"Celebrating humanity" is the theme of Muntu Dance Theatre's spring concerts, according to drummer and assistant artistic director Babu Atiba. And there is something joyous about the company; arriving for a rehearsal, I found the women of the troupe sitting on the floor singing and sewing beads on costumes. The program provides a kind of tour of west Africa. The opening piece, Koutiro, is made up of three Senegambian dances: "Lenjengo," the national dance of the Mandingo people; "Econne Econne," a Djolla dance celebrating the strength of workers in the rice fields; and the Gambian "Koumpo," featuring a single masked dancer--the unknown keeper of the law. Nandum is a harvest dance from northern Ghana; Atiba's Move as One is a musical piece for percussion (naturally), flute, and saxophone; and Sere/Toucalour involves two Senegalese groups, one accompanied by putero drums and the other by sabar (played with longer sticks and producing a more piercing, higher-pitched sound). The second half of the program is a narrative dance, Comedie Ligere, choreographed by Guinean Moustapha Bangoura; the story involves one man chasing after another man's wife--but the upshot of the tale, says Atiba, is that there's someone out there for everyone. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500 or 773-935-6860. Through April 14: Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 8 PM. Family matinee Saturday, 1 PM (includes face painting, puppetry, and mask making). $8-$20, $10 ($5 for children under 12) for the matinee.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kwabena Shabu.