Winter Arts Preview: DanceAfrica

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

After three decades of performances around the country, DanceAfrica, an institution in the world of dance theater, will make its Ohio debut this February at the King Arts Complex.

In 1977, artistic director Chuck Davis was frustrated by the myths about African people and wanted to shine a light on the true nature and beauty of his heritage. He created the DanceAfrica program for the Brooklyn Academy of Music as a way to celebrate the cultures of Africa while educating through entertainment.

"As I became more involved, I realized I could reach more people through the performing arts," said Davis.

Today, the program has become a festival of African dance and culture. DanceAfrica is a collection of troupes uniting from near and far to showcase styles ranging from indigenous African to urban American hip-hop.

By embracing authentic native dance, each company illustrates the link existing between separate cultures. The styles are drastically different, but there's a common thread, rooted in tradition, that shows African dance as it has evolved over generations and across continents.

The one-night engagement is a striking spectacle of vibrant dance rituals and modern, avant-garde routines that encompass the entire theater. Performers dance up and down the aisles as the rhythm engulfs the audience - it's more of an experience than a performance.

"It's up to us to make the dance and the music come alive and lead to further study to learn about our traditions," Davis said.