Percussion Drives the Beat at New Dance Performances
DanceWorks Chicago is a two-year-old professional contemporary troupe.
One of the highlights, Beat in the Box, is a new urban modern dance choreographed by Brian Enos of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It's a combination of sexy flowing patterns and high-octane street moves. Enos has teamed up with popular human beat boxer, Yuri Lane, who will accompany the dancers live on stage.
Following the body-band theme, DanceWorks' bill also includes Sada, a hypnotic ensemble work by Edgar Zendejas, set in part to chanting, and Robert Battle's witty, hieroglyphic-shaped Takademe, to rapid-fire Indian inflections, tongue clicks and other voice-driven virtuosity.
DanceWorks Chicago performs Eat to the Beat on November 17 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.
Now in its 20th year under the direction of tap artist Lane Alexander, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project seeks out thrilling percussive-dance innovators from around the world. For its fall Global Rhythms concerts
Williams, a graduate of Howard University, founded his company after visiting South Africa during Apartheid. He was intrigued by the similarities between the gumboot dance, originally a rhythmic protest dance created by black miners in rubber boots, and African-American stepping associated with the college pledging scene. The highly percussive and cohesive form of stepping, in fact, gained wider recognition via Spike Lee's 1988 film, School Daze. Williams wanted to create a platform for celebrating those cultural ties.
Audiences at the Global Rhythms concerts will experience these styles, as well as aggressive Zulu dances distinguished by strong kicks that are not concerned with how high the leg flies up but with how strongly it comes down. Most significantly, the artists of Step Afrika! create the music they dance to…with their bodies. For instance, the gumboot dance transforms footwear into a communicative device. Even tap, says Wiliiams, is the drum reinvented and reinterpreted. He believes the body as a drum is a way for African-American dancers to retain their connection to the mother land. To emphasize the inextricable movement-music bond, Williams calls his performers dance-icians
Dance Afrika! headlines the Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Global Rhythms concerts running Nov. 19 to the 21 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. Both DanceWorks Chicago and Step Afrika! demonstrate how bodies can truly sing.