Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Muntu Dance Theatre of CHicago

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Last weekend I watched a "fusion" troupe massacre African (and flamenco and Middle Eastern) dance in the name of the Luvabull-ish Las Vegas-ization of our culture. It gave me a new appreciation for those who at least try to preserve the integrity of ethnic forms despite transplantation. In our city, no group has done that longer, more diligently, or better than Muntu Dance Theatre. Instead of creating a "global community" by smushing together numerous unrelated traditions, Muntu seeks to appreciate our differences. Two years ago the company's first "Live at the Pier" performance seemed a meeting ground for various disparate groups: Chicago's African-American community, dance fans of all hues, and curious tourists. Only an hour long--as this year's program will be--it had a momentum that left me longing for more. On the program this time are Balante, a Senegalese initiation dance choreographed by Abdoulaye Camara (with enhancements by Muntu artistic director Amaniyea Payne and assistant artistic director Idy Ciss), and Soli, a dance from the Guinea region of West Africa originally used to celebrate male and female initiation rites--i.e., circumcision. Other favorites round out the program, which includes an appearance by kora player Jali Morikeba Kouyate. Navy Pier, Skyline Stage, 600 E. Grand, 312-595-5298 or 312-559-1212; 773-602-1135 for group rates and information. Wednesday, June 25, 7 PM. $10-$15; $7 for children under 12.

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