Salia ni Seydou | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Add the esotericism of modern dance to the obscurity of rituals from another culture and you get a sense of the mystery inherent in this troupe's work. Founders Salia Sanou and Seydou Boro are both natives of the West African country of Burkina Faso, where they're now based, but they've worked in France, notably at the National Center of Choreography in Montpellier. And the evening-length work they're showing here, Figninto, intriguingly combines the expressiveness of modern dance with the exuberance and athleticism of African dance. In the Bambara language "figninto" means someone who can't see, not because of physical disability but because he's not sensitive to those around him; reportedly this piece is "a tale [about] friendship and the failure to communicate fully in the face of death." I couldn't see that theme in the 25-minute excerpt I watched on tape, but I did see committed dancing by the two founders and a third man. The choreography is evocative: in the opening a man sits cross-legged and holds his palms to his temples, then covers his eyes, smooths his hands back over his head, presses the heels of his hands to his cheeks, and suddenly flaps his legs with great rapidity, like a butterfly opening and closing its wings. The two musicians, one playing percussion and the other a stringed instrument, are present onstage and occasionally take part in the action; their music veers from traditional African drumming to what sounds like free jazz. Though somewhat cut up into seemingly unrelated segments, Figninto has a presence and power beyond logical comprehension. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, May 16, 8 PM. Through May 18: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20.

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