West Indian Folk Dance Company | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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West Indian Folk Dance Company

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When you're hot you're hot. And when you're not--well, if you're the West Indian Folk Dance Company, you're still pretty entertaining. A recent rehearsal of the first half of the troupe's upcoming program, "I Am My Mother's Child: African Roots of the Caribbean," was truly thrilling, with live percussion, singing, and vibrant traditional African and Afro-Caribbean dancing. One of the pieces, Bongo Man, celebrates religious figures who communicate with ancient African and Jamaican ghosts through animal sacrifice. Other pieces turn the typical labor of West Indian countries--working in the fields, washing clothes, selling in the marketplace--into dance. Some have a strong narrative component; Sunday Clothes/Mr. Parne features a mean rent collector, Miss Mama (Bobby McLaurin), whom absolute power has corrupted absolutely. But a new piece by founder and artistic director Alfred Baker, I Am My Mother's Child, wasn't very satisfying: set to recorded soukous music, it was seriously underrehearsed less than a week before the opening performance. But this is a long, full program--also featuring, among other pieces, a jazz dance by Horace Brown and a Haitian dance by Daniel Desir dedicated to the voodoo figure Damballah, represented by a snake--and hopefully the company will get it together by show time. Caribbean dance is diverse by nature, varying from island to island, though most dances at base are African forms inflected by the indigenous Indian and colonial British or Spanish cultures. This company was founded in 1971 in Montego Bay as the Western Jamaica Folk Dance Company; in 1978 it moved to Chicago, where Baker changed the name to reflect the addition of dancers from Barbados, Belize, Trinidad, and other parts of the Caribbean. Bruce Hayden Performing Arts Center, Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, 773-752-5289 or 773-772-8856. Through May 25: Friday-Saturday, 7 PM. $10-$15.

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