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Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010

New Spirit of African Dance Comes to Alverno Presents

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Today African dance is admired for a technique and movement vocabulary as rich and challenging as any dance form in existence. Alverno Presents offers an opportunity to experience a new and pioneering manifestation of that art when it presents the Senegalese dancers and drummers of Compagnie Jant-Bi at the Pitman Theatre for a single performance at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.

The group will perform Waxtaan, a signature work choreographed in 2007 by the founder of the company, Germaine Acogny, and her son Patrick Acogny.Their choreography pares away the folkloric aspects of traditional African dance in a way that both credits those roots and embraces exciting new developments in dance worldwide.

“Jant-Bi” means “sun” in Wolof, one of the languages of Senegal, and one of the group’s missions is to counter negative images of Africa through its performances and touring. The company grew from a school founded by Germaine and Patrick Acogny in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, L’Ecole des Sables.The school is a place for exchange and experiment among dancers and choreographers from the African continent, the African Disapora and the entire dance world.Another part of the group's mission is to unite African dance with other living dance styles to form hybrids and forge new paths.Its works have merged African dance with the German neoexpressionist dance theater pioneered by Pina Bausch and the demonic-ethereal post-nuclear Japanese Butoh.

“Waxtaan” means “discussion” in Wolof. What is under discussion in the piece is Senegal’s political and social organization. The dancers portray members of their nation’s ruling elite and call out to them in dance to stop the “degradation of the economic, social and cultural situation” so that positive change can take place.