A slice of West African culture

By Rita Kohn

Ballet d' Ivoire

5 stars

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Pulliam Great Hall

Feb. 2

A standing room only audience was enthralled by a company of four dancers and four drummers bringing a slice of their culture from West Africa. They shattered stereotypes from old films, instead conveying the importance of music and dance to everyday life.

The purposes range from communication and education to healing and dealing with heat and dust. The "call and response" are playful.

Drummers lead or follow the dancers, sometimes pushing them to creative improvisation. Sometimes the dancers have their say, to great laughter.

Every bit as classical in its forms and body in relationship to space as is Western dance, the difference stems from art, music and dance not being compartmentalized in Africa. Rather, the aesthetic is holistic and incorporated into the essence of the life of the village and each individual, conveying values, stories, relationships, ideas.

Nevertheless, for theatrical dance, there is a sense of "what makes people want to watch," explains lead dancer Djian Tie. "Dancing is a story. You have to feel something. It's not you dancing. You have to be in a different world and bring the people watching into that world."

Notable is the unique African manipulation of cross-rhythms. It's a sensory experience that reverberates through the body. When the audience is invited to join in, they do.

Drummers include Bli Bi Gore, Diarra Zumana, Guri Caph and Indianapolis-based Blaise Zekalo, who had been a member of the Africa-based Ballet d'Ivoire. "I join them whenever we can re-unite. We are now masters in different places." (With no printed program, the names of the other dancers were not available for this review.)

The program was in collaboration with Positive Repercussions. Call 357-1880. For the IMA, call 923-1331, ext. 296.

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