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DanceAfrica Chicago 2002 

What's amazing about the African diaspora is the way cultures survived despite--or because of--efforts to annihilate them. When slaves were brought to Brazil from Angola, social dances were allowed in the hope of perpetuating schisms in the Yoruba culture and averting rebellion against the slaveholders. And when Catholicism was imposed in an effort to wipe out the Yoruba religion, slaves promptly transformed the "orishas," the gods with whom they were familiar, into Catholic saints. Partly because these and other repressive practices backfired, Brazilian culture is even more Africa-oriented than ours. This year's DanceAfrica--"Carnaval! Blessing of the Drums, Rhythmic Echoes"--celebrates the protean nature of African forms in Caribbean cultures. A preview performance by Ballet Folclorico do Brasil proved how vital Afro-Brazilian music and dance still are, especially the martial art of capoeira: accompanied by the ancient berimbau, a long-stringed bow, the dancers sprang about the stage, often landing on their hands--and bringing the crowd at the Humboldt Park field house to their feet. Also on the program is Conjunto Folklorico Cutumba, a troupe of nearly 50 dancers and musicians based in Santiago, Cuba, that specializes in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian forms. Hailing from the United States are Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, which will preview an excerpt from Vo-Du Macbeth, and the African American Dance Ensemble, headed by longtime DanceAfrica griot Chuck Davis. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-344-7070 or 312-902-1500. Through October 27: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $24-$36. Note: An African marketplace of food and crafts will be set up in the theater lobby Friday from 6 PM to 11 PM, Saturday from 1 PM to 11 PM, and Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM.

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