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Compagnie Kafig

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In today's climate, it seems odd that there isn't a trace of political or social commentary in Compagnie Kafig's Dix Versions. After all, this nine-member French hip-hop troupe draws on Arabic culture and reportedly infuses its dances "with themes of street life and social protest." But this 70-minute work is--well, a little silly. On the other hand, as artistic director Mourad Merzouki puts it, we might need "a world of beauty...that eludes racial, political, and social cliches." The dancers' goofy grins are light-years apart from the pouts and glares of American rappers and hip-hoppers. "Pillars" in various hues (ingeniously lit floor-to-ceiling lengths of cloth) sometimes resemble lava lamps. Glowing suspended bulbs almost as tall as a man become dancers' heads or hats, and the performers wear pale Devo-style jumpsuits that make them look like a cross between garage mechanics and spacemen. Each of the ten sections is like a music video, with its own performers, music, and visual concept. The original score by Franck II Louise blends Middle Eastern sounds with Western pop music in a way that's intriguing but sometimes overly homogenized. And the dancing is just plain fun, the usual hip-hop and break-dance moves sometimes spectacularly executed, sometimes slowed way down or tied to belly dance. Two performers on the videotape were especially eye-catching: the troupe's sole woman, who stood out for her fiery fluidity, and a Jackie Gleason-size guy who performed (during an encore) the most remarkable variation on a belly roll I've ever seen. Overall the troupe's humor, athleticism, and energy carry Dix Versions, a strange bastard child of the Middle East, urban America, and the slums of Lyon. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, April 25, 8 PM. Through April 27: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20. Note: Compagnie Kafig will conduct a master class Saturday, April 27, at 1 PM at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/D. Tivoli.

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