This South African troupe's artistic director, Vincent Mantsoe, isn't the first choreographer to blend African dance with other forms. But from what I've seen, he's the best. Men-Jaro ("Friendship") has a theme--integrating the native dances of its members, originally from France, America, Japan, and South Africa--and subtly alludes to Renaissance court dances, Japanese theater, and so on. But its real beauty lies in its light touch and expert, deeply felt performances. Too often modern dancers either put on a masklike visage drained of emotion or oversell the feelings in a piece. Here, as is typical of African dance, facial expressions grow out of the performers' intense involvement in the movement. Anthony Caplan's score, which makes inventive use of authentic African instruments, is performed live, and the musicians' and singers' presence onstage adds another emotional layer to the mix. a Opens Thu 3/8, 8 PM. Through 3/10: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300, $22-$26. There's a postperformance discussion with the artists on opening night; a family matinee Sat 3/10, 3 PM (with a free movement workshop at 2:15), is $10, $6 for kids.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Hogg.