DanceAfrica/Chicago 1996 | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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DanceAfrica/Chicago 1996

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I've always liked forms that don't require a lot of equipment: then you can travel light. I'd rather edit with a pencil than a computer, sing than play an instrument. And if you've got a body, you can dance--a feature that kept one of Africa's primary art forms alive despite a forced exodus to new lands and the oppressions of slavery. Dance is also chameleonic: the steps and shapes and costumes may mutate, but some essence of the original dance remains. That's why this DanceAfrica festival, the sixth, promises both continuity and greater variety than earlier shows: "Cultural Syncopation" features the hardy, inventive dances of the African diaspora, which took on some of the coloration of new surroundings. Puerto Rican dance, performed here by Chicago's Grupo Yuba, reveals the flounced skirts and flirtations of flamenco. The Brazilian dance/martial art form capoeira was imported by slaves from Angola; originally a dead-serious sport in which combatants strapped knives to their ankles, it's now acrobatic, graceful, and highly theatrical, especially as performed by Roots of Brazil. African-American stepping, a traditional way for black sororities and fraternities to express their pride and prowess, will be represented this year for the first time, by the 1996 winners of the national Stomp! competition: just as slaves forbidden their instruments made music by clapping their bodies, Philly's Supreme Crimson and Creme and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity members move to the accompaniment of slaps and chants. Similar drills will be performed by the Chicago branch of Simba Na Malaika Wachanga, a U.S. youth organization; Soweto Street Beat Dance Company, originally from South Africa, passes on the traditional boot dance these days to the young people of Atlanta. And so goes the evolution. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 at the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash; $14-$18 (African marketplace Friday 6-11 PM, Saturday noon-11 PM, and Sunday noon-8 PM). Call 773-989-3310 for tickets and information, 312-902-1500 for tickets.

--Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): William Frederking.

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