DanceAfrica Chicago 2000 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

DanceAfrica Chicago 2000 

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Feathers on their arms, whistles around their necks, long, bulging drums between their legs, the men of the Mizizi Dance Ensemble, based in Nairobi, perform a postinitiation dance for boys who've just undergone circumcision. Later, lead choreographer and manager Joseph Konya explains the "wings" on their arms--proud of their new status, the boys are confident enough to fly. But we knew that just by watching: drumming and dancing simultaneously, keeping perfect time in a variety of chants, yells, leaps, and syncopated drumbeats, these four young men are full of bravado, maintaining perfect control over their drums even when they lie back and grasp them with their legs. That's one of the pleasures of DanceAfrica, now celebrating its tenth anniversary in Chicago: discovering totally new art forms that are nevertheless easily accessible. The theme this year is "umoja" (the Swahili word for unity), and the program does bring together African and American groups, perhaps most notably two a cappella companies: the American neogospel group Sweet Honey in the Rock and Zimbabwe's Iwisa Music and Dance Company (who charmed the pants off everyone at DanceAfrica two years ago). Also on the program are Mizizi and three Chicago troupes: Najwa Dance Corps, Sundance Production, and Urban Credo, a group of high school students who seek to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary African and African-American forms. Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8, and Sunday at 2 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $20-$30. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 312-344-7070 for tickets and information, 312-344-7071 for group rates.

--Laura Molzahn

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