DanceAfrica/Chicago 1994 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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DanceAfrica/Chicago 1994

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I can't go to Africa, at least not this week. But I can go to the Medinah Temple, where this weekend four African American dance troupes and one pickup group of female percussionists will perform, and a bazaar of African crafts and cooking will take over the burrowlike hallways of this fine old place. As much as it can be, the Temple is transformed into an African village, its huge, open stage flooded with dozens of dancers and musicians at a time. Chuck Davis, head of South Carolina's African-American Dance Ensemble, acts as griot--and if there's anyone better than he is at getting people to talk to their neighbors, shake hands grinning and introduce themselves, I haven't met him. All that's missing from DanceAfrica is an audience expert and uninhibited enough to join in, dancing in the aisles or rushing the stage. This year, the festival's fourth, the focus is on women: there will be a female initiation ceremony, for which Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago artistic director Amaniyea Payne has choreographed a ceremonial dance. Besides the African-American Dance Ensemble and Muntu, the lineup includes Chicago's Najwa Dance Corps and Milwaukee's Ko Thi Dance Company, which performed in the first DanceAfrica. Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 at the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash; $12-$16. Call 271-7928 for tickets and info, or 902-1500 for tickets.

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