Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Step Afrika!

I don't know when I've been as excited about an event as I am about Step Afrika! This professional step dancing company from Washington, D.C., will present 2 concerts and 2 master classes at Merrimack Hall April 4 and 5.

My first exerience with seeing a performance of African dance was back in 1995 at Panoply and I found it to be one of the most moving experiences I've ever had. The African drums, the beautiful tribal costumes, the ritual dances are all so compelling and inspriational to me. It is fascinating to hear the dancers explain the meaning behind their movements and the occassions when a particular dance or drum cadence was used - to signal that the enemy is coming; to ask the gods for rain; to celebrate the harvest; to rejoice in a birth or mourn a death.

When I think about these ancient rituals and traditions, it makes me realize that from the moment humans came into existence, they have had a primal urge to express themselves through music, dance and art. What makes Step Afrika! so unique as a dance company is that they combine the ancient tribal dances with newer forms of African dance, like stepping. When they perform their step numbers wearing the gumshoe boots, which were worn by the workers in the diamond mines of South Africa during apartheid, and explain what the percussions of their feet mean, you realize that when people are oppressed and not even allowed the right to speak, they will still find a way to communicate. For those mine workers, communication was through stomping, clapping and dancing.

I know that I will leave the Step Afrika! performances with a renewed awe at the power of music and dance!

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