Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

The evening-length Fat Tuesday and All That Jazz is essentially a pretext for all kinds of African-American music and dance, setting the scene for a greater variety of performance than Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago usually offers. The story–about two lovers who come together only to be parted by a misunderstanding–is set in New Orleans, where jazz, the blues, and modern-day forms of ancient African rites form a rich brew. A Haitian voodoo ceremony re-creates the serpentine violence of dancers lost to themselves as they exact a supernatural revenge, yet the heroine expresses her sense of betrayal in Ailey-esque modern dance. Men do the hambone on the street, slapping themselves and singing in time, then rein themselves in during a stately funeral march, bobbing their heads in jubilant grief. With live music by the Muntu drummers, the Olympia Brass Band of New Orleans, and Chicago harmonica player Billy Branch and a powerful performance by Muntu artistic director Amaniyea Payne as voodoo queen Marie Laveau, Fat Tuesday is fat indeed: perhaps a bit overblown but as succulent and tasty a piece of dance theater as this year’s Spring Festival of Dance has to offer. Thursday, April 9, at 7:30 and next Friday, April 10, at 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $12-$35. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 773-602-1135 for information about the opening-night gala and the young people’s concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Kwenbra Shabu.