“Celebrating humanity” is the theme of Muntu Dance Theatre’s spring concerts, according to drummer and assistant artistic director Babu Atiba. And there is something joyous about the company; arriving for a rehearsal, I found the women of the troupe sitting on the floor singing and sewing beads on costumes. The program provides a kind of tour of west Africa. The opening piece, Koutiro, is made up of three Senegambian dances: “Lenjengo,” the national dance of the Mandingo people; “Econne Econne,” a Djolla dance celebrating the strength of workers in the rice fields; and the Gambian “Koumpo,” featuring a single masked dancer–the unknown keeper of the law. Nandum is a harvest dance from northern Ghana; Atiba’s Move as One is a musical piece for percussion (naturally), flute, and saxophone; and Sere/Toucalour involves two Senegalese groups, one accompanied by putero drums and the other by sabar (played with longer sticks and producing a more piercing, higher-pitched sound). The second half of the program is a narrative dance, Comedie Ligere, choreographed by Guinean Moustapha Bangoura; the story involves one man chasing after another man’s wife–but the upshot of the tale, says Atiba, is that there’s someone out there for everyone. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500 or 773-935-6860. Through April 14: Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 8 PM. Family matinee Saturday, 1 PM (includes face painting, puppetry, and mask making). $8-$20, $10 ($5 for children under 12) for the matinee.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kwabena Shabu.