates and entertains.
COBA was founded in 1993 by Junia Mason, Charmaine Headley, BaKari I. Lindsay (formerly Eddison B. Lindsay) and Mosa Neshama (formerly Kim McNeilly) four Black dancers fired with the raw passion to fill a void on Toronto's arts scene by constructing a platform for dance creations that reflected their physical and social realities.
From the beginning, the quartet championed arts education, working extensively with teachers in Ontario and New York state. In 1994, they launched, in 1994 NIA - Education in Action COBA's first school touring with an African History theme.
That same year DanceWorks presented COBA's first main stage performance at Festival in the Square, where COBA premiered Portrait. Portrait, a female trio set to the music of Nina Simone, takes a stark look at race, colour and the human condition, along with a suite of West African dances entitled Jambalaya.
Whether it was the "pulsating live drumming" (NOW Magazine) or the powerful social message in Portrait COBA had made its mark. The performance gave audience recognition to the Collective and propelled it on its artistic journey to the present.
Under the leadership of artistic co-founders BaKari E. Lindsay and Charmaine Headley for the past 21 years, the driving force behind the Collective has been the creation and production of works that reflect Africanist social themes and perspectives of movement. Using storytelling, music and drama interwoven with dance, COBA is able to share life wisdom with audiences and future generations.
COBA has also commissioned works from several world-renowned Africanist artists including: American West African dance pioneer Linda Faye Johnson, percussion virtuoso Baba Olatunji, Haitian dancer / choreographer Jeanguy Saintus, Senegalese Griot Alassane Sarr, Sis Robin Hibbert (New York) and internationally acclaimed South African soloist Vincent Mantsoe.