DanceAfrica Chicago 2001 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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DanceAfrica Chicago 2001

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It seems the universe explored by DanceAfrica expands with each new festival. Now in its 11th season, the celebration this year beefs up the role of the griot, or storyteller: for the first time Chuck Davis will be joined by Chicago writers Oscar "Triple Blak" Lester, Brenda Matthews, Maria McCray, Ugochi "African Butafly" Nwaogwugwu, and Avery R. Young. Also brought into the fold this year is classical dance by Ballethnic Dance Company of Atlanta. Though I found it hard to imagine an undulating torso combined with straight, stiff ballet legs, a preview lecture-demonstration allowed a glimpse of what Ballethnic has to offer. When founder and artistic director Nena Gilreath performed the solo "Little Wing" (excerpted from Psychedelia) to music by Jimi Hendrix, she was able to drop from the waist or wrap her arms in sinuous moves around her head and torso even as she stepped across the floor on pointe, giving the clean lines of classical dance a new expressiveness. Gilreath and her husband, artistic director Waverly T. Lucas II, are both former Dance Theatre of Harlem performers who decided in 1990 to start their own company, in part to train young people. And their ease during an audience-participation number with various volunteers, from little girls in lacy anklets to a middle-aged guy in khaki pants, showed how they've grown into their mission. Also on the program is Ndere, from Uganda, and Sankofa Dance Theater, from Baltimore. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-344-7070 or 312-902-1500. Through October 28: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $20-$30.

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

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